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New Forest National Park, England

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Trees are the stars in the New Forest, home to 500-year-old oaks and a yew that may be close to 1,000.

Name: New Forest National Park
Location: England
Date Established: 2005
Size: 219 square miles (567 square kilometers)

Did You Know?

Ancient and Unchanged William the Conqueror declared this area his new hunting ground, or “Nova Foresta,” back in 1079 and romped these woodlands and fields in pursuit of deer and boar. He also established a system by which verderers (judges), agisters (stockmen), and commoners (land users) manage the forest and maintain an ancient landscape that has remained remarkably unchanged for nearly a thousand years.

Rare Forest The park is known for its primeval forest, a rarity in Britain, but only half of its area is wooded. New Forest is also home to heather-blanketed heaths, lawns, farmland, and even coastal marshes and mudflats.

Prized Ponies Many people live in the New Forest but its most famous inhabitants are 3,000 four-legged locals known as the New Forest Ponies. These animals are free to roam where they will, as they have for centuries, but they are actually owned by commoners with rights of pasture in the park. This unique pony breed traces its lineage back nearly a thousand years.

Shipbuilding Legacy The forest is also home to Buckler’s Hard, an 18th-century shipbuilding village on the Beaulieu River where local oaks were crafted into ships that served in the fleet Admiral Lord Nelson led to victory at Trafalgar. Some Middle Eastern countries once imported New Forest conifers to become masts for their traditional dhows.

Wild With Flowers The park is home to some 700 wildflower species, about a third of Britain’s total, and 2,700 different fungi. Deer, newts, bats, and all three native British snakes live here, including the adder—Britain’s only poisonous snake.

Rufus Stone William the Conqueror’s son, King William Rufus (William II), was killed while hunting in the New Forest in 1100. The king was slain by an arrow, whether by accident or by design, and the spot where he supposedly fell is now marked by the Rufus Stone.

How to Get There

Regular trains and buses run to New Forest, which is only about 90 minutes from London. Brockenhurst is the park’s main rail center. Local trains also run to Ashurst, Beaulieu Road, and Sway.

When to Visit

During summer, visitors are able to take advantage of the New Forest Tour—a system of double-decker, open-top buses that prowl the park’s countryside, coastline, and villages. Visitors can hop on and off whenever they like and bring bikes along for the ride.

How to Visit

Saddle up and enjoy one of the most popular ways to explore the New Forest—by horse. A variety of shops and stables cater to experts and greenhorns alike and all offer a fantastic way to see the forest as William the Conqueror once did.

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