Cadman’s Pool, New Forest

Immerse yourself in some of Britain’s richest woodland at this exciting time of year for spotting wildlife

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The area around Cadman’s Pool is the New Forest in a microcosm. Everything you would expect is here in a small area: glorious tall woodlands, heathland, deer, ponies and even a stony-bottomed brook. What you don’t expect is the lack of crowds – people tend to be drawn to nearby Bolderwood or Fritham instead.

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This is one of the best sites in the whole forest for birds, especially finches, firecrests, woodlarks and the lesser spotted woodpecker. A walk here is also deliciously adventurous; take wellington boots, expect to climb over fallen tree limbs and perhaps get a little lost.

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The Pool

Cadman’s Pool is one of just three ponds in the New Forest where anglers are allowed to catch fish (carp) on a day permit. The pond attracts ducks, which in cold weather may include the goosander. Arthur Cadman, deputy surveyor of the New Forest, dug the pool in the 1960s, just to perfect the ambience of the place.

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Dockens Water

Dockens Water drains the New Forest heaths and eventually empties into the Avon to the west – but not in any hurry.

Try crossing Rakes Brakes Bottom bridge for a peaceful spot next to riverside willows and alder. The bridge leads to a bog, which along with the riverbank is a great site for dragonflies even in mid-autumn. Look out, also, for grey wagtails.

Bird feeding area

If you struggle to find marsh tits (above) and nuthatches in the woodland, just wait by the car park instead. Locals routinely leave birdseed on the ground or on posts in the copse next to the pond, and on cold days you can see plenty of species at very close quarters. The mallards and Canada geese will expect a handout, too.

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Beech wood

Of course, the whole New Forest is a wonderland of autumn colour, but there is something almost edible about autumn’s perfectly roasted, rich brown beech leaves. The beech mast, too, is important for birds and mice. Talking of edible (or inedible), the ancient woodlands of the area are rich in fungi, and beech woods host a number of rare species.

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Fallow deer

Whether they are wandering on tiptoe in small nervous groups through the forest glades or bellowing territorial expletives during the rut, fallow deer are ever-present in this area. The obvious browse line (no tree leaves can hang below 1.5m (5ft) above ground) is a clue to their presence. Try the area indicated for randy bucks in October or November. Red deer are also around, but are shy, elusive creatures.

Holly hatch inclosure

The tall spruces visible from the Cadman’s Pool car park make good lookout points for finches. Look for siskins, which breed here, chaffinches (left) and even hawfinches (above) landing on the feathery tops. The larches on the northern rim can be good for crossbills, too. Firecrests also breed, and may overwinter in the spruces, but can be difficult to find.

Useful Information

HOW TO GET THERE

Exit J1 on M27 and follow the B3078 towards Fordingbridge. Turn left for Stoney Cross, then right after two miles towards Bolderwood and Linwood. Cadman’s Pool is one mile on the right.  

FIND OUT MORE

New forest national park 01590 646600 www.newforestnpa.gov.org The forest and its walks are open at all times, although some car parks may be closed from time to time.

EAT

The Royal Oak Fritham SO43 7HJ 02380 812606 A popular eating place in a stunning setting, with a large garden.

STAY

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The Balmer Lawn Hotel Brockenhurst SO42 7ZB 01590 623116 www.balmerlawnhotel.com Perfectly situated in the heart of the New Forest, this 4-star hotel has a restaurant with an AA rosette. NEARBY Paulton’s Park Ower, Romsey SO51 6AL 023 8081 4442 www.paultonspark.co.uk If your kids find the Forest too quiet, Paulton’s Park, a theme park with rides to suit most ages, will be the antidote.