The New Forest is magical all year round, but in spring there are some unmissable wildlife treats. Being in the very south of England and close to the sea, the area awakens from its winter sleep early. The mosaic of heathland and mature trees, both conifer and broadleaved, offer a huge variety of habitats that are home to many different species.
On the warmest of spring days you may see adders basking in the sun or grass snakes flowing over the surface of streams. Keep an eye out for other reptiles and amphibians too. Look skyward and in the trees during your walk, for bird species that make the forest their home – such as siskin, redpoll and firecrest – where they feed on the seeds of mature conifers.
Begin the route from Brockenhurst station car park and head down Brookley Road, through the village and over the ford known as the Watersplash, turning right at the T-junction. Continue along Rhinefield Road until you come to the heath, take the first right towards Aldridge Hill campsite, continue straight on and on to the forest track at Ober Corner, until reaching Bolderford Bridge.
Take the first left after the bridge and continue. At the next gate continue ahead and through the next gate into the conservation area. Go through another gate and continue past the open ground on your right, keeping an eye open for deer. Fallow deer are the most numerous out of the five different species of deer found in the New Forest, and deer are the very reason why the forest was established as a royal hunting ground in 1079.
Proceed on to the heath on the track and take the next right turn at the junction, heading northwest. Take the next sharp right and then the next left to Rhinefield Ornamental Drive road, before heading on to the track opposite. Now take the next left.
The Douglas fir trees in this area are some of the tallest in Britain and help to create an awe-inspiring atmosphere.
Continue down this track, through the ancient woodland and over the ford. Then take the track, heading left towards Rhinefield Cottage, to rejoin the lane. Here, turn right and continue past Rhinefield House Hotel before heading south past Puttles Bridge car park and on the road through the heath.
The heathland is home to several nationally important populations of rare birds, including the Dartford warbler, nightjar and woodlark. From here, follow your tracks to walk the road back to the village of Brockenhurst.
This route is on lanes, roads and gravel forestry tracks.
HOW TO GET THERE
BY CAR: Brockenhurst is on the A337, which is connected to the M27 and A31.
BY PUBLIC TRANSPORT:
Brockenhurst station connects to the mainline railway, with regular services to London Waterloo, Bournemouth, Southampton and Poole. The Wilts & Dorset Bus Company runs frequent services to Brockenhurst, while in the summer there is the New Forest open-top bus service, operated by Solent Blue Line.
25 Brookley Road, Brockenhurst SO42 7RB
Ordnance Survey Explorer OL 22. Grid ref: SU 301 019
New Forest Reptile Centre
Holidays Hill, Bournemouth Road, Lyndhurst SO43 7NH
023 8028 3141
Open 1 Apr-28 Sep,
daily, 10am-4.30pm. Admission free.
High Street, Lyndhurst
023 8028 2269
New Forest National Park www.newforestnpa.gov.uk