Walk: Rhinefield Forest, Hampshire
Take a sensory stroll past towering redwoods and monumental firs in the New Forest National Park
A pine-scented route that sweeps through the heart of the New Forest National Park, Rhinefield Ornamental Drive is home to some of the tallest trees in England.
Alongside the oak, ash and beech, non-native trees are an outstanding feature of the park. Lining the Drive are 50-metre-tall redwoods and mighty Douglas firs that were planted by the Victorians in the 1850s.
Stroll beneath their fragrant branches, feel their thick bark and reach your arms around their massive girths. As you wander, look for roe deer, wild boar and New Forest ponies with spring foals. In summer, enjoy blooming azaleas, pink rhododendrons and the songs of firecrests, hawfinches and other resident birds.
This gentle walk guides you past some of Britain’s most impressive trees. Easy to follow, with interactive boards along parts of the route, it makes for a fantastic family outing with young tree-lovers. If the weather’s wet, wear wellies for the Blackwater ford crossing.
Rhinefield Forest walk
5.1km/3.2 miles | 45m accent | 1.5 hours | easy
1. Dwarfed by history
From Blackwater carpark, exit through the wooden arch, cross Rhinefield Ornamental Drive and follow the Tall Trees Trail past ancient ditches, coast redwoods and a magnificent pair of giant sequoias.
At Brock Hill carpark, take the footpath on your left and loop through the trees. Turn right at the grassy ride to reach a surfaced forest track. Like much of the New Forest, this plantation woodland is managed sustainably for timber – look for piles of logs awaiting the sawmills. Follow the track south for 800-metres, or enjoy denser woodland by detouring off the track on narrower forest rides.
3. Blackwater Arboretum
Turn left at the Forestry Commission cycle marker 244 and enter Blackwater Arboretum through the wooden arch. Touch, smell and see your way around this nationally important collection of world trees.
4. A river runs through it
Exit the arboretum through the same gate you entered and rejoin the surfaced forest track. Cross the Blackwater River ford, pausing to take in the riverine view. (If the ford is too deep to cross after heavy rain, return to Blackwater carpark through the arboretum).
5. Rhinefield Ornamental Drive
Continue along the track, veering left at the T-junction. At Rhinefield Cottage, turn left onto Rhinefield Ornamental Drive and appreciate its Victorian-era splendour on a short walk back to Blackwater carpark. Finish with a picnic or barbecue in one of the woodland clearings.
Lucy is the co-author of Wild Guide Southern and Eastern England.