Co-ordinate the management of recreation across the Forest and adjacent areas, encouraging quiet and responsible enjoyment while ensuring the special character of the Forest is not damaged
Visitors from all over southern England and beyond come to the New Forest to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of its unspoilt countryside. However, it is clear from the survey work carried out for the ‘New Forest Sport and Recreation Study’ (1996) that by far the greatest number of visits to the Forestare made by local people. This is reinforced by the more recent ‘New Forest Waterside Recreation Survey’ (2001). Local people account for an estimated 18 million visits each year – some 75% of the total of all visits made to the Forest.
Most people come to experience the wilderness quality and freedom of access of the Open Forest, with its heaths, ancient woods and freely roaming ponies. Others enjoy the coastline and river estuaries, or the narrow lanes, hedgerows and villages of the enclosed lands. The Forest towns and villages offer markets, shopping facilities, restaurants and historic buildings as well as visitor information and accommodation. There are also a number of popular visitor attractions, such as the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu, Bucklers Hard, the New Forest Museum at Lyndhurst and Exbury Gardens. The pattern of recreation
The majority of local visits are made by people who travel regularly (at least once a week) from within or just outside the Forest. More than 80% of these residents use the Forest for some sort of informal recreation and around half of the total live in Totton and the Waterside, Lymington and New Milton. Local visits extend throughout the year and are usually made to areas away from main tourist destinations. The most popular areas used by local visitors are the central parts of the Forest south of the A31 and the western edge of the Open Forest north of Ringwood.
The location of the Forest allows easy car access from many parts of southern England. The expanding urban centres of Bournemouth and Southampton are nearby, and around 15 million people live within 90 minutes drive of the Forest. It is therefore easily reached by both day visitors (some of whom may be staying at other holiday destinations nearby) and staying visitors.
Day visitors are attracted in particular to the popular car parks in the Open Forest and to the coast Destination distance is an important factor for day visitors: those from Bournemouth and Poole tend to visit the centre and south of the Forest, with those from the Southampton and Eastleigh areas focusing on the Ashurst area and Fritham. There is limited access to much of the coastline and therefore the beaches at Lepe and Calshot attract large numbers of people, particularly day visitors from the Test Valley area, Winchester and East Hampshire. Recreational activities
A very high proportion of all those who use the Forest do so because of the opportunities it offers for quiet informal recreation. There is a long history of freedom of access across the Open Forest, to those on foot or horseback, and for many people this is one of its special qualities. Walking is by far the most popular activity, but many day visitors and holiday-makers stay close to the car parks and simply enjoy the Forest around them. A comparison between the different types of visitor shows that local people are the largest group using the Forest for dog walking, cycling and horse riding. Camping and cycling are more important for holiday-makers, and picnicking is most popular amongst day visitors. Study of wildlife, particularly bird watching, is a growing leisure activity, especially amongst those living within the Forest itself. Many other visitors are attracted to the Forest at least partly by its wildlife and historical interest.