From the tall ships that were built for Nelson at Buckler’s Hard, to a smugglers’ hideout at Moses Dock, the stories which have shaped the New Forest are now easier to enjoy, thanks to a downloadable, self-guided route.

There are 20 walks, which can now be downloaded via VewRanger to a smartphone or tablet, designed to encourage people to gain more enjoyment from a visit to the New Forest National Park and to make it easier for them to plan their day.

Hilary Makin, communications manager for the New Forest National Park Authority, explains that with 13 million visitors a year, there is a delicate balance between protecting the fragile ecology of the park with the needs of local communities and tourists.

“We have selected the walks carefully to provide a taste of the New Forest. They take in pretty, historic villages, woodland, open heaths and the coastline of saltmarshes.

“The idea is also to reduce congestion on the narrow roads and encourage visitors to leave the car at home and come to the forest on the train or bus, so they can experience the forest at its best and learn how they can help keep the forest special.”

To help people to follow the trails, details of the routes and things to see are available on downloadable routecards, but more recently the park is also providing this information digitally via the ViewRanger GPS app, which combines mapping and assisted navigation to guide users along routes.

Before leaving home visitors can download the free ViewRanger app on to their smartphone or tablet. It is then easy to find recommended routes in the New Forest via the app or on the website and download them onto their phone ready for use when in the park.

The app includes a selection of free mapping, but for those who prefer to use an Ordnance Survey map, it is possible to purchase the relevant map tiles.

The mobile signal is quite patchy across the park, but downloading the maps and routes at home before setting off means the information will be stored on the phone or tablet and doesn’t require a mobile connection.

Once in the New Forest, with the chosen route open in the ViewRanger app, the phone's in-built GPS will locate the user on the map and help them navigate the route.

Each route comes with a short description and photographs and includes details of how to get there, the length and difficulty of the trail and landmarks or points of interest along the way.

The New Forest National Park is the latest public authority to partner with ViewRanger to digitise routes and increase accessibility. The app is used by tourist boards as well as walking and cycling festivals to facilitate promotion of their routes.

Hilary hopes to make it easier for people to take a break from the weekday frustrations of driving by making it as easy as possible to plan their day in advance.

“When the Park held its first walking festival last October, 90 per cent of people came by public transport to enjoy the 11 guided walks on offer. We are planning a more extensive festival for later this year.”

The New Forest National Park will be holding a second walking festival from October 18 to November 2.