THEY say the best things in life are free, so here's seven of the best things you can do in the New Forest - the only cost is your time.

1. Build a den – park or cycle up to one of the woodland car-parks and walk. Within a very short distance you’ll probably come across some old, fallen branches and twigs with which you can make a den. Remember to take care, use your common sense and never rip foliage from a growing tree.

2. Go foraging. Leave the mushrooms to the experts but take your basket out to gather edible berries, plants and herbs. See the for guidelines.

3. Swim in the sea (or at least go for a paddle). From gentle family resorts such as Milford-on-Sea, to the wild coast of Lepe, to the tiny, secret scraps of sand and shingle near Lymington where you’ll be the only ones there, there is 40 miles of coastline to enjoy.

4. Go deer spotting – the easy way. Head to the Bolderwood car-park and follow signs to the deer sanctuary which has its own viewing platform. Deer sightings can’t be guaranteed but you’ll have fun looking.

5. Visit one of the UK’s oldest trees. The Knightood Oak (on the Ornamental Drive near Rhinefield and the Knightwood enclosure) is known as the Queen of the Forest and no wonder. Seven and a half metres round, this incredible tree was understood to have started growing during the reign of King James 1, which means it was around at the time of Guy Fawkes. But as some research now suggests it could be 600 years old – that could mean it was ‘born’ in the time of Henry V and the Battle of Agincourt.

6. Walk across the stepping stones. Getting from one side of a stream to another is one of life’s simplest pleasures. Enjoy this at the stream near Rockford Green near Ringwood. But bring a change of shoes – just in case!

7. Go crabbing. Grab some lines, buckets and some tasty morsels to tempt the crustaceans in. Then take the kids to Mudeford Quay, or maybe the Sturt Pond Bridge at Milford-on-Sea and get casting.

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