SUMMER is finally upon us and for the New Forest that means one thing - an influx of visitors. 

With the weather looking to continually improve throughout the month and schools breaking up in July, the New Forest will hopefully be full of people enjoying the great outdoors safely and respectfully. 

To do this, there are a number of rules that all visitors need to be aware of when visiting our beloved national park.

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Similar to the countryside code, there is a New Forest code for the national park that should be followed when enjoying the beautiful surroundings and rich wildlife.

The New Forest code is as follows:

Grazing animals - ponies, donkeys, cattle, pigs and sheep

For the safety of both the public and the animals, you must keep your distance from grazing animals, especially mothers with their young. 

Bournemouth Echo:

Horses in the New Forest - image by Echo Camera Club Dorset member Claire Sheppard.

They are best treated as wild animals so you should not touch them or feed them; they are put out to graze on the land by the commoners so should be left to eat their own natural food which is in abundance within the park. 

Driving

The ponies and other animals have no road sense and frequently stand or walk on the unfenced roads, so give them (and walkers, cyclists and horse-riders) a wide berth and be especially careful when driving at night.

Parking

Motorists should only park in designated areas to avoid disruption and damage - Forestry England car parks must be vacated by dusk.

Do not park in gateways or on verges - it is a criminal offence to knowingly damage these habitats.

Barbecues and fires

To reduce the risk of damaging wildfires, no fires or barbeques are allowed in the New Forest whatsoever.

Dogs

To minimise disturbance to wildlife, livestock and other people, dogs should be kept under close control - if necessary use a lead.

Bournemouth Echo:

Keep your dog under control when exploring the New Forest (stock image).

Dogs should be picked up after, especially on paths, in picnic areas and in car parks - take bagged waste home if there is no litter bin nearby.

Fungi

Fungi are essential to the New Forest’s internationally protected ecosystem. 

Foray leaders must apply for permission for educational excursions from the Forestry England in advance.

If you suspect or see commercial picking you should call the Forestry England on 0300 067 4600 or the National Trust on 01425 650035.

Camping

Wild camping and overnight parking is not allowed anywhere in the New Forest - there are plenty of campsites for this purpose.

Cycling

Only cycle on the waymarked tracks and other designated routes.

Bournemouth Echo:

Use paths when exploring the New Forest -  image by Echo Camera Club Dorset member Piotr Jadziewicz.

When approaching people and animals, call out a warning to make yourself noticed and pass slowly and wide.

Try to leave gaps for overtaking vehicles and never ride more than two abreast. Keep to a safe speed, wear bright colours to be visible and always use lights in the dark.

Horse riding

Horse riders have open access to the New Forest, but to reduce damage to the ground they should use tracks when it’s wet.

Litter

Leave only footprints - take all of your rubbish home with you if you cannot dispose of it responsibly in a bin.

Your food and litter could harm the animals who live on the land and therefore everything should be taken home. 

Birds

Again, any litter of food could be particularly harmful to birds so take it home. 

To help ground-nesting birds rear their young safely, keep yourself, dogs and horses on the main tracks from the beginning of March to the end of July.