With clear frosty days, crimson sunsets – and the occasional snowfall – the New Forest can amaze and inspire, even in the depths of winter.
With the added Cost-of-Living Crisis this year, cheap family days out are hard to come by this festive period. So pack some turkey sandwiches, mince pies and a flask of coffee and blow away the winter blues while you explore the forest landscapes.
Walking in Winter
Wellies, warm clothes and raincoats are a must at this time of year – wrap up warm as woodland areas can get cold very quickly when out of the sun.
Some paths, especially those used by forestry vehicles, can cut up badly in wet weather. However, there are plenty of routes along the forest’s extensive network of gravel paths and tracks which remain passable throughout the year.
Winter walks can be great for kids as they can crunch through fallen leaves or jump in muddy puddles. Look out for animal tracks in the mud to identify, and see if they can identify bare trees from their shape alone.
A forest walk can literally be a breath of fresh air, away from crowds of shoppers, rounds of festive parties and family get-togethers.
And post-Christmas walks are the perfect way to detox after any festive overindulgence – a brisk walk can build stamina, burn excess calories and make your heart healthier, according to the NHS.
At Rhinefield, the giant firs are evergreen and their lovely pine scents are especially Christmassy. It’s always a fun spot for the kids to play, with dens and hiding places aplenty. The picnic tables at Blackwater car park are perfect for a spread of Christmas leftovers.
For more open panoramic views, try Turf Hill near Burley. The New Forest heathland is a haven for birdlife throughout the year with merlin, peregrine falcon and short eared owls making regular appearances on the open heath.
The Bolderwood to Acres Down Loop is a more long-distance effort and offers great views from Acres Down after following the meandering Highland Water.
Our loop routes from either Brockenhurst or Lyndhurst mean you can mix a woodland walk with a warming hot chocolate, or something stronger, in one either village’s many cafes and pubs. The walks’ starting points are accessible by bus and train for an even more environmentally-friendly day out.
A walk along the Beaulieu River between Beaulieu and Buckler’s Hard is popular winter stroll. The Beaulieu River in winter is a bird watchers paradise, attracting migrating birds and wildfowl.
The tidal stretch of the river is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and an important feeding ground and lifeline for over-wintering birds such as Black-tailed Godwit and Brent Geese.
The woodland route offers a bracing walk before you reach the river views at Buckler’s Hard.
Of course, warming up in front of a roaring pub fire while sampling some of the New Forest’s best locally-produced food and drink is one of the best ways to finish your winter walk.
Many of the pubs and restaurants near walking routes in the forest offer local produce – look out for the New Forest Marque, showing the menu has been sourced locally and sustainably.
For organised walks over the festive period, the New Forest Ramblers Association has a New Year’s Day walk and social. Some nature walks are also listed on the NewForest.co.uk events pages. Wild New Forest also offer a variety of New Forest Discovery nature walks suitable for all the family.
However and wherever you decide to explore the New Forest over the festive period, it’s always a great way to create memories. And why not make a New Year’s resolution to return and explore again in slightly warmer weather?