The New Forest is located within the borders of Hampshire and Wiltshire in South East England. It is now among the last unenclosed heath-land forestry areas in the South East, which has over the years become more and more urban, due to the relative closeness to London and the southern industrial ports such as Southampton and Portsmouth. It is for this reason that the New Forest is in fact now protected within the boundaries of the New Forest National Park, established in 2005. Since 1919 when the Forestry Commission came into being, they have been responsible for protecting and expanding the Forest, this often includes intense forestry management procedures using forestry equipment.
The area of the New Forest National Park is an extremely popular holiday destination. The small hamlets and villages situated within the bounds are bustling with tourists during the holiday high season and unsurprisingly still busy during the off season. Many international visitors come to the parks on holidays, especially caravanners and campers from European countries with road access through the Channel Tunnel. The New Forest was estimated to have had up to 14.75 million visitors back in 2009, and it’s likely that this number has only grown since British holiday makers are ever increasingly staying on home soil for their summer holidays.
History of the Forest
The New Forest has in prehistory been cleared in places to be cultivated for use with large scale agriculture. Unfortunately the area of the Forest extends over a bed of very poor soil. All of the attempted agricultural ventures failed and many turned to heath-land. The ancient legacy can still be found within the National Park however as there are many ancient burial grounds and monuments.
In 1079 William I (William the Conqueror) established the forest as a royal hunting ground. During this process many hamlets and villages were destroyed and the inhabitants forced to move elsewhere beyond the boundaries of the Forest. Subsequently the New Forest was mentioned in the Doomsday Book, an inventory of England, produced by the new Norman invaders.
Although the New Forest existed as an exclusive royal hunting ground, common laws were brought in to satisfy the local community. As a common resource, the Forest saw the grazing of livestock, and the cutting and digging of peat and clay. Today one of the most common sights in the New Forest is that of free roaming livestock, these animals have owners but are allowed to graze the pasture freely.
New Forest Attractions
There are many places of interest within the boundaries of the New Forest, ensuring that the holiday makers are never left bored. Beaulieu is the site of two lovely attractions, perfect for a summer’s day, the Beaulieu Palace House and the British National Motor Museum. The house dates from the 13th century, originally acting as a gatehouse to Beaulieu Abbey.
Since 1952 the grounds of Beaulieu Palace House have played host to the National Motor Museum. The museum was founded by the owner of Palace House at the time, Edward Douglas-Scott-Montagu, 3rd Baron Montagu. The museum has around 250 vehicles in its collection and entertains many exhibitions from time to time, including ‘James Bond Vehicles’, ‘World of Top Gear’, and ‘On Screen Cars’.
‘Bucklers Hard’ is another lovely place to visit within the bounds of the National Park, and interestingly within the boundaries of the Beaulieu Estate also. It is in fact a small hamlet, built again by the Montagu family, as a free trade port. This small hamlet has retained much, if not all, of its original charm and character. The maritime heritage of this setting attracts numerous tourists each year. The rich maritime history includes the hamlet producing many famous ships for the Royal Navy during the 18th and 19th centuries. The ships produced here played crucial roles in European wars, and the expansion of the British Empire, including at least three that were present at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.