Easily accessible from London and the South, stunning walks and wildlife, plenty of days-out ideas for the whole family and cozy pubs for a spot of lunch or dinner and sandy beaches and sea breezes, The New Forest in Hampshire has it all for a family holiday, including leaf throwing: and is lovely to explore in the Autumn…
Autumn colours in the New Forest are beautiful, this time of year, when nature is getting ready for the onslaught of winter, it is swathed with rich golds, reds, yellows and greens. The trees leaves are slowly turning and there are about 2700 species of fungi, many of which are endangered and beautifully coloured, and ponies and wildlife are in abundance. The months of September and October are the perfect time of year for a family holiday adventure, there are some amazing child-friendly places to stay in the New Forest on the Holiday Tot website. If you need a little more persuading, here are some ideas of what families with children holidaying in the New Forest at this time of year can get up to…
New Forest Ponies
Probably the most famous attraction in the New Forest are the ponies, they walk freely across the open forest. All of the ponies are owned by private people (referred to as ‘commoners’) and allowed to roam. Around autumn time they are rounded up, counted, marked and checked over for any health problems before the winter sets in. The ponies can also be very friendly but visitors are encouraged not to feed or pet them.
Pigs & piglets in Pannage Season
Every autumn about 600 pigs are set free across the New Forest, their job is an important one, to eat the acorns (especially green ones which are poisonous to horses and ponies) and other fallen seeds and nuts such as chestnuts. The pigs are also privately owned. This year Pannage season is due to run until 11thNovember. So don’t be surprised if you see a few pigs as well as horses rummaging around on your family break in the New Forest!
Roads in the New Forest have a speed limit of 40mph, please respect this for the safety of the animals, sadly far too many animals lose their lives here to people driving too fast.
Family-friendly walks in the New Forest
As the nights get a little chillier the colours in the forests and over the heaths produce a spectacular display of colour. There are lots of walks for all abilities, from pushchair friendly walks through to hikes on uneven terrain. If you have little ones don yourselves with a treasure hunt sheet of what to find on the forest floor. Look out for colourful fungi, but don’t eat it, and various interesting vegetation. There are lots of guided walks and tailor made child-friendly walks around the New Forest. Here are a couple of ideas but with such a vast area you might want to explore a little deeper.
Woodside Park in Lymington – This lovely community park is home to beautiful trees and gardens: kids will love exploring and searching for the fairy doors in the trees. There are also tennis courts, a running track, skate park and football pitches too. The paths are wheelchair, pushchair and scooter friendly too.
Knightwood Oak - Visit the oldest and largest Oak Tree in the forest, the walk here is just under 2 miles and fairly flat with smooth gravel.
Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary and Bolderwood Walks
The New Forest is not just about ponies and pigs, there are lots of fallow deer too. There is no better place to view them than from the Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary where you will find a viewing platform overlooking a large meadow where the deer regularly gather. This is a natural area and so spotting them isnt guaranteed and you might end up spying one on a walk elsewhere but it’s a good place to sart. The deer are regularly fed up to the end of September and the best time to catch them would be in the early afternoon. Bolderwood is a lovely place to park the car and take one of the graded walks. Each walk starts and ends at a picnic area and are relatively level.
For more ideas of family-friendly walks in the New Forest visit the New Forest National Park website
Family cycle routes in The New Forest
The New Forest is made for walking or cycling and there are plenty of cycle routes, in fact over 100 miles of them! Cycling is possibly the best way to explore the New Forest. If you don’t have family bikes to take yourselves you can hire them within the Forest.
This great map from the Forestry Commission shows where all the cycle routes are.
The children and adults alike will love Furzey Gardens, home to some beautiful plants and trees and to Fairies. There are reportedly over 40 doors hidden around the gardens, you need to look hard to discover as they are no more than a foot high! If the littlies want to leave a message for the Fairies there is a Fairy Post Box too! There is a play area home to ‘Mrs Tiggy Winkle’ the dry land boat and other play structures. There are also plenty of picnic areas. There are always family-friendly events going on at Furzey Gardens and this autumn is no different. On the 4thOctober is the last Furzey Toddle of the year, a fun event for pre-school children from 11am. On 8thNovember there is also a guided autumn walk, for those interested in learning more about the stunning plants here. For more details visit their website
Longdown Farm Activity Farm
For close encounters of the animal kind, Long Down Activity Farm should go down a treat where the little kids can pet a whole array of different animals, help feed them and ride on tractors. There are also special Halloween events scheduled this year.
Other family days out ideas in the New Forest
Coastline, family-friendly beaches and lovely towns and seaside villages are also on offer in the New Forest. From small hidden beaches like Tanners lane through to larger beaches in New Milton etc. Lymington has lots of activities (worthy of a whole post in its own right) for the whole family to enjoy, and even a ferry taking you to the Isle of Wight for a few hours (ferry trip takes 30 mins).
For some slightly structured planned family fun and adventure try the New Forest Activity Centre, where kids can get involved in bishcraft, beach craft, treehouses archery and more, older members of the family can have a go at kayaking too.
If there’s a little too much ‘nature’ going on and the family need some new world fun, head along the coastline to Bournemouth, or even Pepper Pig World at Poultons Park further inland towards Winchester.
We are sure you will find the perfect family holiday in the New Forest, as you can see this is just a taster of what’s on offer. If you would like help finding a child-friendly cottage or family-friendly hotel, do feel free to get in touch. We would love to help, and don’t forget, all the holidays on Holiday Tots are suitable for families with young children and you always book direct with no hidden costs.