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Forest Diary

The Forest Diary, Paws Outdoors

By Zoe Cox, Community Manager (enquiries.southern@forestry.gsi.gov.uk)

Walking your dog is a great way to exercise, explore the outdoors and enjoy one of our many woods and forests. With miles of paths to explore, there’s no need to leave your four-legged friend at home next time you’re planning a day out with your family.

Just to make things easier, we’ve sniffed out some useful dog health tips to keep you and your four-legged friend active next time you visit the New Forest and beyond.

Your dog is a natural explorer and loves sticking its snout into new things and discovering new smells. Try short, local trails at first, but then let your sense of adventure guide you and build up your stamina by taking a trail you haven’t been on before. Popular dog walks start from our car parks at Deerleap at Ashurst and Turf Hill near Hale.

If you’re looking for the best places for you and your pooch to visit, not just here in the New Forest but in one of our other lovely forests, take a look at the ‘Ruff Guide to the Forest’ available on our website at www.forestry.gov.uk/dogs. Locally, the Wilverley Wander in the New Forest figures in our national top five dog walks. This two mile trail starts from Wilverley car park and takes you through the Inclosure. Here you’ll find a mixture of conifer and broadleaf woodland, old and young, with some open areas making it a beautiful and interesting place to walk.

There are also many great opportunities for both your dog and you to get fit in the forest, by making the most of the natural resources all around you. Duck and weave around the trees, or try to make your canine pal stay put on a big tree stump or jump over a log. The possibilities are endless!

Whilst getting active with your four-legged friend, you can really help us by following the New Forest Dog Code and walking your dog responsibly.

The code asks that you help to keep the Forest and National Park clean by taking bagged dog waste home, using a dog bin if one is available, or using a stick to flick the poo into shrubby vegetation where people cannot tread on it.

Being considerate to other visitors is also important. Keeping your dog away from picnic areas, horse riders and cyclists helps to improve the experience of everyone using the Forest. But, it’s not just people that need to be heeded! Respecting wildlife like grazing livestock and deer is also a key consideration if we’re going to maintain the rich biodiversity of the Forest and help you and your dog to remain safe whilst walking. Ensuring your dog is under close supervision, using a lead if necessary and sticking to the Forest tracks is particularly important between now until July when many of our birds nest on the ground during their breeding season. A straying dog could easily disturb the birds and frighten them from their nests, leaving eggs, or young vulnerable to the cold and predators such as crows.

By taking these simple steps to ensure that your dog is well behaved, safe and doesn't leave any little surprises for other forest visitors, you’re playing a key part in improving the experience of all visitors to the Forest and safeguarding its wildlife. You’re also supporting our work with the New Forest Dog Owners (NFDOG) and New Forest National Park Authority, to ensure more dog walkers are following the code. For more information on the dog code, visit www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/dogs-code or to find out more about the NFDOG go to www.newforestdog.org.uk

Our forests are clearly prime locations to get plenty of exercise, with great views and fantastic trails to explore for you and your pet. So please have fun with your pooch, walk your dog responsibly, and keep this a special place for all to visit.

For more information about the New Forest, visit www.forestry.gov.uk/newforest