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There are numerous ways to explore the New Forest and take advantage of all the wonderful sights and sounds that it has to offer. Whether you’re in need of a gentle stroll out in the fresh air or fancy taking a horse ride across the open heathland, the Recreation Team at the Forestry Commission and I make sure there are plenty of opportunities for visitors enjoy the forest.
As Recreation Manager, a large part of my job is ensuring that visitors to the forest have a great experience. That means making certain that the New Forest is always looking its best and continues to be protected and cared for, so it can be enjoyed for generations to come.
A great way to get out and explore is on a bike - and you can’t fail to have noticed the recent media coverage relating to this activity locally. The New Forest is a great place for a ride – for solo cycling enthusiasts to a family day out – and we try to ensure that cyclists can enjoy the very best of the forest safely and responsibly.
The Forestry Commission manages and maintains an off-road cycle network in the New Forest that covers over 100 miles of surfaced tracks leading through mature woodlands, young plantations and alongside the open forest. We try to ensure that cyclists get the most from their visit whilst safeguarding the New Forest.
Over the past couple of months, we’ve been upgrading the cycle network so that cyclists find it even easier to follow the designated routes. Along the 100 mile network, there are around 400 direction posts being replaced with fresh signs and more information to help visitors have a fantastic day out. The Forestry Commission has been working closely with our partners under the Higher Level Stewardship Scheme to help fund the works.
As a result, the Recreation Team has been out in the forest putting the new-look posts in place and an extra 60 marker posts at key location points along the route which offer more advice and information, such as National Grid references and QR codes. The QR (Quick Response) codes are a great way of offering cyclists up-to-date information about the forest using their smartphone; linking straight to the Forestry Commission’s website.
We are also launching a brand new cycle map which includes all of the updated information we’ve added to the cycle network. It will be much easier for visitors to use and follow the clearly marked routes. We’ve made certain that the new network is easy to access for all visitors, so whether you’re wanting good exercise or a gentle bike ride, there are some great routes for people of all abilities to enjoy.
Don’t panic if you have one of our older maps – for this season, we’re retaining the old numbering system on the marker posts along with the new ones, so there’s no excuse for getting lost!
The new cycle maps will be available at Cycle Hire outlets, Tourist Information Centres, Bolderwood Information Unit and other retailers across the New Forest, priced at £2. It will soon be available on our website.
For more information visit www.forestry.gov.uk/newforest.
Gary North, Recreation Manager