The New Forest has been voted the number one National Park in Europe in the 2022 TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards for Destinations.
The New Forest also came 10th in the world, ahead of global big-hitters including Banff National Park in Canada, Grand Canyon National Park in the United States and Iceland’s Vatnajokull National Park.
“Given the very real challenges of the last two years, being voted the No.1 National Park in Europe and 10th in the world is an extremely welcome shot in the arm for all local tourism businesses” commented Anthony Climpson, Chief Executive from Go New Forest tourism board.
It comes as no surprise that the New Forest is not only an increasingly popular place to live but a busy tourist destination given its rich cultural heritage, history, and stunning scenery.
The New Forest is one of the largest remaining tracts of unenclosed pasture, heathland, and forest in Southern England. Originally proclaimed a royal forest by William the Conqueror and featured in the Domesday Book the pe-existing rights of common pasture are still recognised today, enforced by the verderers, commoners and agisters.
Commoners’ cattle, ponies, and donkeys roam throughout the open heath and much of the woodland, and it is largely their grazing that maintains the open character of the Forest. The New Forest pony is one of the indigenous horse breeds of the British Isles and is one of the New Forest’s most famous attractions. The forest remains a habitat for many other rare birds and mammals including deer, reptiles and specialist heathland and woodland birds such as the Northern Lapwing, Nightjar, Curlew and Red Kite.
Steeped in history, in the 18th century, the New Forest became a source of timber for the Royal Navy. King Henry VIII, probably Britain’s most famous monarch, has also left his influence on the area by his commissioning of both Hurst and Calshot Castles respectively. Both were built to help defend the Solent and the Southampton Water from possible invasion.
In the First World War, wounded soldiers were brought to Brockenhurst to be treated in the make-shift hospitals set up by local residents who owned some of the larger properties in the village.
The New Forest’s strategic location on the south coast meant that it was crucial in a range of operations both for British, Commonwealth and US and Canadian troops in World War II.
During World War II, Balmer Lawn in Brockenhurst was used by Generals Montgomery and Eisenhower for meetings as they planned the D-Day invasion. Ashley Walk, near Godshill, was a bombing range used to test the ‘bouncing bomb’ and there were 12 airfields across the area – some of which can still be visited today including RAF Stoney Cross. Lepe also has evidence of WW2 still present on its beach (now Lepe Country Park). The area played a role in D-Day operations, with many troops leaving from Lepe to head to Normandy.
From beautiful scenery to free-roaming animals, fascinating history to scenic coastline, there’s something for everyone in the New Forest National Park.