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How we spent a day in the New Forest on a budget

At the end of August, Dan, Ted and I spent a week in Dorset. We decided to go on a whim due to the disruption of earlier in the year – we were meant to be in Santorini instead – and had planned for an action packed adventure. However, saving for a new baby meant we had to cut costs a little. For our first day, we visited the New Forest on a budget, and managed to spend only £20. I promise, you could do it for free!

Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary

Our first stop in the New Forest on a budget was Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary, a short drive from Lyndhurst. The sanctuary is free entry, and so is parking. We arrived fairly early in the morning – about 10am – which was a smart move. When we left a couple of hours left, there were absolutely no parking spaces left.

Signposts at Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary.
Signposts at Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary

We started our visit by deciding which route we wanted to take. I can assure you that the Deer Platform is not 1/2 mile away – it’s much closer. Since we had a whole day, and we were very aware that I might find a long walk challenging, we decided on the Jubilee Trail. Each of the trails are identified by posts similar to the ones above, with their respective colours. The Jubilee and Radnor Trails start the same way, but after a few hundred metres (and some rain) they split apart. Keep your eyes on the posts!

The route is certainly very scenic. The path is wide and consists of very slight slopes, so it’s fairly accessible to those with disabilities, trouble walking, prams, or young children. We saw plenty of young families exploring the area while we were there. There are also small information boards for children to look at along the path, and there are hundreds of very climbable trees.

We did discover some fantastic examples of nature. Some of the trees have fallen, or been trimmed by park rangers, and exist as large, fascinating logs just off the path. We spent nearly half an hour having a little family photoshoot on one of the more interesting logs – there’s certainly something a little sublime about being able to see tree roots!

We stopped for a while at the viewing platform, but unfortunately didn’t manage to see any deer. At least it’s a pretty spot for a photo opportunity to look and feel a little bit like a princess!

Woman standing on deer viewing platform at Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary.
View from Deer Viewing Platform

Lunch at Lyndhurst

Apparently, Lyndhurst is the ‘capital of the New Forest’. At around lunchtime, we pulled into the town (after sitting in traffic to reach the high street) and made our way to the car park. Initially, we thought there were no spaces, but found plenty in the long stay part of the car park. There is no cost difference between the short and long stay, and expect to shell out a full £2 for a couple of hours.

We were famished, so searched the high street on a Saturday afternoon for a dog-friendly establishment to eat in. Most places were full, so we settled for a very quick, but tasty lunch at the Fox and Hounds pub. The price came to a whole £22, but you could easily have lunch in the New Forest on a budget.

To the east of the village centre is a spot called Bolton’s Bench. Arm yourself with a packed lunch, or a sandwich from the Co-op, and have a picnic instead. Bolton’s Bench is essentially a large park, so there are places to sit in abundance. Just be prepared to dodge pony poop, and be sitting on a hill, but the views are quite pleasant. Plus, you get to watch more ‘wild’ ponies wandering in front of you.

View from Bolton’s Bench

Blackwater: Tall Trees Trail

After lunch, we pulled into the Blackwater car park to explore the Tall Trees Trail. If you like looking at massive trees, this is the place for you! The sort of circular route takes you past some of the oldest trees in Britain, and two absolutely gigantic redwoods.

This trail was significantly busier than Bolderwood, but it could have been due to the time of day. We were lucky to get a parking space, and lucky to manage photos without snapping the general public in them. Plus, the route is generally easy to navigate. Again there are wide paths, but it’s entirely flat – much more accessible.

There were a few exciting features to find. Down a path, just off the track, was a giant sequoia – the tallest tree in England. Further along the route we happened upon a wasps’ nest, buried into the ground beside a tree. Thankfully, the park rangers had cordoned the area off and notified visitors to keep a safe distance. Then we managed to find a large den someone had built with off-cuts from the trees. Of course, Dan had to get inside for a look.

All in all, we were able to spend a full day exploring the beauty of the New Forest on a budget. It cost us less than £25, but we could (and probably should) have spent much less if I’d been organised enough to pack a lunch.

What other places in the New Forest are free to visit? Please share in the comments.

4 Comments

  • Chloe Chats

    Sounds like you had such a lovely time! I love going to places that have these fun scenic walks. That picture from the tall trees trail of the trees looks amazing, so green! The deer viewing platform sounds like it would be so cool looking over at all the deer, although you didn’t get to see any, it does look like a fab photo opportunity! xx

  • Jennifer Marston

    This sounds like such a relaxing trip away – especially now! I’m definitely going to look into this. I’d love to do the deer trail and Blackwater. Shame you didn’t see any deers though! xxx

  • Alice | Girl with a saddle bag

    The New Forest is a great place to visit on a budget. As a local I’ve picked up lots of ideas for free days out here. There are dozens of great walks like these (I’d highly recommend visiting Fritham to see the deer and autumn colours at this time of year) and there are some beautiful villages to explore that are well off the tourist trail. Some attractions are free provided you enter on foot rather than by car (like Bucklers Hard) so I’d suggest combining with a walk rather than just heading straight there

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