A Year in the Wild: The New Forest


Episode 2 of 3


A portrait of the ancient landscapes and spectacular wildlife of the New Forest National Park, seen through the eyes of the people who know it best.

The New Forest is a fragment of the ancient wild wood that once stretched the length and breadth of Europe – it is also one of Britain’s newest National Parks. This enchanted forest is like no other. Pigs and ponies roam beneath mighty oaks and beeches, and pockets of heathland shelter some of the rarest creatures in Britain, including dartford warblers, hobbies and sand lizards. People live here too – with a unique lifestyle that has survived since medieval times. This film follows a forest keeper, a coppicer, a storyteller and a farmer as the seasons change, revealing the secrets of an exquisite forest that is as old as England.

In pictures: New Forest

A closer look at the New Forest National Park.

Ponies of the New Forest

The New Forest pony is now a recognised breed, but originally comes from Welsh stock with introductions of other ponies such as Highland, Exmoor and Dartmoor. Interestingly, ponies have right of way over vehicles on New Forest roads.

The late summer is the start of the annual pony round-ups, known as ‘drifts’. Then in September, New Forest has a pony sale, where ponies are being sold at such low prices that the commoners selling them are making a loss.

Heathland wildlife

The New Forest has more than a quarter of Britain’s remaining lowland heaths and thus is crucially important for heathland creatures. For example, sand lizards are so rare because this habitat is rare. In the late 1980s, Martin Noble pioneered a programme of captive breeding and successfully brought the lizards back from the brink of extinction.

Heathland – such as that found in the New Forest – is rarer globally than rainforest. These heathlands are also home to some of Britain’s rarest birds, like the tiny Dartford warbler.  In fact, the New Forest is home to the UK’s largest breeding population of this rare bird.