Caring for the New Forest

A ranger carrying out vital conservation work in the New Forest, Hampshire

Keeping the New Forest as it should be is a big task. Managing different areas often requires different approaches. We work hard to ensure you can enjoy our places safely in ways that preserve the character of the land and protect the wildlife.

Read our latest newsletter

Our rangers in south west Hampshire look after over 5,000 acres of countryside across the New Forest, Mottisfont estate, Stockbridge Down and Curbridge Nature Reserve. Take a look at our latest newsletter to see how we’ve been caring for these special places:

South west Hampshire countryside newsletter November 2020 (PDF / 0.9365234375MB) download

Looking after the commons

Our New Forest Northern Commons comprise of special lowland heathland habitats that support a myriad of internationally rare and protected specialised wildlife. Lowland heathland is the most declining habitat type in Europe, which is why our New Forest team is dedicated to conserving and creating this special habitat.

Lowland heathland comprises of heather, gorse, bracken and scattered native broad-leafed trees, within habitats such as dry heath, wet heath, grasslands, mires, bogs and wood pasture.

Heathland flora in the New Forest
Heathland flora in the New Forest, Hampshire
Heathland flora in the New Forest

How we manage the land

The majority of our work involves managing the heather and gorse, which supports the majority of heathland wildlife, through controlled burning, cutting and tractor mulching. This work is done using rotational management, resulting in a diverse age structure of heathland throughout our commons – benefitting a diverse array of different wildlife.

We also have to control non-native and invasive species. Rhododendron and turkey oak are two non-native species that we try to eradicate from our commons as they pose a threat to our native priority habitats. We also manage the spread of bracken, birch and pine, all of which can encroach and become invasive on heathland.

Volunteers burning cut gorse in the New Forest
Volunteers burning cut gorse in the New Forest, Hampshire
Volunteers burning cut gorse in the New Forest

The work is done through a mixture of our own staff, contractors and our dedicated team of amazing volunteers.

Luckily a lot of the work is done for us by the commoners livestock. The animals graze the commons maintaining the unique New Forest lawn habitats.

Belted Galloways resting
Belted Galloway cattle grazing in the New Forest, Hampshire
Belted Galloways resting