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Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Leave the car at home and take the New Forest Tour Bus this summer

Spectacular views of the landscape will once again be on offer when the New Forest Tour starts off its new season on Saturday 30 June.

The New Forest Tour Bus
Last year a trial of a new open top bus route in the north and west of the National Park was such a success that both this ‘red’ route and the well-established ‘green’ route will both run for 79 days this summer until Sunday 16 September.

The green route takes in Lyndhurst, Brockenhurst, Beaulieu, Exbury and Lymington- now stopping at the MacDonald Elmers Court Hotel and Resort, whilst the red route goes to Sandy Balls Holiday Centre at Godshill, Ashurst, Lyndhurst, Burley, Ringwood, and for the first time through the centre of Fordingbridge.

As well as being a unique way to discover the National Park and find out about the culture and history of the area through a new GPS activated audio commentary, the Tour is an important contributor to the local economy. It also reduces traffic by encouraging people out of their cars and on to the hop-on hop-off bus routes.

David Harrison, Lead Member for Transport at the New Forest National Park Authority, said: ‘Feedback from last year was fantastic so we’re delighted to be expanding the operation and running both routes for the whole of the summer season.’

‘Recent research identified that over 147,000 private car miles were saved by the New Forest Tour in 2011 and that its customers generated a contribution of nearly £500,000 to the local economy.

‘It has been a continuing success, growing from 9,000 passenger journeys in 2006 to nearly 34,000 last year.’

Hilary Marshall, Manager of the New Forest Centre in Lyndhurst, said ‘The New Forest Centre is ideally located where both New Forest Tour routes intersect in Lyndhurst village centre car park. The New Forest

Tour provides a great way for visitors to access Lyndhurst and see the wider Forest in a sustainable way. We are looking forward to welcoming many New Forest Tour customers to the New Forest Centre during the summer.’

New Forest Tour customers will also receive a New Forest Tour Official Guide, which includes a Brand New Forest card with offers available at businesses along the route, including places to eat and drink, shops, and attractions.

A range of flexible ticket options is available including a two-day ticket valid on both routes (adults £14), and group tickets for up to five people of £28 a day.

The New Forest Tour is a partnership between Bluestar, Wilts and Dorset, and the New Forest National Park Authority.

The tour runs from 30 June to 16 September. Book your tickets and view the timetable online at

Monday, 18 June 2012

New Forest Ponies - Reduction in animal accidents

New Forest organisations are cautiously optimistic after reporting that no animals have been hurt in the New Forest for a record-breaking five weeks.

There are around 7,000 ponies, donkeys and cattle roaming free across the Forest and their grazing plays a vital part in shaping the iconic New Forest landscape and maintaining the rare habitats which support internationally rare species.

Although the general trend is a reduction in animal accidents, last year 67 Commoners’ animals were either killed on the roads or had to be put down due to their injuries - two more than 2010.

There was also an increase in the number of animals being injured, which went up from 27 in 2010, to 36 in 2011. Many of the accidents involved local drivers.

Sue Westwood, Clerk to the Verderers and Chair of the Animal Accident Reduction Group, said: ‘We have never had such a long time without any accidents. We hope it’s a sign that people are driving more carefully across the Forest, and giving animals on the verge a wide berth.

‘The risk is still high at this time of year as the foals are being born. They quickly become much more playful than the mares and often gallop about, and cross roads without warning. They are also smaller (and less easy to spot at night), and even “minor” accidents mean they are very likely to be killed outright or be so badly injured that they have to be put down.’

New Forest National Park Member Bob Morris said a wide range of organisations are working together to prevent animals from being killed and injured.

He said: ‘These include practical tasks on the ground such as clearing verges, changing road signs and trialling pinch points. We also work to increase awareness through distributing hotline cards and car window stickers, speaking to people at the New Forest Show and other local events, giving talks to college students and other local groups and holding a school poster competition.’

Animal accident hotline cards tell drivers what to do if you witness or are involved in an accident involving a pony, donkey, cow, pig or sheep. The cards are available from garages and Local Information Points across the New Forest.

For more information on how New Forest organisations are working together to reduce accidents visit

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Charity Pilgrim Bandits - Jump For the Fallen – Skydivers Needed To Honour 416 Lost Soldiers

Charity Pilgrim Bandits, which supports amputee service men and women, is asking companies, individuals or sporting groups to put forward and sponsor brave volunteers to take part in a tandem skydive event to raise money and awareness of the challenges faced by amputees from the country’s armed forces.

The New Forest based charity is asking anyone with a brave heart to take part in the Pilgrim Bandit’s Skydive challenge being held during the Jump For The Fallen  week on Friday September 21st 2012 at Netheravon, Wiltshire.

Jump For The Fallen is a week-long event hosted by the Army Parachute Association  and over the week the aim is to have a sponsored-for-charity  tandem jumper for every soldier (416 to date) lost in action in Afghanistan since the start of the conflict, raising valuable funds for the military charities associated with the week.  Jumping costs just £200 with donations of £100 or more requested on top.

Pilgrim Bandits provide full registration details and information on the event at

Pictured:  John Sandford Hart, Ex-REME from Christchurch, Dorset (right) and Lance Bdr Ben Parkinson,  (front) from Doncaster, who is a double amputee and is defying medical science to talk, walk and complete extraordinary physical challenges with Pilgrim Bandits after an anti-tank mine blew up the vehicle he was travelling in Helmand Province in 2006.  Ben sustained a catalogue of  40 horrendous injuries including brain damage and loss of both legs above the knee.

“We’re asking companies to sponsor a volunteer or individuals or groups to come forward.” Says Mike Beard from Pilgrim Bandits, “We hope that businesses, which can claim tax relief on donations to charity, may feel this is something that might motivate or reward staff in these tough times and at the same time help a worthy cause.”

For additional media information please contact Deborah Risbridger email.  tel. 01425 461600  mob. 07767 784295.

And Please, Please click on the Twitter, Facebook or other buttons below to spread the word and do your bit for these wonderful people. Also click on the Comments below and leave a message of support. Many thanks.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Bluebell bonanza in New Forest National Park

With Spanish invaders, genetic mutants and trampling ponies it’s a wonder that one of Britain’s best-loved spring flowers can survive at all in the New Forest National Park.

Bluebells at Roydon Woods near Brockenhurst
Yet native bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) are now on show in their thousands and the New Forest National Park Authority is encouraging people to get out and about to see their spectacular display before it disappears.

Bryan Wilson, the National Park’s Senior Tree Officer, explained that native bluebells are common throughout the New Forest and most of the UK, but are rarely found in Europe and do not grow naturally anywhere else in the world.

‘They thrive in woodlands and are an indicator of ancient woodlands so if you see bluebells you are looking at land which has been relatively unchanged for centuries,’ Bryan said.

‘Most often they are found under trees and the New Forest has the highest proportion of ancient trees in the country and perhaps in Europe. They flower before the trees come out in full leaf so they can complete their lifecycle while light levels are high. So seeing a magnificent display of bluebells is a sure sign of the beginning of summer.’

Native bluebells can cross-breed with a Spanish variety (H. hispanica) which has been imported over the years by gardeners. The native bluebell flowers are a deeper blue, have a strong scent and have more droopy flower heads than the Spanish or hybrid varieties, but the differences can be difficult to spot. You might also occasionally see white flowers which are the result of a genetic mutation.

However, carpets of bluebells are not particularly common in the New Forest because the commoners’ free-roaming ponies and cattle as well as deer can often trample them so you need to know where to look.

Bryan said: ‘Bluebells can grow quickly in the spring because they store energy in the bulb but if they are trampled by livestock they are less able to take in enough nutrients to keep going through autumn and winter.

‘There is also a concern that native bluebells could be lost altogether as a result of hybridisation with the Spanish variety. But perhaps more importantly we need to protect our ancient woodlands to help them to thrive. It’s important to remember that woodland ‘protection’ doesn’t mean doing nothing.  Proper management is essential to prevent less desirable plant species taking hold and this will often involve felling some dense areas of trees to let greater levels of sunlight reach the ground.’

Bluebell flowering times can be used as a powerful evidence of climate change, which is why the Natural History Museum has been asking people to take part in a survey over several years to build a nationwide picture of when both native and non-native species start flowering each year.

You can help ensure a healthy future for the native bluebell, by joining the Natural History Museum’s bluebell search (

However, if you can’t get out in the New Forest, you can enjoy photos of bluebells from the comfort of your armchair by visiting the National Park’s bluebell photo gallery on its website:

Best places to view bluebells in the New Forest National Park

  • Broomy Inclosure, north of Linwood.
  • Pondhead Inclosure, near Lyndhurst - a well-fenced area which is protected from roaming stock and wild deer.
  • Roydon Woods near Brockenhurst - owned by Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust with a network of paths open to the public.
  • Sandleheath, near Fordingbridge – primroses and bluebells line the public footpaths and bridleways.
  • Exbury Gardens and Summer Lane (the two-mile approach to the Gardens entrance from Hill Top).

Monday, 11 June 2012

Disappointing increase in animal accidents in 2011

Look out for new warning signs on unfenced New Forest roads reminding drivers to slow down and look out for animals.

Despite heavy publicity and a number of initiatives by New Forest organisations animal accidents increased slightly in 2011.

In total 67 Commoners’ animals were either killed in a road traffic accident or had to be put down due to their injuries. This is two more than 2010.

However, the biggest jumps in statistics were the number of animals being injured, which increased from 27 in 2010, to 36 in 2011, and the number of accidents the Agisters attended which increased from 161 to 174.

Bob Morris, New Forest National Park Authority Member, said: ‘We are extremely disappointed that there has been an increase in animal accidents. The number of accidents in 2010 was the lowest on record. This year there has been a rise in casualty rates of pigs, donkeys and sheep and 35 of these accidents happened in daylight. We are working very closely with Hampshire County Council which is putting new signs up to try and reduce these accidents.’

Hampshire County Councillor Mel Kendall, Executive Member for Environment and Transport, said:  ‘Drivers on the high risk route between Lymington and Dibden Purlieu will soon be greeted with the new message ’67 animal deaths last year’ on the signs which change four times a year.

‘Early indications are that the slogans used so far on this road such as ‘pass slow and wide’ and ‘ponies don’t dent they die’ are working, since the accident rate on this road was lower than in other parts of the Forest.’

‘It is disappointing to realise that 75 of the accidents in 2010 were by local drivers who should have known better,’ said Sue Westwood, Chair of the Animal Accident Reduction Group. ‘It is the law to report all accidents within 24 hours; however 31 accidents were not reported last year. Not only is this distressing for the injured animal but also for the Agisters who work long hours in often distressing circumstances. It is their job to track the animal and often end its suffering.’

Graham Ferris, Chairman of the Commoners Defence Association said: ‘The Commoners animals are vital to the New Forest since their grazing keeps the Forest the way we have all come to appreciate. The animals have right of way and don’t understand that cars are dangerous, so people should drive carefully to avoid unnecessary accidents.’

If you are unsure of what to do if you witness or are involved in an accident involving a pony, donkey, cow, pig or sheep look out for an animal accident hotline card that tells you who to call. Cards are available from garages and Local Information Points across the New Forest. To stock the cards contact the New Forest National Park Authority at  For more information on how New Forest organisations are working together to reduce accidents visit