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Run Forest! – The New Forest V The Forest of Dean race

Forest holidays have become an increasingly popular option for the typical British staycation. Whether it’s a romantic couple of days away with your partner or a family activity holiday in the heart of the woods, nothing beats getting back to nature with a break surrounded by woodland.

But which forest? The Forest of Dean and the New Forest both offer incredible English country cottage breaks and plenty of traditional eateries and nature-endorsed activities, so how can you choose between the two? Here we ask some local businesses and attractions their view on which forest is best in the race for the title of best forest.

The New Forest

The New Forest in the south of the country stands as the largest crown forest in England and, as such, attracts countless families every year. New Forest accommodation is often snapped up ahead of season as it widely known to be a popular area to visit with family and friends, and these local businesses and attractions will look to show you why.

New Forest Wildlife Park

The New Forest Wildlife Park is one such attraction that sees so many visiting the area. Offering a great day out for both children and adults, it is recognised as one of the Forest’s primary attractions. At the park visitors can enjoy the best of the New Forest as well as a few other fascinating characters. Here they tell us why they think the New Forest wins as the best forest.

Forest holidays have become an increasingly popular option for the typical British staycation. Whether it’s a romantic couple of days away with your partner or a family activity holiday in the heart of the woods, nothing beats getting back to nature with a break surrounded by woodland.

But which forest? The Forest of Dean and the New Forest both offer incredible English country cottage breaks and plenty of traditional eateries and nature-endorsed activities, so how can you choose between the two? Here we ask some local businesses and attractions their view on which forest is best in the race for the title of best forest.

“The beautiful New Forest has something for everyone from ponies, deer, walks, beaches, wildlife and cycling to cream teas, fine dining and sailing, all of which make the perfect destination.”

  • New Forest Wildlife Park

Cyclexperience

Cycling is perhaps the best way to experience everything the New Forest has to offer; able to enjoy local traditional pubs and the expansive scenery, a bike is often the preferred mode of transport around the area by both locals and visitors. Someone who knows this only too well are the team at Cyclexperience for bike hire in Brockenhurst. Here owner Ross Kempson and the rest of his team provide their reasoning for why The New Forest is best.

“We set up the first all year bespoke cycle hire facility in the New Forest in 1993. We are situated in the central village of Brockenhurst with the closest trail only 350 metres from our centre at the mainline train station – ideal for rail visitors! We try to keep our competition on their toes by increasing the quality of our hire bikes and designing new routes each season.

“The New Forest and Forest of Dean are both similar in terms of look and feel but the New Forest is much larger and offers a variety of different types of cycling, not to mention that it is much more accessible by train with 5 stations on the mainline from London as well as being close to the end of the M3, coming from London. The ports of Southampton and Portsmouth are quite close which bring over 1 million foreign visitors to the UK each year and visitors to the New Forest have the Dorset coastline nearby as well as rich cultural towns like Salisbury and Winchester on the northern fringes.”

  • Ross Kempson, Owner/Director at Cyclexperience

“There are many great places to cycle from in the New Forest and we think you should try them all! Whether it’s Burley, Beaulieu, Lyndhurst or Ashurst, you will find varied scenery and stunning forest trails nearby. The New Forest has miles of safe traffic-free tracks and pathways, with varied terrain, which makes the New Forest a perfect cycling destination for all ages and abilities! Not only is the New Forest full of beautiful scenery, you will come across the native New Forest Ponies, donkeys, cows, pigs and if you are lucky even a glimpse of the deer!”

  • Cyclexperience

Sandra Binney

Someone who really knows the ins and outs of the forest is an artist. Scrutinising the area for their next stunning artwork, an artist can show in one painting why forest holidays have become so popular. Here celebrated artist Sandra Binney shares with us why she loves the New Forest so much.

“Here in the New Forest you can walk in the forest and enjoy its wildlife, scenery and villages also stroll along the coastline…you've got the best of both worlds whether your preference is the landscape or seascape, so keeping everyone happy!”

  • Sandra Binney

The scenery and its inhabitants play a major part in inspiring her work, as shown by the beautiful painting she has shared with us below.

New Forest Activities

The New Forest also provides the ultimate playground for kids both big and small, and one attraction that really takes advantage of this is New Forest Activities. Making the most of their surroundings, New Forest Activities offer some of the most incredible activities from kayaking tours and archery to Battlefield LIVE and a Ropes Course.

“The New Forest has so much to offer any person of any age. Not only is it full of woodland tracks and trails making it the perfect location for walkers, bike riders, horse trekkers and your four legged friend; it’s also home to a huge amount of things to do! The stunning Beaulieu River offers a great setting for Canoeing and Kayaking tours. You can play in the trees on ropes courses. You can have a great laugh with family and friends as you battle it out in woodland Battlefield LIVE. Pretend you’re Robin Hood with some Archery. Or you can just relax and paddle to the pub! Whatever you enjoy, you can find it in The New Forest.”

  • New Forest Activities

The Forest of Dean

Then there’s the Forest of Dean; an equally popular destination for forest holidays, this forest, whilst not as large as the New Forest, offers just as much fun and excitement. Bounded by the River Wye and with such landmarks as Symonds Yat Rock, it is no wonder this natural masterpiece throws up so much debate between the two. Here we have some of the most popular attractions in the area illustrating why the Forest of Dean makes for a worthy contender.

Forest of Dean Adventure

Forest of Dean Adventure quickly shows that the New Forest isn’t the only woodland in our fair land that can offer a host of fun activities to partake in. Their climbing tower is renowned and at 40ft tall it is easy to see why; climb as high as you dare and choose from over 18 different routes, and with no age restrictions grandma and grandpa can show the grandkids how it’s done.

Other great activities making the most of the forest surroundings include adventure ropes, with up to three-hour sessions available, and archery.

Puzzlewood

Still looking to really get to grips with nature and the forest itself? Puzzlewood shows the Forest of Dean at its very best. A maze of pathways, you could easily get lost in the beauty of it all and with animals, a playground, indoor play, café and gift shop all available, your only trouble will come in trying to make excuses to leave.

Puzzlewood is such a beautiful location that it has been the filming location for a number of high-profile television dramas including Dr Who, Atlantis and Jack the Giant Slayer, read more here.

Forest of Dean Sculpture Trust

The Forest of Dean also provides a wealth of inspiration for artists. The Forest of Dean Sculpture Trust pays testament to that fact, not only showing art works inspired by the area, but also showing how the forest can act as the perfect setting in which to display them. The trust alongside The Forestry Commission has put together a special sculpture trail where visitors can experience a wealth of artwork. The trail sees some 300,000 visitors a year and each artwork is ‘not simply placed here, but developed and inspired by the place – from its history and its material qualities.’

Here the Forest of Dean Sculpture trust provide their own reasoning as to why this forest is best. “The Forest of Dean is a magical place, its diverse woodlands, dramatic geology and spectacular rivers are like living works of art. Ochre mined from caves in the region was used as paint by Michelangelo for the famous painted ceiling in the Sistine Chapel. Its trees felled to help rebuild Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London. Many films such as Star Wars and famous TV series such as Merlin have been shot on location in the Forest as it provides the perfect setting for mythical kingdoms and planets even Hollywood studios can’t recreate.

The 82,000 people that live here proudly call themselves Foresters, which gives no great evidence that the Forest of Dean is not just a place, it’s a way of life. The Forest of Dean is a proud community that’s very protective of its traditions, but also welcomes with open arms, millions of visitors each year to roam freely along its many beautiful trails.”

  • The Forest of Dean Sculpture Trust

The winner?

As is evident from this race, in the end no one could possibly say one way or another which forest is best. Both the Forest of Dean and the New Forest offer their visitors something that few other holiday destinations can; a chance to get involved with nature and enjoy a wealth of activities. See our latest availability in both the New Forest and Forest of Dean to see just why forest holidays could be the best kind of break for yourself.

Image Credits: Puzzlewood, New Forest Wildlife Park, Cycleexperience, Sandra Binney, New Forest Activities, FOD Adventure, Puzzlewood, Forest of Dean Sculpture Trust – Chris Morris - Deer by Sophie Ryder, 1988

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