- 1,100 reports of litter and dog mess
- 550 reports of cyclists away from designated tracks
- 500+ reports of cars parked on open forest verges away from car parks
- 50 reports of livestock being chased and/or attacked by dogs
- 150 reports of livestock being fed by the public
- 140 reports of cars blocking access to the open forest
- Multiple reports of drone flying, wild camping, open fires/BBQs, fly-tipping, and the picking of large quantities of fungi
A survey co-ordinated by Friends of the New Forest has highlighted a lack of understanding and enforcement of New Forest byelaws, and a prevalence of damaging and illegal activities that are harming the special qualities of the New Forest.
The ‘New Forest Byelaw Watch’ was launched by FoNF with the aim of raising awareness of Forest byelaws and generating independent data on byelaw breaches. During a six-week period in autumn 2021, over 2,700 breaches were recorded by FoNF members and volunteers within the National Park, with observers on average noting about 11 individual breaches per visit.
The detailed results indicate that litter and dog mess are ubiquitous across much of the forest, with a combined total of nearly 1,100 reports and highest abundance around popular car parks and along roadsides. There were also 550 reports of cyclists away from designated tracks, and over 500 reports of cars parked on verges away from designated car parks.
Of particular concern were 50 reports of livestock being chased and/or attacked by dogs, suggesting this illegal activity is far commoner than official reports would suggest. There were also 150 reports of livestock being fed by the public, and nearly 140 reports of cars blocking access to the open forest. Other infringements recorded on multiple occasions included drone flying, wild camping, open fires/BBQs, fly-tipping, and the picking of large quantities of fungi. About three-quarters of recorded breaches were on the Crown lands, which cover roughly half of the National Park and are managed by Forestry England. However, a Freedom of Information request to Forestry England by FoNF confirmed that there have been no formal investigations or prosecutions of byelaw breaches since at least 2015 (see here).
“We are grateful to everyone who contributed data to this initiative. The results are startling and show that current forest initiatives focussed on educational activities and volunteering alone are insufficient to protect the forest from harm, and that we urgently require updated byelaws that are appropriately promoted and enforced by the forest authorities.”John Ward, Chairman
This latest survey follows a detailed report produced by the FoNF and provided to Forestry England last year that documents the various impacts of recreational activities on the special qualities of the New Forest, including internationally protected habitats and species.