More than 13 million day visits are made to the Forest annually. 10 million of these are from home. 130 Forestry Commission car parks give vehicle access to the Crown lands and provide space for over 4,000 cars, but there are probably nearer 7,000 parked in the core of the Forest at peak times. With substantial development close by the Forest, its use as a local playground has outstripped its enjoyment as a very special national outdoor experience. There are more than 20 campsites providing 4,500 pitches. Within the open forest ten Forestry Commission campsites accommodate over 3,300 pitches. There are pressing demands to use the Forest for a multiplicity of events; for example in 2010 the Forestry Commission issued permits for over 2,400 specialist recreation and other activities events involving about 55,000 people. The Forest also has major destinations catering for day‐visit recreation off the open forest – for example, the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu and Beaulieu River to Bucklers Hard. The main places for the public to access the coast are Lepe, Calshot and the Lymington – Keyhaven Nature Reserve, managed by Hampshire County Council.
Traditional outdoor activities such horse riding and walking are part of the New Forest landscape scene, but horse riding is causing erosion in some areas and dogs disturb wildlife or sometimes harass stock. At times cyclists stray from Inclosure roads onto more fragile areas of open forest. There is severe erosion at some ‘honey pot’ locations such as beside Forest streams. We believe that the demand for recreation has passed the threshold of sustainability and the Forest, the resource on which recreation depends, is deteriorating both in terms of the degradation of landscape and the loss of those special but elusive qualities of tranquillity and wilderness.
- Quiet recreation, which appreciates and respects the special qualities the Forest offers.
- The production of a strategic approach to managing recreation in the Forest based on a review of present recreational facilities and management within the whole New Forest.
- Consideration of the disposition and size of car parks, campsites, and other facilities leading to policies for their continuation, relocation or removal as appropriate.
- Implementation of a strategy of supervision and education of the public, including, for example, the positive control of dogs, the effective regulation of mountain bikes, and the management of horse riding.
- Provision of local outdoor recreational facilities outside the New Forest to divert some of the daily pressure on the Forest fringes from residents of nearby settlements.
- Provision of country park facilities within the conurbations to the east and west of the Forest to serve these areas and act as a counter attraction to some day visits to the New Forest.
- Development of new recreational facilities or promotion of outdoor activities within the Forest that will further adversely impact on its special qualities.
- Use of the Forest for intrusive recreation that could just as well be carried out in other more robust locations better able to withstand its impacts.
We will continue to press the view that such policies are required by the need to contain physical erosion, disturbance of wildlife, harassment of stock and loss of wilderness arising from recreational activities. We further believe that any decisions, which flow from a review or strategic approach, should be guided by the principle that recreational use is constrained within environmentally sustainable limits; and that a precautionary approach should be adopted in line with the Sandford Principle.