Lonely Planet review for New Forest
Less than 30 minutes from Southampton is an ancient swathe of wild heath and woodland grazed upon by wild ponies, donkeys and deer. A unique place, the not-so-New Forest has an even more singular history and fascinating archaic traditions that date back almost 1000 years.
Wild ponies mooch around its picturesque scrubland, paying no attention to the walkers and cyclists that pant past. Deer flicker in the distance and rare birds flit among the foliage. A scattering of genteel villages dot the landscape and a web of walking and cycling trails connects them.
The New Forest is the only area of England to remain relatively untouched since Norman times, thanks in large part to its unsuitability as agricultural land. It still retains a code of law handed down during the reign of William the Conqueror that protects the land from development.