The New Forest National Park was created in March 2005 and the New Forest National Park Authority took up its full powers in April 2006. It is the eighth national park in England, the first in the south-east of England and the first to be created for nearly 50 years. The National Park lies mainly in south-west Hampshire, from east of the Avon Valley to Southampton Water and from the Solent coast to the edge of the Wiltshire chalk downs. The New Forest has long been recognised as a special and important area that needs protection. National Park designation means the strongest possible level of protection for the future which is especially important in the south and south-east where development pressures are intense and on the increase.
The New Forest National Park is a unique landscape of ancient woodland, heather-covered heath, wide lawns, boggy mires, gentle farmland, coastal saltmarsh and mudflats and picturesque villages. It is one of the last places in the south-east of England to offer a sense of wildness and tranquillity. As the largest remaining area of lowland heath in Europe, it gives the flavour of a landscape that was once much more extensive. Like other National Parks, it is one of Britains breathing spaces.
William the Conqueror set aside the Forest for hunting more than 900 years ago and centuries of grazing by deer, ponies and cattle have shaped the landscape. William would probably still recognise much of the Forest as the same place he hunted the beasts of the chase: wild deer and boar. Today it is a wonderful area to explore by walking, cycling and on horseback. It is especially rich in wildlife and visitors can enjoy a host of sights that make a trip special, including ancient oaks, wild flowers, fungi, deer, reptiles, birds of prey and dragonflies.