Creature Comforts!

Jul 12 2017, 2 39 pm

Updated Jul 12 2017, 2 39 pm

There’s no better place to get up close and personal with the UK’s magnificent wildlife than the New Forest – and a VW campervan allows you to pull up in a secluded spot, fling open the doors, and settle down with your animal spotting guide in one hand and a steaming mug of tea in the other.

Our impressive fleet of campervans in their dolly mixture shades all have their own characters, from the 1960s and 70s originals to the modern T5, and are the perfect vehicle to take you on your forest safari.

The New Forest is the UK’s largest Site of Special Scientific Interest, and a vast collection of birdlife, flora and fauna can be found across its 193,000 acres.

World-famous for its 5,000 roaming ponies, the forest is also home to cattle, deer, snakes, rare wading birds and Pannage pigs, which are let out to wander the forest in the Autumn, eating up the fallen acorns and chestnuts.

Deer can be seen throughout the year all over the forest. Fallow, roe, silka and red deer are the most common, but there is also a small number of muntjac.

The best time of day to spot deer is early morning or evening – although they can be seen at any time of day if you’re lucky.

At Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary, in the heart of the forest, you can pull up in the free car park and walk the short distance to a purpose-built viewing platform overlooking a large meadow. Herds of fallow deer gather here regularly between April and September as they wait for a Forestry Commission Ranger to feed them.

Burley Manor restaurant’s conservatory also looks out onto a red deer sanctuary, so a spot of lunch here comes with a spectacular view.

It’s important to drive slowly as you negotiate the forests roads – ponies, donkeys and cows roam freely and often step out in front of traffic with no warning. There are 3,000 cattle in the forest during the summer and there are a dozen different breeds, including the striking Highland Cattle with their long horns. The best way to see both ponies and cattle is to take a stroll along some of the New Forest’s walking trails – but remember to stay at a safe distance!

While you’re walking – or just relaxing quietly outside your campervan – watch out for snakes, as the New Forest is home to all six native reptile species found in the UK. From lizards and newts to slow worms and grass snakes, there’s plenty to look out for – you might even spot an adder, which is recognisable by the distinctive zig zag patterns along the length of its body. Adders are poisonous, but usually only bite when provoked – so don’t be tempted to get too close!

Visitors who want to see a snake or lizard in its natural environment should try looking on south facing slopes, on logs, along the edge of scrub, and in areas with mature heather. All the native reptile species can also be seen at the Forest Commission’s New Forest Reptile Centre   which is open between April and September and is just off the A35, about 3km west of Lymington.

The New Forest is also heaven for twitchers, and there are several places that are perfect for a spot of bird watching. All the common species can be seen, as well as some magnificent birds of prey. On a lucky day, you might spot nightjars, woodlarks, rare wading birds, and the UK’s largest breeding population of the Dartford Warbler.

The forest abounds with insects, too, from bejewelled dragonflies to butterflies, beetles and bees – all attracted by the abundant flora.

Whatever you’re lucky enough to see, animal spotting from our beautiful VW Campervans will take care of all your creature comforts, both inside and out!

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