If you’re visiting the south of England, it’s my *humble* opinion that you just can’t miss the New Forest. There’s much to love about it, but I love the New Forest ponies best of all. Here’s where to see the New Forest ponies, aka the cutest locals in England!
There are quite a few places I love in South East England, but I’m downright obsessed with the New Forest. I can’t believe I’m lucky enough to be living in the place that brings all my Enid Blyton childhood dreams to life. It’s just so gorgeous and to top everything off, THERE’S PONIES.
I don’t care how old, cool or educated you are, how good are ponies? Whenever I’m feeling blue or just looking for an excuse to get out of the house, finding the New Forest ponies always seems like a good plan. And a good plan it is! It’s practically impossible to look at these gorgeous little guys without a huge grin appearing on your face.
It’s hard to visit the New Forest and not find some adorable ponies, but to help you along – here’s my guide for where to find the New Forest ponies, and some other tips for visiting this magical place!
Introduction to the New Forest and the New Forest ponies
To seven year old Georgie (and, frankly, twenty-seven year old Georgie), the idea of a beautiful forest filled with ponies would sound like a fairytale.
However, that’s exactly what is on offer in the New Forest in England’s south.
The New Forest’s name is kind of useless since the area is thousands of years old. The moniker comes from the fact that after the Norman conquest in 1066, the forest was declared a Royal Forest to be used for royal hunts.
To do so, William the Conqueror ordered that many of the farms, houses and churches in the area be destroyed. Because what’s your home or worship to matter when a rich old guy wants to hunt?
Unsurprisingly, locals didn’t take terribly well to this. Karma is said to have got him back, however; two of his sons died in the New Forest in hunting accidents.
In the 1600s, a change of law would give the New Forest the character we recognise today. “Commoners” (people living in the forest) were granted the right to graze their livestock through the forest.
To this day, people who live in the New Forest – on account of their ownership of the land – have the right to “turn out” livestock including cows, donkeys, pigs and, of course, ponies.
The New Forest Ponies
Therefore, the ponies that you see wandering through the forest aren’t wild. If you look closely, most are wearing a tail ring or other identifier to show what “commoner” owns them.
This probably explains why they are just so apathetic about the presence of humans, going so far as to block the traffic for no other reason than that they can.
Most of the ponies are ‘New Forest’ breeds, a beautiful and hardy type of pony. The breed can be traced back thousands of years, way back to 2000 BC. Therefore, the New Forest ponies and really, really not new.
The ponies are not just adorable additions to the landscape, but also important for maintaining the forest. As they have been around for so darn long, they are a key part of the ecology and their grazing helps keep the forest under control.
Are you guaranteed to see New Forest ponies in the New Forest?
So, you may know that I studied and practised law (please don’t hold it against me), which makes it physically impossible for me to “guarantee” anything.
(You should see me navigate romantic conversations – “notwithstanding the possibility of a sudden change in circumstances, yes, I intend to love you forever.” – poor Mr. Mack.)
However, I will say that it is very, very, very, very, very likely that you will see ponies in the New Forest, especially if you know where to look. Which you will by the end of this guide!
Although back in the 40s the number of ponies dwindled to about 600, today there are more than 5000.
As the ponies are not totally wild, and visitors flock to the forest to see them, they are not afraid of humans. It’s best to keep your distance a little, but you’ll have no problems getting up close enough to have a good look and take some gorgeous photos.
Sometimes you may have to drive a little while to find a group of the ponies, but you stand an exceptional chance of finding them.
When is the best time to see the New Forest ponies?
The ponies are around all year round. I’ve personally seem them in summer, spring and winter, so they seem to be around come rain, hail or shine.
Of all the times I’ve visited, early summer (June) was the best, as there were so many adorable pony and donkey foals jumping about. Although you can spot foals at other time, they’re most common around this time as they are bred at specific times per year.
Okay okay, so where to see New Forest ponies?
Given how many ponies there are, you can really just turn up in the forest and start driving – the areas around Beaulieu and Burley are particularly popular for the ponies.
However, to help you out with some places to stick in Google Maps, here are some of the best spots I’ve found to see the New Forest ponies.
Horseshoe Bottom, near Burley
We really hit the jackpot with finding the ponies at the aptly named Horseshoe Bottom on the way into Burley. There were dozen of beautiful ponies, and even quite a few gorgeous foals grazing as well.
They were a little off the roadside, so you need to pull into the carpark (its free) and then walk up the grass. There are some nice walking trails here if you have some time.
Postcode: BH25 5WA
Griggs Lane (near Brockenhurst College)
For the incredibly English site of the ponies (and other livestock) grazing on a village green, then head Griggs Lane near Brockenhurst College.
When we were visiting there were a couple of wobbly-legged foals, happily bouncing around while kids from the local college strolled past.
Although I can’t guarantee you’ll see ponies here, even the Google Maps street view has caught a couple. So, I think there’s a pretty good chance they’re in year-round.
Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary
So, obviously deer are Bolderwood’s most famous resident — but there’s also ponies! They do tend to get a bit scared of by day when a lot of the space is taken up by ballgames, but around dusk they flock back.
As well as being home to the gorgeous ponies, you may well also spot some deer at Bolderwood. There’s an elevated viewing platform where the deer and fed daily, and then there’s a good chance you’ll catch them just lying around like I did.
There are also lots of walking trails here and it’s honestly about the most magical forest I’ve ever visited. I definitely recommend spending a few hours here looking for ponies and just enjoying the vibe.
Spring Bushes Car Park, near Linwood
One of our favourite finds in the New Forest was the High Corner Inn. Nestled down a dirt road, this pub is made more for horseriders than for drivers – so it makes sense you’d find some ponies on the way.
There was a small but friendly group, right near the turnoff to the pub. Helpfully, the road is unnamed – but if you follow the directions to the High Corner Inn you should find it.
If you want to spend a while squawking about the ponies, I recommend driving a bit past the turnoff to the Spring Bushes Car Park. You’ll be able to park safely there without attracting the ire of any locals.
The Fighting Cocks Pub
Be assured, there is absolutely nothing to do with fighting chickens at this pub. Chickens should be loved, not fought.
For an oddly amazing experience, however, this New Forest pub is often surrounded by ponies and donkeys. Yep, you can have your pint (or lemonade) as a pony sticks his little nose over the fence to investigate.
While we were there it was nearly all donkeys, including two crazy adorable foals. Just down the road, however, we found some more ponies. I don’t care how many I see, they never fail to elicit screeches of delight!
Map of where to find the New Forest ponies
Getting around the New Forest
Wondering how to get around the New Forest while looking for the ponies? I find a car is the best way because a) I’m lazy and b) it gives you the most freedom to find the ponies.
If you are driving, make sure you drive really carefully. The ponies honestly are incredibly stubborn (and kind of dumb) when it comes to standing in the middle of the road. Sadly, every year a number of ponies are involved in crashes — you don’t want to kill a New Forest pony. Slow down.
You’ll also want to be aware of traffic around you. While I am convinced the New Forest ponies are England’s #1 tourist attraction, the forest is actually more residential than tourist-y. As a result, you can almost feel the locals’ ire every time people slow down for a better look at the ponies.
So, try not to disrupt traffic and pull over safely to let other cars pass.
If you don’t have or want a car, then the New Forest is pretty accessible by train which is great news. You can get a train to Beaulieu or Brockenhurst. From here, there are local buses and also lots of close walking trails. You can also hire a bike, which is another great way to enjoy a day in the New Forest.
Tips for visiting the New Forest ponies
Here are some important tips for your visit to the New Forest to see the ponies!
- Don’t feed the ponies! I know, I know, we all want the ponies to love us. However, the ponies have plenty to eat in the forest. Plus, feeding them can give them colic, which is potentially fatal. Don’t hurt the ponies – eat all your food yourself.
- Similarly, it’s best not to touch the ponies. Although they are not totally wild, they can be a bit unpredictable and you could get hurt. This is especially true around foals, as Mama pony is usually around and made as hell if you touch her baby.
- If you see a sick or injured pony or other animal, then you can contact the Verderer’s Office. The Verderer is responsible for looking after the ponies. Their number is 023 8028 2052 but they are only open during office hours. At other times you should call the Forestry Commission (open 24/7) on 023 8028 3141.