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Birds, Wildlife and Gardening

Secrets of the New Forest – and where to spot its elusive wildlife

<p>Neil Ansell knows almost every inch of the New Forest, a favourite childhood haunt. He returns to share his favourite spots</p><p>If you were to blindfold me and drop me unexpectedly almost anywhere in the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/travel/newforest">New Forest</a>, I think I would know, the moment I unmasked myself, where I had arrived. It is such a distinctive landscape, with its unmistakable blend of wide-open pasture woodland filled with ancient trees and dead wood, swathes of gently rolling lowland heath studded with grazing ponies, winding streams of red-tinged water, and boggy hollows in valley bottoms.</p><p>It is a landscape in which I instinctively feel an immediate sense of belonging. I grew up not far away, and visited regularly throughout my childhood, so the place is filled with early memories of wandering in the unfenced forest and seeing birds and animals I had no hope of spotting at home. As soon as I was old enough, I would come to camp and explore alone. </p><p>It is rich in species of plants and animals that are in steep decline elsewhere, and in some cases absent</p><p>My favourite thing to do is to head to where the woods meet the heath and wait for dusk</p> <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2021/aug/03/secrets-of-new-forest-where-to-spot-elusive-wildlife">Continue reading...</a>

Neil Ansell knows almost every inch of the New Forest, a favourite childhood haunt. He returns to share his favourite spots

If you were to blindfold me and drop me unexpectedly almost anywhere in the New Forest, I think I would know, the moment I unmasked myself, where I had arrived. It is such a distinctive landscape, with its unmistakable blend of wide-open pasture woodland filled with ancient trees and dead wood, swathes of gently rolling lowland heath studded with grazing ponies, winding streams of red-tinged water, and boggy hollows in valley bottoms.

It is a landscape in which I instinctively feel an immediate sense of belonging. I grew up not far away, and visited regularly throughout my childhood, so the place is filled with early memories of wandering in the unfenced forest and seeing birds and animals I had no hope of spotting at home. As soon as I was old enough, I would come to camp and explore alone.

It is rich in species of plants and animals that are in steep decline elsewhere, and in some cases absent

My favourite thing to do is to head to where the woods meet the heath and wait for dusk

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