New Forest Wilder for Water Project

Wilder for Water – a project to raise awareness of the special qualities of the New Forest waterscape and to champion a best practice ‘clean water standard’ for camping and recreation.


Why is Wilder for Water so important

The New Forest is one of the most visited National Parks in England.  With over 6000 camping pitch spaces per day, the New Forest is certainly a popular staycation offering an opportunity, not only for people to reconnect with their families and friends but also to have a ‘close up’ experience with the landscape which they choose to ‘pitch up’ in.  Each year thousands of holiday makers choose to camp in the New Forest, giving the local economy a boost and providing some well-deserved down time from the busy lives people lead.  But, are the campers and visitors aware of the special nature of the New Forest’s wetlands, or possibly inadvertently damaging the very thing that attracts them here in the first place?

The New Forest is the second smallest National Park with the highest proportion of designated land for nature conservation than any other in England.  This wetland landscape from source to sea is ancient, fragile, with areas boasting pristine streams, ponds and mires, bursting with rare species making the New Forest on of the best and most Important Freshwater Areas and coastal landscapes in the UK.  These habitats and species are dependent on the ancient practice of traditional grazing and clean water free from pollution.

However, there are signs that these habitats are under increasing pressure from visitors.  Through discussions with landowners, partner organisations and local businesses coupled with regular catchment walkovers (a type of freshwater survey), over the years a pattern has begun to emerge:

  • Landowners who came to us for advice on land management and water pollution issues, have begun to consider that their campsite business could be part of a package of works to reduce, reuse and recycle water (preventing runoff and reducing pressure on the local water environment).
  • Increasing numbers of visitors are unsure about why some types of water based recreational activities are bad news for fresh and coastal waters.  As a result they may be causing unintended disturbance to wildlife, erosion and compaction, and nutrient enrichment impacting negatively on sensitive habitats.
  • Some motorhome owners (visiting during the day) may not know about the safe disposal of wastewater – e.g. tipping grey or black water (plus detergents and chemicals) into ditches and coastal saltmarshes causes nutrient enrichment intolerable by fresh and coastal water plants and wildlife causing irreparable damage.

This year, and over the coming years, Freshwater Habitats Trust are delivering a project – Wilder for Water – through the Catchment Partnership, seeking opportunities to raise awareness amongst visitors and promote clean water camping and recreation throughout the National Park – we aim too:

  • Raise awareness of the unique wetland landscape supporting critically endangered species.
  • Promote responsible access without negatively affecting fresh (and coastal) waters.  Our New Forest Water Code outlines key visitor messages.
  • Provide free and impartial advice and guidance on water resource and water quality management to recreation and camping providers.

We have an ambition to go beyond the minimum requirements in the management of waste water here in the New Forest, and we aspire to develop an educational and voluntary ‘clean water standard’ achieving best practice ensuring camping and recreation seeks to reduce, reuse and recycle, helping to maintain the high quality landscape into the future.

Our Water Code sets out how visitors can play a major role in protecting the New Forest wetland landscape

Thank you for supporting a Wilder New Forest.

You can download a copy of the Water Code here: