Championing clean water in the New Forest

Wilder for Water promotes the special qualities of the New Forest waterscape and a best practice ‘clean water standard’ for camping and recreation. Freshwater Habitats Trust is delivering the Wilder for Water project through the New Forest Catchment Partnership to raise awareness among visitors and businesses throughout the National Park.

Ponies grazing in the New Forest.

The New Forest is one of the most visited National Parks in England. With more than 6,000 camping pitch spaces per day, it is certainly a popular destination, offering an opportunity not only for people to reconnect with family and friends but also to have a ‘close up’ experience with the landscape 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. However, are visitors aware of the special nature of the New Forest’s wetlands, or possibly inadvertently damaging the very thing that attracted them here in the first place?

Ancient and fragile

The New Forest is England’s second smallest National Park with the highest proportion of conservation designated land. From source to sea, this wetland landscape  is ancient and fragile.

Boasting pristine streams, ponds and mires bursting with rare species, the New Forest is one of the UK’s most significant freshwater and coastal landscapes. Its habitats and species are dependent on the ancient practice of traditional grazing and clean water, free from pollution.

Free roaming livestock owned by the New Forest Commoners graze across the open Forest landscape creating the perfect conditions for rare plants and wildlife to thrive.

Why we need Wilder for Water

The New Forest’s freshwater 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), a pattern is now emerging:

  • 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. This would prevent runoff and reduce 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 may not know about the safe disposal of wastewater. For example, this includes tipping grey or black water (plus detergents and chemicals) into ditches or directly onto the ground. In coastal saltmarshes this creates nutrient enrichment, which is intolerable to fresh and coastal water plants and wildlife, causing irreparable damage.
  • Local businesses are keen to implement wastewater management solutions as part of a package of work to reduce, reuse and recycle, saving water, preventing run off and overall reducing pressure on the water environment.

Project aims

  • 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. Instead, we aspire to develop an educational and voluntary ‘clean water standard’ achieving best practice. This would ensure camping and recreation seeks to reduce, reuse and recycle, helping to maintain the high quality landscape into the future.

Plant with red and yellow spokes in shallow water, sparkling in the sunlight.

Freshwater Habitats Trust in the New Forest

New Forest wetland on a wintery day with blue sky
Blue Horizons

Through Blue Horizons, we’re improving the running and standing water network in the New Forest.

Blue Horizons
Fungi growing next to a rock by a waterbody.
New Forest Catchment Partnership

We’re working in partnership to protect freshwater habitats in the New Forest catchment.

New Forest Catchment Partnership
Plants growing in shallow water.
The Freshwater Network

The New Forest is part of an Important Freshwater Landscape in a national network of wilder, wetter, cleaner, connected habitats.

Important Freshwater Landscapes