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Dozens of organisations in and around the New Forest are inviting people to join in with the New Forest Awakening Festival which runs throughout March 2024.

Run by the New Forest National Park Authority, the annual festival around climate and nature focuses on the special qualities of the New Forest, the small actions we can all take to help protect it, and what organisations are doing to help tackle the twin climate and nature crises in the National Park. 

Now in its fourth year, the festival offers a month-long timetable of activities including wildlife walks and talks, free bike maintenance drop-ins, litter picks and composting masterclasses.

You can find out more about the New Forest’s trees, enjoy a farm tour, and learn more about sustainable woodland management. Help sow wildflower seeds, have a go at hedgelaying, go behind the scenes at a local sustainable brewery, and meet local food producers.

There’s also a chance to join Forest rangers to learn more about New Forest ponies, the history of the Forest - from Royal hunting ground to current day National Park, and even get valuable training tips for your dog to protect local wildlife and livestock. 

The New Forest is a very special place. More than 50% is of international importance for nature, and many areas have the highest possible conservation status. 

It has the largest area of lowland heath in Western Europe, shaped by the free-roaming animals owned by commoners. Commoning is the traditional system of land management with rights attached to land and properties allowing people to turn out ponies, cattle, sheep and pigs onto the open Forest. 

The rare heathland and wetland habitats in the New Forest are an ark for nature, supporting rare wildlife, some of which are declining in other parts of the UK. 

Ground-nesting birds such as the curlew, Dartford warbler and mystical nightjar can all be found in the New Forest. All six species of the UK’s native reptiles live here too, as well as 63% of Britain’s 24,000 types of insects, 75% of all dragonfly species and over 2,700 types of fungi. 

The climate emergency is putting these fragile landscapes and habitats under threat, with hotter, drier summers and warmer, wetter winters changing nature’s balance. The global crisis for nature is mainly due to land management practices, pollution and urban expansion. It is being worsened by a changing climate that is driving changes in the numbers and distribution of our wildlife species.  

David Bence, Chair of the New Forest National Park Authority, said: ‘It takes a Team New Forest to work together to help protect this vitally important area for wildlife. Organisations, volunteers, community groups and individuals are all taking action for nature, but there is more to be done.

‘Now in its fourth year, the New Forest Awakening Festival has gone from strength to strength, showing people just how special this area is, and how taking a few small steps can all add up to make a positive impact on our fragile New Forest environment.’