Statement from Statement from Forestry England:
This weekend, right across the country we have seen large numbers of people visiting public outdoor spaces, and it has not always being able to achieve social distancing. Covid-19 means that this is a threat to people’s health.
Our priority is to keep the public and our staff safe and as a result we are in the process of closing all main car parks in the New Forest from today. The car parks affected are those at Bolderwood, Wilverley, Blackwater, Whitefield Moor, Anderwood, Hatchet Pond and New Forest Reptile Centre.
All of our public facilities within the New Forest are already closed including public toilets, visitor cabins, and BBQ facilities. Campsites are also closed and we would like to remind people that wild camping is illegal anywhere on the New Forest or in its car parks.
Smaller car parks in the Forest remain open for now.
We have taken the decision not to close these for several reasons. We are concerned that closures would lead to large amounts of parking on verges and open ground causing real and irreversible damage to the landscape. Parking at locations away from the network of tracks would also lead to large numbers of people walking across the open forest putting wildlife at huge risk, particularly as it’s the start of the ground nesting bird season in these areas.
We will keep the situation under constant review and may close all car parks with immediate effect if the government’s guidelines on social distancing are not being adhered to or if the advice from Public Health England changes. Local people still have access to the countryside but we ask everyone to ensure they follow government guidance on avoiding all non-essential travel and social distancing to help restrict the spread of coronavirus.