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Wild Play

Wild Play

Lead Partner:

New Forest National Park Authority

What is it about?

Whether it’s den building, balancing on logs or tracing animal tracks, woods are wonderful places for children to explore the great outdoors.

However the number of children playing in wild spaces has more than halved in a generation, with only 10 per cent playing in natural spaces such as woodlands and heaths.

To help children discover and connect with nature the New Forest will have three permanent wild play sites.

Wild play areas are set aside to allow kids to enjoy the outside and may have additional attractions such as hollow logs or rough climbing areas. They offer children an opportunity to play in a safe but not risk-free environment.

The three sites will be open all year round, created with the support of local communities and volunteer champions who will help maintain them. They will become an asset for local communities, improving the quality of life and providing facilities for young people to explore their local surroundings.

Holbury Manor and Warren Copse site
  • Volunteers from the Warren Copse and Holbury Manor Conservation Group and OPOF scheme helped clear the site
  • Two bat surveys were undertaken by Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust in June and July 2017 but no bats were found to be nesting in the trees that are planned to be cleared
  • Litter has proved to be a large problem for the site, with frequent litter picks by volunteers and staff
  • Cadland Infant School’s children’s council and a reception class of three and four year olds completed a survey to find out what activities they would like to do in the Forest and what they would like to see on the site. Over 40 parents responded to an online survey about how often their children played in the Forest and how much time they spend outdoors
  • Work is planned over winter 2017/ 2018.
Sway: Standford Rise site
  • Sway Parish Council has agreed the wild play activities which will work in conjunction with other activities that were identified by the local community such as a footpath and orchard planting
  • Work is planned over winter 2017/ 2018.

A third site is currently under discussion.

Wild Play events

Families can take part in activities such as deer-spotting, forest crafts, sail leaf boats, scavenger hunts, pooh sticks and crabbing at our wild play events.

Around 400 people took part in the Wild Play Day in August 2017 at Whitefield Moor.

Around 400 people took place in a Wild Play Day at Hurst Beach in April 2017, run by the New Forest National Park Authority with help from Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust and Hampshire County Council.

A small pop-up Wild Play event complemented the Lepe Dog Fun Day in April 2017 and was attended by approximately 25 people.

We plan to hold more events at the three permanent sites.

Upcoming Wild Play events

The next Wild Play Day will take place on Wednesday 11 April 2018 at Hurst Spit.

Every year a wild play walk takes place in October as part of the New Forest Walking Festival, with the next walk taking place on Monday 23 October 2017 at Ashurst. Tickets are available online.

Volunteering and Training

We need local volunteers to help with the sites’ day-to-day running, ongoing management, events and community outreach.

Training will be provided in techniques and practical skills.


The three wild play sites will be maintained and promoted by the champions with landowners taking responsibility for maintaining the spaces and access.

We will produce a toolkit to help landowners to create wild play areas in the future.

More research is beginning to show the positive impacts of children connecting with nature. Learning to negotiate, share and work as a team in an outdoor environment provides the opportunity for children to explore boundaries and risks in a more interactive and less confined space, and gain important life skills in their own way, adding more value to the learning experience.

The community will be inspired by the idea of wild play and recognise the value of a safe play area that connects with nature. A change in attitude among New Forest residents towards wild play will be seen when compared to survey results before the sites were created.

Contact details

Claire Pearce – Wild Play Project Officer, New Forest National Park Authority

Tel: 01590 646606 email:

Land Advice Service Manager


'We help commoners to continue their ancient way by providing grants, training and advice.'

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