SIR – I was concerned to learn from the BBC programme Countryfile on Sunday that Alison Barnes of the national park authority reported that 15 million visitors come to the New Forest each year, which represents about 23% of our total population of 66-million.
I understand that this 15-million was the result of a desktop survey. In other words no leg work was involved other than to the coffee machine.
This figure presumably is being used as justification for closing toilets, car parks and tracks in some areas to deter visitors.
My own table top survey is rather crude and produces about four million visitors each year. This is based on 60 hotels with an assumed occupancy of 100 visitors, 50 weeks of the year and seven days a week, which approximates to 2-million visitors.
Together with day visitors comprising 100 coaches each day, 365 days a year with an occupancy of 50 people per coach, a total also of about two million visitors each year, without deducting the winter months when there are practically no coaches at all.
So where do the other 11-million visitors come from? I cannot believe that they are all visiting daily by car.
National park authority responds…
The research estimates 15.2-million visitor days to the New Forest in 2017 made by an estimated 1.4-million people.
Recreational visitor days are defined as days or part days spent in the New Forest National Park by people in their leisure time.
The study updated a similar one which was done in 2004. It looked at a number of trends for which data is available, including population rises and changes in patterns of tourism.
The calculations estimated that the number of visitor days to the national park has been increasing by on average 1% a year, much of it based on local population increases. Most visitor days (77%) are by people who visit and return home on the same day (they mostly live in or close to the National Park and visit very frequently throughout the year).
The New Forest is surrounded by Southampton, Bournemouth and Salisbury and has 16-million people within a 90-minute drive, so the results are not unexpected.
More details and the report (including the methodology used) can be found at https://www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/news/new-study-shows-nationally-important-new-forest-wildlife-sites-under-pressure/.
Further survey work is currently under way, with thousands of people being interviewed face to face or on the phone about how they use the New Forest for recreation.”)
Nigel Matthews, NPA head of recreation management and learning