Letter: A visitor’s view on closing New Forest campsites
SIR – We have recently returned from another enjoyable, but wet, New Forest break in our motorhome, staying as always at one of the Camping in the Forest (CIF) sites.
During our stay we purchased your paper for some local news but read with horror on page 11 that there is a move to relocate the sites as open Forest camping is incompatible with commoning (A&T, 25th June).
Firstly, the use of the term ‘open Forest camping’ is very misleading as this will imply to many that the CIF sites allow camping on a free-to-roam basis which would obviously impact on the forest environment.
It really needs to be made clear that CIF sites operate on very strict rules and camping is rightly confined within the boundaries of the campsite.
The suggestion implied is that visitors to the sites cause damage to the Forest which, after 20 years of visiting, I have not found to be the case.
I have always adopted the slogan “take only pictures and leave only foot prints” and most people appear to practise this.
The only exception to this is litter by the roadside (usually originating from well-known food and coffee establishments) and irresponsible dog owners letting their dogs off leads.
Also there is no note made that with the exception of one, the sites are only open for a few months of the year. This provides a considerable amount of closure time, which interestingly is the period when damage is done.
Please visit some of the sites to see ruts in the grass caused by handbrake turns – not a pastime associated with caravans and motorhomes.
Located within a national park, set up for the benefit of everyone, the sites provide several vital functions which your article also failed to mention.
They provide an affordable place for people to stay, therefore giving them access to the countryside with the well documented benefits of mental health and wellbeing, which is even more important now due to Covid.
Shared experience of nature with family members and friends is crucial in today’s world and the education and societal benefits enormous. This must not be restricted but expanded as the government has directed.
Furthermore, the article refers to the sites being relocated but makes no reference of where to. By implication this suggests outside the Forest.
As these sites provide a very important economic base for the local area, not just income for the forestry authorities which clearly helps to pay for the upkeep of the forest environment, this could be devastating for the area.
Visitors to the sites don’t just visit Beaulieu, Buckler’s Hard, Exbury and Furzey Gardens but also spend in local pubs, cafes, restaurants, activity centres, tourist buses, bike hire businesses, ice cream vans and shops as well as providing income for the local authorities via car park fees which can be as high as £9 (Lepe).
The loss of these sites will bring more pub closures and shops and other businesses would suffer, meaning job losses, especially amongst the young of the area.
The domino effect could be catastrophic leading to “ghost” towns and villages, with fewer cricket clubs, diminished because young people have left for jobs elsewhere and each high street would be dominated by estate agents and holiday lets.
This economic function is evidenced by our expenditure record which is easy to prove as the lack of banks in the Forest means plastic-only in lots of places!
In considering such drastic action it is essential that the full facts from all affected parties are openly and properly discussed.
Experience has shown that often there is more under the surface, so I beg all sides in this debate to dig deep for the facts and effects that closure/relocation would bring.