Duke of Edinburgh - permission FAQs

Updated 14th April 2021

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a notification form and when do I need to complete one?

If you are planning on running a Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) related event or activity you must notify us of your plans.  The information gathered is essential for us, as land manager, to understand how often the New Forest is used and by how many visitors. 

If your planned expedition practice and assessment walks are using the suggested tracks as per map (refer to DofE suggested tracks map), and your dates do not coincide with any car park or route closures then you do not need to apply for a full permission, you simply need to notify us by using the Notification Form.

Why do I need to let you know my group will be using the New Forest for expedition practice if we are sticking to your suggested tracks?

The New Forest is a popular place with a large number of events and activities taking place each year.  We know that visitor numbers have increased and with interest in leisure spend and the health benefits identified from time spent outdoors this is likely to continue. A key part of managing the Forest involves co-ordinating activities, which we do through good planning for permitted events.

Why is this happening now?

As part of our on going management of the New Forest we are reviewing and updating our procedures.  We aim to strike a fair balance between recreational needs while protecting the very nature/wildlife that makes the New Forest such a unique place.

Working more closely with DofE organisers, and other similar organisations, will help us to keep this balance and demonstrate this to others.  As part of our permission review we are looking at a wide range of forest users groups to enable a common understanding of the issues so that we might all work together with the same aim of protecting the Forest for future generations.

What is a permission?

Any event or activity that has the potential to impact on the New Forest requires written permission from the Forestry Commission.

Due to the large number of activities taking place in the New Forest and the many factors involved, we ask people to complete a permission application form for their event or activity at least six weeks ahead of the proposed event.

As land managers of the New Forest Crown lands we aim to balance the needs of people, nature and business, and ensure that visitors are able to enjoy the forest without adversely affecting the very things that make the New Forest so special.  Permission requests are assessed against conservation and ecology requirements and the needs of other forest users – all set in the context of a working forest.

Some recreational activities are unfortunately in breach of Forestry Commission Byelawsand we sometimes have to decline requests, or apply certain restrictions to events, such as avoiding ground nesting bird areas.

Through good planning and a permit system, permission requests are checked to ensure they don’t coincide with anything else occurring on the Forest, for example timber operations or large orienteering events, and that proposed locations and routes avoid sensitive wildlife habitats and don’t cause damage to features of historic interest.

Please note:  if you decide you do not need to apply for a permission it is your responsibility as the organiser to check for car park and route closures on the websiteand notify us using the notification form.

When do I need to apply for a permission?

If your DoE expedition or activity does not follow our suggested tracks (please refer to DofE suggested tracks map); or you would like to erect any infrastructure, for example a gazebo, banner or temporary drop cards; or car park and route closures coincide with your plans then it is essential that you get in touch with us to help with your planning.  We will also be able to inform you of any other events or activities already permitted.

How do I apply for a permission?

Initially you will need to complete an application form and send it to dofe.newforest@forestryengland.uk, at least 6 weeks in advance.

Your request will be assessed against conservation and ecology requirements and the needs of other forest users – all set in the context of a working forest.

What happens if my planned route is not permitted?
We will try our best to find a solution and give you guidance on finding more suitable routes that avoid the most sensitive areas.

Why are you concerned about small groups of people walking in the forest?

Our aim is to ensure that any activities carried out in the New Forest do not have a lasting impact on the wildlife or have a detrimental impact upon the habitats.  For example, by avoiding the wet habitats, and not straying off the paths during March to July when birds are nesting in these areas we can help to protect ground nesting birds.

Disturbance from people walking past a nesting bird on the heath causes it to fly off the nest, potentially leaving the eggs to chill and chicks subject to predation.  Repeated disturbance of this kind, for example regular groups of walkers, can cause complete nesting failure for that year.  From March to July we encourage all visitors and planned events to stick to the wide, main gravel tracks and not to follow the little pony paths through the heath and mires. Please refer to the map for suggested tracks to use. This This allows the birds to find the quieter, less disturbed, areas on the Forest.

Can I use drop cards in the New Forest?

If you wish to use drop cards or similar in the forest to track your group's movement we request that you seek permission.  Any drop cards found may be removed by staff if prior agreement is not sought.  The use of drop cards are not favoured due to many being left in situ and consequently littering the forest, causing potential damage to habitats, wildlife and livestock.

Why have the wild camping sites been removed?

From 2019 the designated wild camp sites in the New Forest will no longer be available to book.  The decision to remove these have been made on an ecological basis and after discussions about the level of camping required for DofE expeditions.  Many of the wild camp sites were in or required walking through sensitive areas of the forest.

The New Forest is highly designated landscape with special protection, including SPA, SAC, RAMSAR and SSSI, because of the vast array of rare wildlife linked to the habitats found here.  The lowland heath and valley mires are home to many rare plants and insects, as well as ground nesting birds which are under threat. Whilst we have this large area in the New Forest, of relatively undisturbed habitats, there is very little across the rest of lowland England and Europe.  We have a duty to ensure that this is here for future generations to enjoy and benefit from. 

Where can I camp?

There are a number of camping sites in and around the New Forest.  We suggest searching for New Forest farm campsites, Scout, Guide and Outdoor learning centres or call Camping in the Forest for group rates.

What happens if I do decide to wild camp in the New Forest?

You will be in breach of the Forestry Commission Byelaws and will be asked to relocate to a designated camp site by our staff and volunteers rangers.

Why can't I have a wild campfire or use a stove on the open Forest?

To reduce the risk of damaging the very fragile forest and heathland stoves and campfires are not allowed.  BBQs or fires of any kind are not allowed.