The New Forest National Park Artist in Residence
Click on the buttons below to go to information on the current and past resident artists:
New Forest National Park Artist Toolkit
The artist toolkit is a bank of information, resources and contacts about the New Forest National Park for local and visiting artists.
About the National Park
A brief overview of what makes the New Forest so special, from its unique landscapes, rare wildlife, history and culture, to the people that live here and their ancient traditions.
The New Forest was made a national park in 2005 - making it one of the newest out of the 15 in the UK - however its name dates back over 900 years before that. In 1079, William the Conqueror set aside the area for hunting and called it 'Nova Foresta'.
A place of outstanding natural beauty, the unique landscape here is shaped by the grazing of ponies, cattle and pigs that roam freely. Commoners own the stock, but many animals are semi-wild and rarely handled.
Commoners of the New Forest are people who occupy property and land benefitting from one or more of the six registered Common Rights over the Forest and/or adjacent commons. Although a way of life for many, commoning is subsistence farming and seldom provides a total income for commoners.
Commoning is important for the environment because browsing and grazing by ponies, cattle, and deer suppress the brambles, gorse, and other coarse vegetation. This creates the look of the Open Forest lawns and trees. It’s rare to travel more than a few miles without coming across these famous Forest residents. You can spot brand marks on the ponies that show who owns them or different tail-clippings indicating in which part of the Forest they belong.
It is important to remember to keep your distance from these animals though as they are unpredictable and best treated as wild. They also have no road sense so when driving in the Forest it is important to pass them wide and slow and be prepared to stop if necessary. In July 2023 a Public Space Protection Order came into force making it illegal to pet or feed the free-roaming ponies and donkeys in the New Forest.
The New Forest is an internationally important place for many species such as ground nesting birds. From March until August several rare and endangered species of birds including the nightjar, curlew, woodlark and Dartford warbler, breed in the open heathlands. During this time of year, it is important to keep to the designated tracks, disturbing them can highlight the nests and cause the parents to flee, exposing their eggs and chicks to predators. You may also find some car parks are closed near sensitive breeding sites.
Context of National Parks:
For over 70 years, National Parks have been breathtakingly beautiful areas for the nation. The story of their creation spans two centuries and is one of romance, rebellion, a growing appreciation for the great outdoors, and a way to connect with nature.
There are 15 National Parks in the UK and each one has been designated as a protected landscape because of its special qualities. Each National Park is administered by its own authority, but that authority does not own all the land in the National Park. (In the New Forest, Forestry England manages 41% of the National Park.) Each National Park is different and remarkable in its own way, but all work together as part of a big family.
People live and work in the UK’s National Parks. Anyone can visit at any time for free. With thousands of kilometres of public rights of way including 1,300km designated as suitable for those with accessibility challenges, everyone has incredible opportunities to explore these amazing spaces.
The importance of arts in the New Forest:
The importance of the New Forest National Park for people and nature is key and its future depends on people understanding, valuing, and helping to care for it. One of the many challenges is that while people are keen to learn about the landscape, they need help accessing this and overcoming barriers associated with confidence, understanding, and relevance.
By working with artists to create and deliver artistic and creative activities we want to help people learn more about the National Park, its heritage, stories, and unique and special qualities. At the same, we want to help people discover, understand, and act in ways that support the future of the landscape. Artists have the potential to help people to think differently and what we are seeing in the New Forest is applicable to any other environment, landscape, climate, and ecology.
Ours and the New Forest National Park Authority's ambition is to build a creative partnership between artists and the people that work, live, and visit the National Park. We want to create an arts and cultural offer that is relevant, excellent, and sustainable, and demonstrates the power of the arts to make positive change for all those that take part.
Working in the New Forest:
The highly protected nature of the National Park means that we are interested in artists who can work sensitively within these restrictions and respond to this positively in their work.
Working in the New Forest means taking account of some of the constraints that exist due to its protected status and the nature of its ‘working Forest’. The key constraint is that most of the open access land – the land where the ponies graze and makes up the core and around 50% of the National Park, is protected by multiple environmental laws and regulations. Permission to carry out activities on the protected land is required and often flexibility is required to adapt or change ideas following feedback. Examples of activities that would need permission include siting artworks or sculptures in the landscape, public events, foraging for wild plants / fungi and collection of materials such as wood, clay or gravel. The key thing here is to seek advice from the landowner in all cases. Over much of the land this is Forestry England but other ‘open land’ owners include Parish Councils, Hampshire County Council and the National Trust.
Other areas of the National Park are also sensitive and protected such as the coast, waterways such as the Avon, Beaulieu and Lymington Rivers.
New Forest National Park Authority staff and SPUD staff have a wealth of experience in dealing with the constraints and opportunities involved in working in the Forest and can help talk through and guide ideas so that they can take account of the unique working landscape of the Forest.
Key organisations with more information and access to certain aspects of the Forest you may be interested in researching or exploring further.
Useful places for further research.
Useful arts organisations within, or operating in, the New Forest.
Potential sites of interest
Potential sites to explore in more detail to get an impression of life in the Forest.
Formal parks, gardens, historic sites
Minstead Trust HQ
Bucklers Hard Museum, shipwrights’ school
Managed sites actively encouraged to experience nature
Copythorne Common, RSPB
Treehouse, Beaulieu, Countryside Education Trust
Lepe Country Park
Sway – Stanford Rise
Ashurst recreation ground
Holbury Manor – natural amphitheatre