Everyone visiting the New Forest can now help to protect the area by following four brand new codes. There is a general 'Out and About' guide, plus separate codes for each of dog walkers, horse riders and cyclists.
The guides contain helpful information about how to look after the forest, such as safe cycling areas, why visitors should stay on the tracks during the ground nesting bird season and some tips for preventing soil erosion.
They also explain the dangers of touching or feeding the ponies and donkeys and why speeds have to be kept below 40 mph when motoring in the forest.
Designed to appeal to all age groups, the guides use cartoons to illustrate the main points. They will be available to locals and tourists alike, to promote understanding and so help conserve the forest.
The 'Out and About' guide and the codes for horse riders and dog walkers are all free. The cycle code costs just £1 as it includes a large scale map printed on water and tear-proof paper.
The guides have been developed by people who live and work in the forest through the stakeholder forum of the PROGRESS Project, an international project co-funded by the EU and led by the Forestry Commission.
PROGRESS (PROmotion and Guidance for Recreation on Ecologically Sensitive Sites) aims to reconcile conservation and recreation in the Forêt de Fontainebleau in France as well as the New Forest and brings together partners from across Europe.
The stakeholder forum was established at the beginning of the project and includes local conservationists, recreational users, interest groups, businesses and statutory agencies. The PROGRESS team will continue to consult with the forum throughout the next three years to guide the future direction of the project and its actions.
Keith Campbell, PROGRESS project co-ordinator said: "Although the majority of visitors respect the area and act responsibly, some are unaware that their actions could damage the fabric of the forest - it is these people that we hope the best practice guides will reach. If everyone does their bit to protect this unique environment, between us we can all ensure that the forest will remain a wonderful place for years to come."
Peter Frost, New Forest Verderer, member of the National Park Authority, and a representative from the PROGRESS stakeholder forum, said: "Bringing together a variety of people with a diverse range of interests through the forum has meant that we've been able to discuss all forest users' needs in great detail. Ultimately, we all want to protect the forest, whilst ensuring that everyone can enjoy their favoured activity without disturbing other users, or urbanising the beautiful landscape."
Christian Tillier from Bashley walks his dog, Dipper, on the forest regularly and welcomes the new guides. Christian commented: "Dipper and I feel privileged to have such a beautiful area to walk in and the guides mean
I can play a part in looking after the forest. If we all follow them we can protect the area we enjoy so much, and also ensure that everyone else gets the most out of their visit too."
The guides will be available in shops, information points, libraries, hotels, guest houses, recreation centres and other outlets, as well as being available to download online from www.forestry.gov.uk/newforest. Poster versions will also be produced and displayed at important visitor sites such as cycle hire shops and riding stables.