Love the Forest is calling on walkers, joggers and runners to join its Valentines Challenge to help fund vital conservation, commoning and education projects in the New Forest.

The scheme, set up by the New Forest Trust charity, is calling on people to make their local lockdown miles count and get sponsored to walk, jog or run a distance when out on their daily exercise from home.

Love the Forest usually raises tens of thousands of pounds each year from personal donations and with tourism businesses adding a pound to visitors’ bills, but sadly most of the businesses have been closed for a lot of 2020 due to the pandemic and donations have plummeted.

Over the years the scheme has helped rare bats, birds and snakes survive, educated thousands of youngsters about the New Forest and funded vital projects to reduce animal accidents on Forest roads.

The New Forest ponies and cattle are known as ‘the architects of the Forest’, roaming freely across the landscape. Owned by people called commoners, it’s the animals’ grazing which creates the amazing range of habitats which make the National Park a world capital for wildlife.

Sadly 49 animals were killed on the roads in 2020 with nine killed in a particularly harrowing week after Christmas. Although 2020 saw the lowest number of accidents since records began, any animal death is a great loss to its owner and the Forest.

New Forest Trust Chairman William Ziegler said: ‘We’re asking people to join in our virtual challenge and help fund measures to help the New Forest survive into the future.

‘We suggest people choose from a distance of three, five or 10 miles and complete their challenge from home any time from Valentines’ Day to the end of February. You can take part anywhere – you don’t have to be in the New Forest!

‘Of course, while completing the Challenge we will all need to follow the latest Government restrictions about travel and contact with other people to keep everyone safe. We hope as many people as possible will get involved to help care for the New Forest landscape and animals.’

Anyone who would like to take part but not seek sponsorship, or would like to support the event, is encouraged to make a suggested donation of £20 instead.

William added: ‘We would like to thank all our fantastic businesses who have been supporting the Love the Forest scheme over the years and it’s extremely sad to see how difficult a time they are having but we hope they’ll be open again soon and we can return the favour and support them too.’

For more details about the Valentines Challenge, visit

To start fundraising or donate online, visit: Virgin Money Giving | New Forest Trust