FEARS that the forest would be turned into a theme park have been allayed after plans to site seven-foot Gruffalo sculptures were scrapped.
The New Forest Equestrian Association (NFEA) raised concerns with the Forestry Minister after the Forestry Commission unveiled plans for Gruffalo trails at some of its campsites, to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the popular children’s book.
The commission has made a deal with the “brand-building and production company” Magic Light Pictures and hoped to bring families to many of its sites with giant figures and Gruffalo-themed activities.
But horse lovers complained, saying the forest was being “exploited” and said the move was contrary to what should be the aim – to “protect the forest for the quiet enjoyment of future generations”.
NFEA chairman Tony Hockley told Defra: “The Forestry Commission campsites are already very busy and a source of continuous pressure for further piecemeal development of the open forest.
“Their further enhancement as theme parks as part of a national commercial campaign by the Forestry Commission, will cause great concern to all who wish to protect the forest for the quiet enjoyment of future generations.”
Now Dr Hockley has had a letter from the commission’s chief executive Simon Hodgson, saying that while the trails are still intended to go ahead in the New Forest from April 11, unlike other Forestry Commission sites in the rest of the country, there will be no sculptures.
The trails will also be confined to hardstanding areas within the Forest campsites.
Mr Hodgson also said his organisation would "respect the area's unique historic, environmental and cultural characteristics".
Dr Hockley said: "We are pleased that the Forestry Commission has recognised the special situation of the New Forest and dramatically reduced the potential impact of the deal with Magic Light Pictures.
“Like most other forest organisations we remain concerned that commercial pressures on the forest will increase under the Government's new forestry policies. Hopefully, these fears too will be addressed when the draft legislation is finally published."
The trails are lined up for Ocknell and Longbeech, Holmsley, Roundhill, Hollands Wood and Ashurst in the New Forest, and across 23 other forests across England, to run through to the end of September.
In October, The Gruffalo’s Child activity trails take over and will stay in the forest right through the winter until February 2015.