Rachel Parsons

Rachel Parsons - Founder & Eco-preneur

outdoorsy, eccentric, unstoppable…

RP founded NFE in 2010 with one house and a green mission – now she’s driving that again – for the company – but also solving industry wide problems that few others are prepared to trial. For good reason – they’re not easy. Undeterred (or just belligerent) Rachel rolls her sleeves up and weighs stinky bins, asks alot of questions, raises funds and collaborates across the industry to create change.

Rachel is the 3rd generation in her family who has worked with guests in the tourism industry. Her grandmother ran a self-catering business for years. Her mum does Bed and Breakfast. Rachel made a lot of tea for guests when she was a kid….

Rachel lived in Australia working for an adventure tourism company hosting guests in remote bush camps and farming sheep and cattle. She ended up as a travel writer for an eclectic travel brand that many pennies dropped.  She says, “the most successful businesses were those with a thoughtful set up, the sharing of their knowledge, the interesting, rather than predictable style.

Pre COP2010 Rachel worked for The Prince’s Rainforests Project, co-ordinating their youth education programme. That followed up with support and consultancy for The Environmental Justice Foundation, a social justice education programme for The People Speak with History Channel, Eden Project and others gave her a good grounding in sustainability goals.

In 2011, with a very small baby in tow, Rachel started renting Ploughmans Cottage as a holiday cottage. It ran it for 4 years before she set up New Forest Escapes, partly with the goal of encouraging more people to holiday in the UK, reducing travel emissions and making UK holidays a proper option to overseas family travel.

She has an ongoing love affair with trees, horses and bicycles and loves to develop the company brand and generally help steer the tiller.

Leading green

What are the Special Projects that you work on?

In 2022/23, we are pushing ahead with 10 projects. Some are collaborative with international partners.

These are based around:

  • increasing our data so we gain more clarity on what we’re doing.
  • decarbonising our Scope 3 (supply chain) emissions through guests food and waste reduction. and using greener cleaning products.
  • an ultra-tech metering project with international and academic partners to deliver game-changing education to guests, and enable utility bills to be paid separately.
  • regenerating owners gardens – we influence the care of over 230 acres in and around the National Park. There are plenty of rare species that owners can support with minor changes to garden management.
  • community – we steer approx’ 3.5 million into the local visitor economy – reviewing suppliers is an important part of that.
  • educating guests and owners in houses and through their stay – not easy but we’re gaining headway – and no – it’s not all hair shirt reductions!
  • we have a strong remit to increase non-car travel in the area, and 50% of guests come with dogs, so we strongly focus on that education too.
  • charity – our giving supports education, empowering women, biodiversity and action on climate change.
    certifying houses with green accreditation – trusted, independent and fair and reviewed by guests.



How long have you been local in the area?

I’ve lived in and around the New Forest for the last 14 years. In particular we love the lovely and unspoilt piece of coast between Lymington and Beaulieu. The coast is wild and slightly ‘lost’ there. It’s hard to reach in places and tends to be very quiet. There is a curious patchwork of farmland, little lanes flanked with short-cropped grass verge and the herd of ponies that live (or some would say ‘heft’) there.

I have an 8 year old daughter and have home schooled her for 4 years. We love to take day walks and go off for ‘micro-adventures’; maths on the beach, looking for sand lizards on the heathlands, foraging for spring greens, listening to sky larks. We spend a huge amount of time outside, combining my blog research for guests with ‘life learning’. I hail from Somerset/Devon border area. Having grown up on a small holding (we milked our cow until I was 11), I have a great love for agricultural and wild areas, in particular ancient forest. So living here is a treat.

You’ll find the results of our walks and explorations in the blogs I’ve written. They cherry pick out the best of the best bits. The New Forest is easy on the eye, many come here, but it’s not hard to find wildness if you know where to go. As a company, we will weather these hard times of COVID19 and come out with some more deep wrinkles on our faces. It’s not been easy and we’re by no means half way through. But the future for UK holidays holds good stead and we are grateful for that silver lining.

A huge part of my personal drive to make this business successful is my desire to look after people. I was born into a ‘service’ household. Mum was a nurse. She did B&B at home. Gran did too. We were expected to help. We had kids from less fortunate backgrounds stay with us each summer. I’ve always naturally taken a teaching and enabling role through my career. I really love helping people create memories.

Where is your favourite place to go for friends/family in the forest?

I’ve written a lot of blogs on favourite places now. Read more about them here. 

For walks with friends – Hurst Castle.

To avoid the wind walk from Ranswood deep into the oaks, in the mixed forests around Brockenhurst and I love the walks from Beaulieu village to Beaulieu Road train station.

For walks with kids – Rhinefield circular walk is great for dens, which are built at regular short intervals so kids can run on and find the next one. I also love Tanners Lane beach for summer play. Sand, silt, shallow water. Great.

I also love the walk from Bucklers Hard to Beaulieu. The river is so pretty and English, for anyone who has lived for a long time overseas, they will smile.

For mobile grandparents – all the above of course. 60 is the new 40. Right? For less mobile people, then if you can, put them on the boat service at Keyhaven and boat them to Hurst Castle, then picnic or have a flask cuppa there, then boat them back. Part of the group can walk, or all go together and walk around the castle when you get there. The history there will be most grandparents cup of tea, and there’s one of those in the tiny café too. Do check when it’s open.

Which is your favourite beach in summer and also in winter?

Summer gets busy on the beach – so I head into the trees and find a quiet stream. Can’t beat cooling your toes in a stream…

In Winter I go to Hordle Cliffs Beach in Milford. The dog comes too and we can go wild with no one around.

Where is your favourite place to eat in the forest?

OK, well I used to be a travel writer and I’m very spoilt. My absolute favourite is foraging and cooking for myself, but if you push me…

The Pig Brockenhurst for super spoils. Breakfast is excellent there. And I love walking in for a coffee in the garden in summer.

What do you do to relax?

I live near Pilley, a tiny village, full of donkeys and ponies (we get donkey-jams on the roads) and there are some lovely footpaths across farmland in the National Park.

There are large herds of wild Fallow Deer and I love to walk really slowly, listening to the birds, my feet on the grass and the wind. I often sit quietly in a group of large firs in a conservation area. The footpath here isn’t much used. It’s amazing how much you can see when you stop.

What do you love about your job the most?

Creating really good projects that really work and help owners and guests do better, greener business. I absolutey LOVE that.

And the team, they’re really good. They’re just all the best people and they care so much. It’s a treat to work with them.

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