Final greetings from the Karoo Desert in South Africa, where I am making my final stop before returning back to a chilly UK.

Over the past few days I have been spending time at some of the African national parks and it has struck me how they do things completely differently to the UK.

Some of what they do makes real sense and leaves me thinking could we manage the New Forest any differently?

The first things that struck me, is that most of the big parks out here are gated and cost money.

To enter the bigger and more interesting parks you are charged a set fee for your vehicle and a second fee per person entering the park.

Now I realise that the New Forest or the Lake District have no lions, elephants or rhino-but we could learn from how they do it.

Some years ago the South African government realised that managing a large number of game reserves and national parks costs a huge amount of money.

With a limited amount available for critical service provision, the decision was made to charge entrance to many reserves and parks.

It is a system that has worked well in many places; ensuring that money is ploughed back in to the parks from the entry charges.

The New Forest is suffering from chronic under funding. The park authority has a limited pot of government funds to maintain car parks and tracks, repair fences, deal with dangerous trees, injured animals, annual gorse burns and managing invasive species……the list is long and the costs are very high.

The other thing that works well in South Africa is the concept that some areas are for animals and birds and other areas are for people.

In other words provision is made for imaginative reserve centres, restaurants, guided walks and visitor centres….whilst leaving huge tracts fenced off for nature to roam without disturbance.

The New Forest on the other hand is pretty much a free for all. Like many of our national parks there is an assumption that we should be allowed to roam anywhere…..and that is not good news for either farmers or nature.

So I think that it is time we re-looked at our national parks. I think it might be a good idea to introduce an entry charge to generate revenue for a more imaginative and better looked after series of parks.

In South Africa they have got around the complaints of local people by offering annual passes and reduced cost entry to those living near to a national park or game reserve.

I also think we need to make our visitor centres and nature trails more informative and more interactive.

It is high time we invested heavily in our greatest natural assets.

From canopy tours to aerial walkways; and colour coded trails to new deer hides.. there are many things we could do if we had the money.

But we should also fence off areas of the forest to give ground nesting birds a chance at survival.

With the open access that exists at the moment our birds are really struggling.

So lets let them have some parts of the forest unhindered by deer, dogs and people.

And lets do the same across all our national parks. I think it is possible to re-invent UK’s national parks to better reflect the financial needs and the needs of nature to recover.

Lets make our parks somewhere to be proud of.

And with climate change taking effect… who knows, we may one day have lion and elephant!!