WARM sunshine and the approach of Easter would normally draw thousands of visitors to the New Forest.

But towns and villages across the district are eerily quiet as most people obey the social distancing rules and remain at home.

Lyndhurst, often dubbed the capital of the Forest, is almost deserted.

Virtually all the shops are closed and most of the car parks contain only a handful of vehicles.

At nearby Boltons Bench, a popular leisure area near the former Lyndhurst Park Hotel, only a small number of people are out with their children or walking their dogs.

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Cyclists are enjoying a rare opportunity to ride along roads which have little or no traffic.

A sunny Saturday in April would normally see large tailbacks building up on all routes leading into Lyndhurst.

Today the Cadnam to Lyndhurst road, usually one of the most congested in the area, is almost devoid of vehicles.

Forestry England car parks at beauty spots across the Forest have been closed.

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In Hythe parking charges have been suspended by the district council following the coronavirus outbreak but the large car park off Jones Lane - normally one of the busiest in the village - is virtually empty.

Waitrose is open but customers are having to comply with a strict one out, one in regime to ensure they stay at least two metres apart.

Across the water huge cruise ships are docked in Southampton following the suspension of all sailings until further notice.

The absence of visitors to the Forest is a grim reminder of what could be in store for the area's tourist industry, which looks set to experience a dismal summer.

But the real test of the social distancing rules will come tomorrow, when the weather is expected to be even better.