Visitors to the New Forest’s beautiful beaches are enjoying water of the very highest quality according to a nationwide scientific study.

The two main beaches along the National Park’s 26 miles of coastline, Calshot and Lepe, have both been rated ‘excellent’ for water quality.

This is good news for the environment and makes a visit to the New Forest’s lesser-known coastline more enticing than ever before.

The ratings were part of a national survey of 413 beaches and lakes up and down the country undertaken by the Environment Agency.

It found that the quality of water at England’s beaches is the best on record, with 98.5 per cent passing tough standards this year.

Paul Walton, Head of Environment and Rural Economy at the New Forest National Park Authority, said: ‘The New Forest is rightly famous for its free roaming animals, ancient woodland and wide open heathlands.

However the National Park’s coastline is just as special, both as habitat for rare wading birds and a place for visitors to enjoy the sea.

‘So the news that the water at Lepe and Calshot is of the very highest order is very welcome. It shows that if we all do our bit to care for the Forest it can have really positive results.’

The excellent water quality at the New Forest’s beaches is set against a backdrop of huge improvements in water quality nationally.

In the early 1990s only 28 per cent of bathing waters met the top water quality standards; now 93 per cent are rated excellent and good.

The number of bathing waters rated ‘excellent’ has increased by 5.9 per cent since 2015 and five bathing waters have met or exceeded the minimum standards for the first time.

Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom, said: ‘England’s bathing waters are enjoyed by millions of people every year, which is why I am delighted the water quality at our beaches and lakes is better than at any time since before the Industrial Revolution.

‘This year more than 93 per cent of bathing waters were rated excellent and good, but we’re not complacent – we’ll keep working to improve our environment and make sure it’s protected for future generations.’

Beach-goers can check the water quality at Calshot, Lepe and every bathing beach in England at environment.data.gov.uk/bwq/profiles

Lepe Country Park is operated by Hampshire County Council, for more information visit www3.hants.gov.uk/lepe