The Forest Bus - About Us

The Forest Bus Charity

The Forest Bus (a registered Charity and Company limited by Guarantee) is a mobile community project which delivers community development work in rural areas to socially excluded groups primarily within the New Forest, but also in other areas of Hampshire and the Dorset borders.

We respond to requests from a variety of sources to go into a local community, provide a venue, staff and resources so that we can stimulate activity, resulting in change.

We do this by taking our mobile community centres into areas where there are no meeting places or other amenities. We provide a focus for the local community to participate in a range of activities – both on an individual and group work basis. This involves making an assessment and planning services and activities to meet identified needs.

Because we are a mobile service which is able to take staff and resources on to the doorstep of local people, we have found that much of our work lends itself to marginalised groups such as those of Gypsy origin. We reach the most discreet communities and our work has developed over the years to specialise in working with Gypsies and Travellers - the main ethnic group in the Hampshire. We have members of the Gypsy community on our trustee board and also as staff.

We work with young people, children and their families by providing parents & toddler groups, family education projects, family work, after school sessions and youth work. We also work on 5 Gypsy sites in the Hampshire area as well as with the bricks and mortar Gypsy community.  We also deliver therapeutic play work and circle time, in schools and in the holidays provide play schemes and festivals. In summer 2009 we organised a New Forest Mela (a major multi-cultural festival) together with partners from the diversity forum in the New Forest. The Gypsy community were one of the main contributors to this event which saw over 3000 people coming to enjoy the day.  These multicultural events raise awareness of other cultures and introduce children and families into new experiences. We work with over 300 children and young people every week.

Our services include helping people to set up their own residents' groups, facilitating learning such as IT, basic Maths and English and other subjects.

Making a bender tent

Together with arranging events to take place during Gypsy Roma month (celebrated annually in June), we provide cultural awareness days so that younger people and their families from all communities can learn about their own culture and traditions, and this helps to keep the history alive. 


Our work in the community has led to us being invited to undertake three major pieces of research. In 2006, we were requested by the Government Office South East to investigate the health and social needs of Gypsy families living in Hampshire and a separate piece of research was commissioned by the PCT to cover the New Forest from 2005 -2007.

Our latest research in 2008/2009, on behalf of the Dept. of Health, focuses upon the health and social needs of settled, housed and transient Gypsies in areas of Hampshire.

Because we have discovered that nationally, there is very little research into the needs of housed (referred to as ‘bricks and mortar’) families as opposed to those living on authorised and illegal sites, we wanted to include this section of the community in our research.

Through our research, we have established that the families who live in Bricks and mortar feel very isolated. We have identified that there is still a huge divide between the Gypsy Traveller and the wider community.

Racism and marginalisation has generally increased, and people report that they are feeling more isolated and oppressed. This is reflected by the hostility demonstrated by local and national wider communities, and the fact that the Gypsy community are often misreported in the media and press

"In a recent representative poll conducted by MORI in England, more than one-third of those adults who took part admitted to being personally prejudiced against Gypsies and Travellers. This was greater than the levels of prejudice reported towards lesbians and gay men, other ethnic minorities and people with disabilities" (Stonewall, 2003)

Further details of the findings of our research can be found on our website and in the resource pack. 

The aim of this booklet is to raise awareness into the history, traditions and culture of this ethnic group, who have been the subject of discrimination and persecution by wider society for generations. We hope you enjoy reading it and should you like any further information, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Forest Bus, 2011/2012