About The New Forest

The New Forest was created as a' royal' forest by William I in about 1079 for the private hunting of deer. It was created at the expense of more than 20 small settlements/farms; hence it was 'new' in his time.


History of The New Forest


There are around two hundred and fifty round barrows within its boundaries, and scattered boiling mounds, and it also includes about 150 scheduled ancient monuments. One such barrow in particular may represent the only known inhumation burial of the Early Iron Age and the only known Hallstatt burial in Britain.

The New Forest was created as a royal forest by William I in about 1079 for the private hunting of (mainly) deer. It was created at the expense of more than 20 small settlements/farms; hence it was 'new' in his time as a single compact area.

According to Florence of Worcester (d. 1118), the forest was known before the Norman Conquest as the Great Ytene Forest; the word "Ytene" meaning '"Juten" or "of Jutes". The Jutes were one of the early Anglo Saxon tribal groups who colonised this area of southern Hampshire. This is the traditionally accepted etymology, however, it is very possible that the name is Celtic and related to the Irish name "Etain".

It was first recorded as "Nova Foresta" in Domesday Book in 1086, and is the only forest that the book describes in detail. Twelfth century chroniclers alleged that William had created the Forest by evicting the inhabitants of 36 parishes, reducing a flourishing district to a wasteland; however, this account is thought dubious by most historians, as the poor soil in much of the Forest is believed to have been incapable of supporting large-scale agriculture, and significant areas appear to have always been uninhabited.

Two of William's sons died in the Forest: Prince Richard in 1081 and King William II (William Rufus) in 1100. Local folklore asserted that this was punishment for the crimes committed by William when he created his New Forest; a 17th century writer provides exquisite detail:

"In this County [Hantshire] is New-Forest, formerly called Ytene, being about 30 miles in compass; in which said tract William the Conqueror (for the making of the said Forest a harbour for Wild-beasts for his Game) caused 36 Parish Churches, with all the Houses thereto belonging, to be pulled down, and the poor Inhabitants left succourless of house or home. But this wicked act did not long go unpunished, for his Sons felt the smart thereof; Richard being blasted with a pestilent Air; Rufus shot through with an Arrow; and Henry his Grand-child, by Robert his eldest son, as he pursued his Game, was hanged among the boughs, and so dyed. This Forest at present affordeth great variety of Game, where his Majesty oft-times withdraws himself for his divertisement.

The reputed spot of Rufus's death is marked with a stone known as the Rufus Stone.

The Rufus Stone MemorialJohn White, Bishop of Winchester, said of the forest:

"From God and Saint King Rufus did Churches take, From Citizens town-court, and mercate place, From Farmer lands: New Forrest for to make, In Beaulew tract, where whiles the King in chase Pursues the hart, just vengeance comes apace, And King pursues. Tirrell him seing not, Unwares him flew with dint of arrow shot.

Formal commons rights were confirmed by statute in 1698. The New Forest became a source of timber for the Royal Navy, and plantations were created in the 18th century for this purpose. In the Great Storm of 1703, about 4000 oak trees were lost.

The naval plantations encroached on the rights of the Commoners, but the Forest gained new protection under an Act of Parliament in 1877. The New Forest Act 1877 confirmed the historic rights of the Commoners and prohibited the enclosure of more than 65 km2 (25 sq mi) at any time. It also reconstituted the Court of Verderers as representatives of the Commoners (rather than the Crown).

As of 2005, roughly 90% of the New Forest is still owned by the Crown. The Crown lands have been managed by the Forestry Commission since 1923 and most of the Crown lands now fall inside the new National Park.

Felling of broadleaved trees, and their replacement by conifers, began during the First World War to meet the wartime demand for wood. Further encroachments were made during the Second World War. This process is today being reversed in places, with some plantations being returned to heathland or broadleaved woodland. Rhododendron remains a problem.

WW2 remains at IbsleyFurther New Forest Acts followed in 1949, 1964 and 1970. The New Forest became a Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1971, and was granted special status as the New Forest Heritage Area in 1985, with additional planning controls added in 1992. The New Forest was proposed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in June 1999, and it became a National Park in 2005.

Like much of England, the New Forest was originally deciduous woodland, recolonised by birch and eventually beech and oak following the withdrawal of the ice sheets starting from around 12,000 years ago. Some areas were cleared for cultivation from the Bronze Age onwards; the poor quality of the soil in the New Forest meant that the cleared areas turned into heathland "waste", which may have been used even then as grazing-land for horses. There was still a significant amount of woodland in this part of Britain, but this was gradually reduced, particularly towards the end of the Middle Iron Age around 250-100 BCE, and most importantly the 12th and 13th centuries, and of this essentially all that remains today is the New Forest

About The New Forest

Common rights

New Forest poniesForest Laws were enacted to preserve the New Forest as a location for royal deer hunting, and interference with the King's deer and its forage was punished. However, the inhabitants of the area (commoners) had pre-existing rights of common: to turn horses and cattle (but only rarely sheep) out into the Forest to graze (common pasture), to gather fuel wood (estovers), to cut peat for fuel (turbary), to dig clay (marl), and to turn out pigs between September and November to eat fallen acorns and beechnuts (pannage or mast). There were also licences granted to gather bracken after 29 September as litter for animals (fern), Along with grazing, pannage is still an important part of the Forest's ecology. Pigs can eat acorns without a problem, whereas to ponies and cattle large numbers of acorns can be poisonous. Pannage always lasts 60 days but the start date varies according to the weather — and when the acorns fall. The Verderers decide when pannage will start each year. At other times the pigs must be taken in and kept on the owner's land with the exception that pregnant sows, known as privileged sows, are always allowed out providing they are not a nuisance and return to the Commoner's holding at night (they must be levant and couchant there). This last is not a true Right, however, so much as an established practice. The principle of levancy and couchancy applied generally to the right of pasture as it was unstinted but commoners must have backup land, outside the Forest, to accommodate these depastured animals as during the Foot and Mouth epidemic.

Cow eating winter feed, Longdown Inclosure.Commons rights are attached to particular plots of land (or in the case of turbary, to particular hearths), and different land has different rights — and some of this land is some distance from the Forest itself. Rights to graze ponies and cattle are not for a certain number of animals, as is often the case on other commons. Instead a marking fee is paid for each animal each year by the owner. The marked animal's tail is trimmed by the local agister (Verderers' official), with each of the four or five Forest agisters using a different trimming pattern. Ponies are branded with the owner's brand-mark; cattle may be branded, or nowadays may have the brand-mark on an ear-tag. The grazing done by the commoners' ponies and cattle is an essential part of the management of the Forest, helping to maintain the internationally important heathland, bog, grassland and wood-pasture habitats and their associated wildlife.

More recently this ancient practice has come under pressure as the rising house prices in the area have stopped local commoning families from moving into new homes which have the rights attached, thus meaning the next generation of commoners cannot begin the practice themselves until the previous generation either passes on or move and give over their house (and therefore rights) to their children. Many houses which do have common rights are now inhabited by migrants to the area (largely from cities) who have no interest in keeping the practice going, and are often only there for part of the year anyway.

Alder trees by the Beaulieu river near Fawley fordThe New Forest National Park area covers 566 km2 (219 sq mi), and the New Forest SSSI covers almost 300 km2 (120 sq mi), making it the largest contiguous area of un-sown vegetation in lowland Britain. It includes roughly:

146 km2 (56 sq mi) of broadleaved woodland
118 km2 (46 sq mi) of heathland and grassland
33 km2 (13 sq mi) of wet heathland
84 km2 (32 sq mi) of tree plantations (inclosures) established since the 18th century, including 80 km2 (31 sq mi) planted by the Forestry Commission since the 1920s.
The New Forest is drained to the south by two rivers, the Lymington River and Beaulieu River, and to the west by the Dockens Water, Hucklesbrook, Linbrook and other streams.

The highest point in the New Forest is Pipers Wait, near Nomansland. Its summit is 129m (422 feet) above sea level.[16][17]

Picnic area in the New ForestAs well as providing a visually remarkable and historic landscape, the ecological value of the New Forest is particularly great because of the relatively large areas of lowland habitats, lost elsewhere, which have survived. The area contains several kinds of important lowland habitat including valley bogs, wet heaths, dry heaths and deciduous woodland. The area contains a profusion of rare wildlife, including the New Forest cicada Cicadetta montana, the only cicada native to Great Britain. The wet heaths are important for rare plants, such as marsh gentian Gentiana pneumonanthe and marsh clubmoss Lycopodiella inundata. Several species of sundew may be found in the Forest, and the area is also the habitat of many unusual insect species, including Southern damselfly (Coenagrion mercuriale), and the mole cricket Gryllotalpa gryllotalpa (both rare in Britain). In 2009, 500 adult Southern Damselflys were captured and released in the Venn Ottery nature reserve in Devon. This nature reserve is owned and managed by the Devon Wildlife Trust.

Specialist heathland birds are widespread, including Dartford Warbler (Silvia undata), Woodlark (Lullula arborea), Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus), Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata), European Nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus), Eurasian Hobby (Falco subbuteo), European Stonechat (Saxicola rubecola), Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) and Tree Pipit (Anthus sylvestris). As in much of Britain Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) and Meadow Pipit (Anthus trivialis) are common as wintering birds, but in the Forest they still also breed in many of the bogs and heaths respectively. Woodland birds include Wood Warbler (Phylloscopus sibilatrix), Stock Pigeon (Columba oenas), Honey Buzzard (Pernis apivorus) and Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis). Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) is very common and Common Raven (Corvus corax) is spreading. Birds seen more rarely include Red Kite (Milvus milvus), wintering Great Grey Shrike (Lanius exubitor) and Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus) and migrating Ring Ouzel (Turdus torquatus) and Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe).

Adder at Hincheslea Bog in the New ForestAll three British native species of snake inhabit the Forest. The adder (Vipera berus) is the most common, being found on open heath and grassland. The grass snake (Natrix natrix) prefers the damper environment of the valley mires. The rare smooth snake Coronella austriaca) occurs on sandy hillsides with heather and gorse. It was mainly adders which were caught by Brusher Mills (1840–1905), the "New Forest Snake Catcher". He caught many thousands in his lifetime, sending some to London Zoo as food for their animals. A pub in Brockenhurst is named The Snakecatcher in his memory. All British snakes are now legally protected, and so the New Forest snakes are no longer caught.

A programme to reintroduce the sand lizard (Lacerta agilis) started in 1989 and the great crested newt (Triturus cristatus) already breeds in many locations.

Commoners' cattle, ponies and donkeys roam throughout the open heath and much of the woodland, and it is largely their grazing that maintains the open character of the Forest. They are also frequently seen in the Forest villages where home and shop owners must maintain constant vigilance to keep them out of gardens and shops. The New Forest Pony is one of the indigenous horse breeds of the British Isles, and is one of the New Forest's most famous attractions – most of the Forest ponies are of this breed, but there are also some Shetlands and their crossbreeds. Cattle are of various breeds, most commonly Galloways and their cross-breeds, but also various other hardy types such as Highlands, Herefords, Dexters, Kerrys and British Whites. The pigs used for pannage are now of various breeds, but the New Forest was the original home of the Wessex Saddleback, now extinct in Britain.

Numerous deer live in the Forest but are usually rather shy and tend to stay out of sight when people are around, but are surprisingly bold at night, even when a car drives past. Fallow deer (Dama dama) are the most common, followed by roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) and red deer (Cervus elephas). There are also smaller populations of the introduced sika deer (Cervus nippon) and muntjac (Muntiacus reevesii).

The Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) survived in the Forest until the 1970s – longer than almost anywhere else in lowland Britain (though it still occurs on the nearby Isle of Wight). It is now fully replaced in the Forest by the introduced North American Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis). The European Polecat (Mustela putorius) has recolonised the western edge of the Forest in recent years. European Otter (Lutra lutra) occurs along watercourses, as well as the introduced American Mink (Neovison vision).

The New Forest is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), EU Special Area of Conservation (SAC), a Special Protection Area for birds and a Ramsar Site, it also has its own Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP)

Ponies walking the streets in Burley.Among the towns and villages lying in or adjacent to the Forest are Lyndhurst, Abbotswell, Hythe, Totton, Blissford, Burley, Brockenhurst, Fordingbridge, Frogham, Hyde, Stuckton, Ringwood, Beaulieu, Bransgore, Lymington and New Milton. It is bounded to the west by Bournemouth and Christchurch, and to the east by the city of Southampton. The Forest gives its name to the New Forest district of Hampshire.




Welcome to the New Forest
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New Forest Accommodation

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