The New Forest, Ponies, and History
The New Forest, this little section of England is chock-full of history, picture postcard thatched cottages, ponies, wild pigs and free-roaming cattle.
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William the Conqueror named this area of Hampshire his ‘new hunting forest’ in 1079. Nearly 1000 years later, the system he established to protect the woodlands still exists. Verderers, Agisters and Commoners manage and care for the New Forest National Park.
Ancient Oaks from the forest were used to build ships for Nelson’s fleet at Buckler’s Hard, a historic village that is well worth a visit, along with the New forest Discovery Centre in Lyndhurst.
Camping in the New Forest
Camping in the New Forest is available at a number of sites, some have power and facilities and others require campers to be fully self-contained. We stayed at a few camping areas around the forest, the favourite being Aldridge Hill, near Brockenhurst. Aldridge Hill has no toilets or showers, so best for motor-homes and caravans. We toured with a little caravan and happily stayed close by the stream for days.
It was my favourite site in the forest. We had one of the best pitches – opposite a wooded area with a stream for the kids to play in, views across to the heathlands and ponies wandering through the site.
New Forest Ponies
New Forest ponies graze freely throughout the National Park, roughly 3000 graze the pastures along with donkeys, cattle and pigs. They are not technically wild as they are all owned by ‘commoners’ and are rounded up in autumn and spring to be checked for health and young colts are taken out of the herds.
Many properties within the New forest have rights attached which allow the property owners to agist restricted numbers of livestock in the New Forest. The commoner pays an annual fee each animal, they also have to brand the animals with a registered ‘mark’ which is listed with the ‘Verderers’ who are a group of 10 people appointed the job of keeping everything legal.
The Verderers have control over the stallions in the forest to ensure breeding is kept under control.
Looking after the New Forest Ponies
Another group of people, known as the ‘Agisters’ are employed by the Verderers to watch over the animals and keep a check on their health and welfare. They arrange the roundup of the ponies and collect the fees from the Commoners. Each pony has its tail clipped in a certain way to prove payment has been made.
Exploring the New Forest is a pleasure, plenty of public walking paths meander through the woodlands and most campsites include the free-roaming ponies!
Accommodation in the New Forest
Staying within the New Forest National Park makes for a perfect holiday. Most places can easily access walking trails and villages. Stay in the forest or in a village… each location has something special to offer.