Last Updated on November 9, 2020
The New Forest, Wild Ponies, and History
This little section of England is chock-full of history, picture-postcard thatched cottages, ponies, wild pigs and free-roaming cattle.
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 and the animals that roam freely.
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, our favorite was Aldridge Hill, near Brockenhurst. Aldridge Hill has no toilets or showers, so it is best for motor-homes and caravans that have their own ensuite facilities. We toured with a little caravan and happily stayed close by the stream for days to let the kids play freely.
It was my favorite campsite 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. An icecream van even pulled in one day, which was an unexpected surprise and a treat for the kids.
New Forest Ponies
New Forest ponies graze freely throughout the National Park, roughly 3000 of them 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 to restrict breeding.
What is a Commoner of the New Forest?
Many privately owned properties within the New Forest National Park 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 to 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 – The Agisters
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 annual 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 so much fun, plenty of public walking paths meander through the woodlands and most campsites include the free-roaming ponies. Do not feed or touch them though as this encourages them to seek food and can make them a danger to people.
Air BnB Stays in the New Forest
From Sheperd huts to historic homes, Air BnB offers some amazing stays in the stunning New Forest region of Hampshire. Browse places to stay…
Accommodation Deals on Booking.com
Booking.com offers awesome accommodation deals. Browse listings to discover more wonderful places to stay.
Car and Motorhome Hire/Rental
DriveNow is one of the best options for searching for the best price across different vehicle rental companies. Simply enter your details and vehicle requirements, it is a simple, safe way to get the best deals from the world’s leading rental companies.