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Forestry & Commoning

The New Forest isn’t New!

In medieval times a ‘forest’ was a wilderness set aside for hunting.  The New Forest was declared a royal hunting ground by William the Conqueror in about 1079.

forestry and commoningToday, much of the land within the National Park remains ‘Crown’ land.  However, over time people living in and around the New Forest have acquired rights to some of its resource.  These people are known as ‘commoners’, and all the ponies and the cattle you see in the Open Forest today belong to commoners who still exercise the Right of Pasture.

Entering Harry Burt’s cob cottage takes you back in time to the 1930’s. Harry was typical of the New Forest commoners whose lives spanned the 20th century and spent all his life at The Weirs near Brockenhurst, in the cob cottage where he was born in 1925.

Cob was traditionally used by people living in the Forest as a cheap building material.  It is made from clay soil, chopped heather or straw and small pebbles, mixed with water.  It is built up between boards which are removed when the cob is dry.

Next to Harry’s cottage you’ll find a woodland display.  Here you’ll be able to see the differences between the wood craftsman of over a hundred years ago and today.

Other topics covered include woodland management and the role of the Agisters and Verderers.  Find out what a Forest ‘drift’ is and why the ponies have their tails clipped every year.


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