"Neither New Nor All Forest" Top 5 Page for this destination New Forest by johngayton

New Forest Travel Guide: 45 reviews and 140 photos

This tract of land in the South-east corner of Hampshire has been heavily wooded for about 12,000 years and it only became known as the "New Forest" in 1079 AD when the then king, William the Conqueror, declared it as his "new hunting forest". When the Domesday Book (the survey of England and Wales for taxation purposes initiated by William) was compiled in 1086 it was the only forest to be given its own section and came under the heading "Nova Foresta".

As part of the Normans' forest management the area was cleared of several of its homesteads - some early historians report this was done ruthlessly. However they also instituted a system whereby the upkeep of the forest and the animals for the hunts fell to a specific groups of people - Commoners, Agisters and Verderers - a system which is still in place today.

The Commoners are the farmers and inhabitants and were given rights such as to graze their animals, or to gather wood subject to conditions that ensured that the forest's ecology was maintained.

The Agisters are the administrators, responsible for policing the forest, keeping track of the animals, both wild and domesticated, and collecting any fees and taxes from those who wish to use the area.

The Verderers are the forest managers and employ the Agisters. Originally they were representatives of the Crown and literally held court to settle any disputes and deal with minor offences. The present-day Verderers Court comprises a mix of elected and appointed members who are responsible for enforcing the policies of the new National Park Authority and who have to power to introduce or amend the forests' by-laws.

Of course there's much more to the New Forest than just the trees. Covering an area of approximately 220 square miles there's heathland, marshland, several towns and villages and even a seashore.

Although still mostly owned by the Crown parliament began taking an interest in the forest in the second half of the 1800's and in 1877 passed the New Forest Act which confirmed the commoners rights and reappointed the Verderers. Several other acts have since been passed further protecting the special status of the area and in 2005 it became a National Park.

The New Forest National Park Authority has a triple remit - firstly one of conservation; secondly of promoting the forest to visitors and ensuring accessibility and thirdly to look after the social and economic health of those who live there.

All of this makes it a rather fascinating place to either visit or live. There's a bit of something for everyone especially if you enjoy the outdoors - there's walking trails, cycle paths, opportunities for horse riding, fishing, water sports as well as being a haven for nature lovers. For the more indoor-orientated the towns and villages are picturesque with museums, information centres, shops, restaurants and of course plenty of pubs.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Relatively Unspoilt Wilderness
  • Cons:Some Bits Of It Are Spoiled
  • In a nutshell:Not my favourite National Park but worth a visit anyway.
  • Last visit to New Forest: Dec 2011
  • Intro Updated Sep 14, 2012
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