New Forest: autumn leaves and falling temperatures

In times past there were no convenient paths and tracks for cyclists or walkers.

Late autumn is one of the more colourful times of year to visit the New Forest.

If you have walked out onto the Forest recently you will no doubt have been impressed by the variety of colours across the heathland and woods. Some of the higher elevations of the Forest provide spectacular views over the landscape in which oranges and yellows meld with russets and greens for as far as the eye can see. The winds that are beginning to gather strength as the autumn progresses snatch the golden leaves from off the trees, swirling them about as they float to the floor. At this time of year the trees boast as much colour around their roots as they do in their branches. The temperatures, like the foliage, are dropping too. Hats, scarves and even gloves are frequently the accessories required before stepping out of doors in the early mornings. The New Forest ponies are also donning their winter apparel. Their sleek summer coats are rapidly being replaced by shaggy ones, as their hairs begin to thicken and lengthen to offer some protection from the developing colder weather. The plentiful grazing over the warmer months has ensured that the ponies will be going into the winter with plenty of energy stored in the form of layers of fat. These combined resources provide the ponies with the best means of withstanding the privations of the bleaker months to come.

End-of-season activities
In the meantime, some of the Forest activities are winding down. The pony drift season is coming to an end, which is just as well. Only a month or two ago, it seemed, I was attending the round-ups in summer-weight clothing and, like my fellow commoners, seeking any bit of shade to avoid standing under the baking sun. Now, we are all stamping our feet and blowing on our hands to keep warm! The only thing hot these days is the gossip. We back up to the trees or the gorse bushes to stay out of the prevailing wind, only daring to appear when the sound of ponies hooves thundering towards us means that we must take up our positions to channel the ponies into the pound. By now some of the ponies are getting wise to the round-ups and are displaying ingenious tactics to avoid being caught. Recently on one drift a group of riders were bringing in a single mare at a full gallop. She had proved particularly difficult to round-up and so riders were either side of her, lining her up for the pound. Without any warning she absolutely stopped dead in her tracks but of course,] the riders, being unprepared, carried on going at speed. Quick as a flash the mare turned on her heels and galloped off in the opposite direction. By the time the riders had collected themselves and turned around, she was gone. A few Saxon oaths were muttered, I can tell you. As the riders went off in search of the errant mare the rest of us quickly returned to the shelter of the gorse.

The ponies coming in on the annual drifts, or round-ups, are looking fit, healthy and well fed.

The ponies coming in on the annual drifts, or round-ups, are looking fit, healthy and well fed.

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The Norman Conquest and being English.

The statue of King Richard I - the Lionheart - stands outside the Houses of Parliament.

The statue of King Richard I – the Lionheart – great-great-grandson of William the Conqueror stands outside the Houses of Parliament.

If you had lived in England on this day (16 Oct 2016) 950 years ago chances are you would be aware that a momentous battle had just been fought, only a few days earlier, near Hastings in Sussex. Even if you didn’t know the exact details you would undoubtedly know that the English king, Harold Godwinson had been slain. How would this affect you? To begin with, probably not a lot. But the victor of the battle, Duke William II of Normandy, later to be known as William the Conqueror or King William I, would fundamentally change what it was to be ‘English’ during his twenty-year reign. Even today the result of these radical changes are still evident but have become so familiar to us that they form part of our national identity.

Raiders and pirates
The Normans were descended from the Norse (Norseman became Northman or Norman) who were raiders and pirates from the Scandinavian and Nordic regions. They settled in the region of France that became known as Normandy, establishing a powerful dynasty that included William the Conqueror. Prior to the Norman Conquest, if you were a man you might possibly have had a name such as Eadwine, Æthelred, or Gyrth, or if you were a woman, Ælfgifu, Ealdgyth or Cyneburh. Afterwards Anglo-Saxon names became synonymous with defeat and so children were given Norman names, such as William, Robert, and Henry or Alice, Sophie and Margaret, to better assimilate them into society. These names seem so familiar to us now and, somehow, more English. From the time of the Conquest Norman-French began to influence the English language, customs and culture in a way that has stayed with us ever since.

Nova Foresta
William I also imported his passion for hunting, for which he created the Nova Foresta in 1079. To protect the beasts of the chase and their habitat, he introduced Forest Law and with it an administrative and legal system that can still be witnessed in the New Forest today, in the form of the Verderers’ Court at Lyndhurst. ‘Verderer’ is derived from the French word for ‘green’ and signifies the area of responsibility for these powerful Forest officials. The first mention in written record of the New Forest occurs in the Domesday Book (Great Survey), to which a whole section is devoted. No other area of the country has this privilege. The Domesday Book is our oldest public record, which was commissioned by William I to inform him of his fiscal dues and the taxes he could expect to receive from around the country. The Domesday Book remains an effective legal proof of land ownership.

The Queen Wills It
Even today Norman-French is used during the passage of Government Acts through the Houses of Parliament with phrases such as, “La Reyne le vault” (The Queen wills it.). This is because William I, and his royal descendants, bestowed and upheld the basis of English law and the institutions that eventually developed into Parliament. Richard the Lionheart, whose statue is outside the Houses of Parliament as a patriotic symbol of our nation’s virtue and virility, is the great-great-grandson of William I and didn’t even speak a word of English. His brother, John, is regarded as the worst king of England but through his negligence and mismanagement Magna Carta Libertatum – better known as Magna Carta – was born. For the first time in history an English monarch agreed in writing to safeguard the rights, privileges and liberties of certain of his subjects, such as clergymen and nobles. This legal document has inspired other forms of contract between rulers and citizenry, such as the United States Constitution, and has consequently made British law the envy of the world.

The bad rule of William Rufus led to the Coronation Charter in 1100 and ultimately in Magna Carta.

Magna Carta Libertatum – for the first time in history an English monarch agreed in writing to safeguard the rights, privileges and liberties of certain of his subjects, such as clergymen and nobles.

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New Forest: the story of the pig that pointed!

Pannage season

The sight of pigs during pannage season is highlight of autumn in the New Forest.

During pannage season pigs undoubtedly become the favourite animal to see in the New Forest. There is nothing quite like the sight of happy porkers that have been set free to root about through the fallen leaves and undergrowth, in their search for food. They provide a very important service at this time of year by eating the green acorns that are toxic, when eaten in quantity, to the other commonable animals. Through their voracious foraging the pigs reduce the risk of poisoning occurring in the free roaming ponies and cattle. In 1809 it was reported that two enterprising brothers had found a further use for the Forest pigs, by training a black sow how to detect game and to back and stand. Richard and Edward Toomer lived seven miles apart, one in Broomy Lodge and the other in Rhinefield Lodge. As well as being Forest Keepers they had a great interest in breaking and training pointers and setters, some of their own breeding and others that were sent to them by sporting gentlemen. Apparently the pig developed a partiality for a litter of pointer puppies and would play with them and share their feed. As several of the dogs that were in for training showed little interest in their work, Richard Toomer reckoned that having broken many a dog as obstinate as a pig, he would try to see if he could not succeed in breaking a pig. She was given the name Slut, ‘in consequence of soiling herself in a Bog’ and within a day could respond to her name.

Porcine hunting prowess
Within two weeks, the sow could find and point partridges or rabbits, and soon after that she could detect grouse, pheasants, and snipes. Her hunting prowess rivalled that of any dog, although for some reason she was never known to point a hare. However in the field she was said:

She always expressed great pleasure when Game, either dead or alive, was placed before her. She has frequently stood a single Partridge at forty yards distance, her Nose in a direct line to the Bird; after standing some considerable time, she would drop like a setter, still keeping her Nose in an exact Line, and would continue in that Position until the Game moved: if it took wing, she would come up to the place and put her Nose down two or three times; but if a Bird ran off, she would get up and go to the place, and draw slowly after it, and when the Bird stopped she would stand it as before.

Her pace was mostly a trot, and she was seldom known to gallop, except when called to go out shooting. She was never shut in but apparently responded to the call of the whistle as eagerly as any dog.

She was five years old when Richard, her master, died and she was sold at auction for ten guineas, along with his pointers and setters. At the age of ten she was again sold, by this time she weighed 700 pounds (approximately 317 kg) and was described as ‘fat and slothful’, but she could still find game as well as before. Accounts differ as to the identity of her new master. One names, Mr Sykes of Brookwood, in the New Forest, and others Colonel Sykes of Basildon House, Berkshire. However, in all accounts the result for the sporting pig was the same – she was sent for slaughter. One commentator described her shameful death as ‘Animal Murder’ because ‘it would have cost but a trifling Sum to have fed and sheltered her in the Winter, and the Park [either in the New Forest or at Basildon] would have supplied her Wants during Summer at no Expense’. It was wondered that no one had since attempted to train a pig to ‘Dog and Gun’, as being accompanied by a brace of pig-pointers would have been quite a novelty in an age that valued innovation.

Pannage season is part of the ancient commoning rights and a popular tradition.

During pannage season, pigs provide a very important service  by eating the green acorns that are toxic, when eaten in quantity, to the other commonable animals, such as cattle and ponies.


The Literary Panorama, Vol. VI, London, 1809, pp. 443-444

The Gentleman’s Magazine, From January to June, 1810, Vol LXXX, London, pp. 43-44.

Rev William Barker Daniel, Rural Sports, Vol. 3 (London, 1812).

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New Forest: fallow deer and the rut

The fallow deer rutting season runs from September to October.

The fallow deer rutting season runs from September to October.

The autumn months in the New Forest herald the breeding activity of fallow deer (Dama dama). The rutting season begins in September and peaks in late October. As the foliage changes colour into the russets, oranges and yellows of late autumn, if you are quiet and listen intently, the sounds of amorous male fallow deer can often be heard across the Forest. With pannage season underway you would be forgiven for thinking that what you had perceived was the sound of a porker snorting to its piggy-friends. This is because the call of the fallow buck is a cross between a grunt and a belch, given in quick succession, that is used to attract mates and challenge other males. Bucks will protect a territory, known as a stand, into which they will attempt to entice does and form a harem. Upon hearing the sound of rutting deer any dogs accompanying you should immediately be put on their leads, if they aren’t already, and ideally you will vacate the area as quickly and quietly as possible to avoid alarming the deer. It is important to protect these animals from undue stress at this time, as any disturbance may affect their breeding success.

Naturalised species
The fallow deer is the most commonly encountered of the six deer species that freely roam the British countryside. The New Forest has a fallow population of about 1,300 deer that are monitored by the Forestry Commission. Outside of the rutting season fallow deer roam in single sex herds of either bucks or does. When the males reach maturity, at about 18 months old, they will leave the doe herd and join a bachelor herd. Fully-grown bucks grow to a height of 94cm (approximately 3ft) at the shoulder and can weigh up to 93kg (approximately 205 pounds). From the age of three to four they grow ‘palmate’ antlers (just look at the palm of your hand with fingers outstretched to see what that means), which can reach up to 70 cm (27 inches) in length. During the summer months their coat is generally a chestnut colour with white mottles, which deepens to a darker, unspotted pelt in the winter. Other variants of coat colour also exist, which range from almost black to white, but these are not as common. Even though they are a familiar sight in the countryside, fallow deer are not a native British species. The Romans first introduced fallow deer shortly after their conquest of Britain in 43AD. The deer were kept in specially designated parks, called ‘vivarium’. When the Roman Empire collapsed and Roman rule in Britain ended, fallow deer became extinct in this country. However, William the Conqueror, who also created the New Forest, reintroduced fallow deer in the 11th century and the descendants of these animals became naturalised and have remained part of our countryside ever since.

Avoid disturbing deer, as stress during the rut can affect breeding success.

Avoid disturbing deer, as stress during the rut can affect breeding success.


You Tube documentary: Dama – The Deer That Walked the World,

You Tube sound clip of fallow bucks:

Dama International – The Fallow Deer Project:

British Deer Society:

Forestry Commission:

New Forest National Park Authority:

Stag Antlers:

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New Forest: pannage, pigs and wild boar

Pannage season is an ancient practice for commoners with Common of Mast

Common of Mast is an ancient practice that has pigs roaming the Open Forest during pannage season.

Autumn has got to be one of my favourite seasons of the year. The annual drifts are underway, the heaths and woodlands are changing colour, adding variety to the hues of the already breath-taking scenery, and pannage season has begun. During pannage season the local people with ‘Common of Mast’ are allowed to turn out their domestic pigs to roam on the Open Forest. (Pannage season this year runs until Sunday 13th November 2016). The pigs eat the forest seeds and nuts, such as beechmast and chestnuts, and provide an essential service to the Forest ecology by eating up the green acorns that are poisonous, in large quantities, to the free-roaming livestock and deer. This free-range foraging is also the traditional way of fattening up the pigs prior to slaughter, before the worse of the winter privations set in. Pannage has been observed since ancient times and is, therefore, a customary part of the New Forest calendar. Everyone looks forward to the sight of pigs and piglets rooting about in the undergrowth, providing a welcome addition to the spectacle of other free-roaming commonable animals.

Sociable Hogs
In times past pigs did not have a favourable reputation, being described by one seventeenth century text as having ‘exceedingly hard hairs, of a devouring gluttonous Nature, and therefore his head continually looketh towards the ground’ in his constant search for food.[1] This downward-looking aspect, it was believed, meant that the pig could never look up towards heaven (and God) making it a particularly stupid animal. The character of the pig as being fat and lazy seems to have been well established even by the 1600s, as it was remarked that they often grew so obese that ‘they have lain so long in one place that Mice have bred under them’.[2] However, it was considered beneficial to the health of the animal to ‘let it run abroad’, where it would avoid the diseases and illness caused by close confinement in dirty sties.[3] Pigs, it was conceded, were very sociable animals and it was observed that ‘if one Hog be hurt and he beginneth to grumble, all the rest of the Hogs in the same company will come in to him’.[4] Visitors to the Forest, who try to pet or feed the pigs or their piglets during pannage, take note!

Wild Boar
In 1686, it was stated that there were no wild boars left in England, and there was speculation that ‘it may be supposed that heretofore we had, and did not think it convenient to preserve that Game’.[5] The wild boar was considered a worthy adversary for huntsmen, and the aristocracy used boar hunting as a form of war games where they could practice the martial skills that would be needed on the battlefield. They believed that a wild boar who ‘when he seeth unavoidable death, he singleth out one of the Huntsmen and will run upon him with the greatest rage imaginable, not to be affrighted with swords or sticks’.[6] The boar was considered to have the strength of a lion and given the opportunity ‘will not only throw the Huntsman down, but if he hath no help will kill him’.[7] Charles I had tried to reintroduce wild boar to the New Forest in the early seventeenth century where, it was said, ‘they increased and became terrible to travellers’.[8] These animals were all killed during the English Civil Wars but, according to legend, not before they had bred with the domestic Forest sows and ‘tainted all the breeds of pigges in the neighbouring partes, which are of their colour; and kind of soot colour’.[9]  It is doubtful if any of the progeny from these pairings have survived. Nowadays the only wild boar on the New Forest are farmed-kept and were introduced by an enterprising farmer only a few years ago.

Wild boar once roamed freely in the New Forest but by the C17th were extinct.

Wild boar once roamed freely in the New Forest but by the C17th were extinct.


[1] Wolfgangus Franzius, The History of Brutes, Or, A Description of Living Creatures (London, 1670), p. 127.

[2] Ibid, p. 128.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid, p. 130.

[5] Nicolas Cox, The Gentleman’s Recreation, Third Edition (London, 1686), p. 54.

[6] Wolfgangus Franzius, p. 129.

[7] Ibid.

[8] John Aubrey, The natural history of Wiltshire: written between 1656 and 1691 (London, 1847), p. 59.

[9] Ibid.








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New Forest: signs of the times

The Agisters control the drifts and direct the commoners who assist with the round-ups.

Signage, alerting people that a drift is taking place, is displayed in the area of the pony round up.

As my regular readers will know, the drift season has started. The season runs from August until November and entails rounding up the ponies across the New Forest in a series of drifts that take place in approximately 40 locations. It is an important activity in the commoner’s calendar and involves driving the free-roaming ponies into pounds in a specific area where they can be given wormers or fitted with florescent collars and tail-marked by an Agister if they are staying on the Forest for the winter; or they can be loaded onto trailers and removed to the commoner’s holding if they are to be kept in for the winter or sold on. Although this is an annual activity, the season’s drifts still require a considerable amount of up-to-date planning and preparation to ensure that they run smoothly. One of the important pre-event tasks is to place signage in prominent locations, which inform Forest users in the area that a drift is in progress. This is done to prevent people from becoming unwittingly caught up in the drifts and causing unnecessary risks to themselves, the riders participating in the round ups and, of course, the ponies. To reduce this hazard further, the car parks in the vicinity of the drifts are closed while the round up is in progress. The gates are locked and signs are displayed explaining why the car park is inaccessible.

Signs of the times
On a recent drift I noticed one Forest user who decided that, round up or not, they were determined to park their vehicle at a particular car park in the area. They had left their car in the middle of the car park entrance with the bonnet pointing towards the sign pinned to the locked gate, which clearly explained that a drift, being a necessary part of the stock control activities of the Forest, was in progress and apologising for any inconvenience. Either the sign was not noticed or it was completely ignored because the vehicle had simply been abandoned by its driver. After the drift had finished and all the ponies were safely in the pound, I made my farewells to the Agisters and my fellow commoners and left. As I passed the car park I’d seen earlier in the day,  there in the middle of the gravel track at the entrance was the same motor vehicle but this time it was facing an open gateway and a completely empty car park. The drift being over meant that the car parks were now reopened and the gates had all been unlocked. In this instance, however, there were frustrated drivers trying to access the car park but were being blocked by a lone vehicle. I can only imagine the seething resentment of the drivers wanting to park up and go for a pleasant walk only to be thwarted by the actions of this determined parker. It was one of those occasions when I wished I’d had a camera with me just to record the looks of incredulity on people’s faces!

Many New Forest organisations strive each year to educate visitors about the inconveniences and dangers of illegal and careless parking.

Many New Forest organisations strive each year to educate visitors about the inconveniences and dangers of illegal and careless parking.


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New Forest: Alice Lisle – traitor or martyr?

A dawn walk on the New Forest is the best way to start the day.

Dame Alice Lisle lived in the New Forest during the troubles of the seventeenth century.

The 2nd September marked the anniversary of the death of Dame Alice Lisle. She was the last woman to be executed by a judicial sentence of beheading in England, and died in early September 1685, at the age of 68. Her alleged crime was of harbouring fugitives at her home in Moyles Court after the disastrous Monmouth Rebellion, which ended with the Battle of Sedgemoor. The Monmouth Rebellion was an attempt by the illegitimate son of Charles II to overthrow his uncle James II. James II had converted to Catholicism and the Duke of Monmouth, being a protestant, felt that this gave him a better claim to the throne. Monmouth’s small army was poorly trained and ill equipped for fighting against the professionally trained and seasoned royal army. During the Battle of Sedgemoor, as soon as it became apparent that his army was being defeated, Monmouth fled towards the coast with the aim of making for the continent. He was found, after a tip-off, hiding in a ditch near Verwood disguised as a peasant. He was arrested and later executed on Tower Hill, in July 1685. In the meantime, other rebels fled the battle scene. John Hickes, a well known Non Conformist Minister, and Richard Nelthorpe, a lawyer who carried the taint of outlawry, sought shelter with the widowed Lady Lisle in her New Forest home. The following morning, after another tip-off, the two men were arrested and Lady Lisle was charged with aiding the traitors.

Judge Jeffreys – ‘The Hanging Judge’
The trial judge during Lady Lisle’s court case was the notorious Judge Jeffreys, known as ‘The Hanging Judge’, who had a reputation for severity and prejudice. From the outset it is clear that he considered the unfortunate lady guilty. Her defence was that she had not known that the men had been party to the Monmouth Rebellion; she had thought that they were in trouble for preaching illegally. She pleaded her innocence and declared that she had no sympathies with the rebellion. Judge Jeffreys, however, refused to believe her. Because she had been married to one of the men who had organised the trial of Charles I and had overseen his regicide, Jeffreys concluded that she must be a traitor. Judge Jeffreys therefore bullied the reluctant jury into finding the old lady guilty. The jury were said to have found Lady Lisle ‘Not Guilty’ three times and each time Judge Jeffreys sent them out again. Only when he threatened them with ‘an attaint of treason’ did they find her guilty. He expressed surpise at the jury saying; “I did not think I should have had any occasion to speak after your verdict, but finding some hesitancy and doubt among you, I cannot but say, I wonder it should come about; for I think in my conscience the evidence was as full and plain as could be, and if I had been among you, and she had been my own mother, I should have found her guilty”.[1] James II commuted her sentence, of burning at the stake, to beheading in deference to her rank and she duly lost her life on a public scaffold in Winchester, opposite the Eclipse Inn. Moyles Court, the scene of the alleged crime, stills exists and is now a thriving school. There is also a pub and restaurant nearby named in her honour. Her shade is said to haunt the vicinity, where she is often conveyed in a spectral coach pulled by headless horses, or the crunch of its wheels can be heard on the gravel tracks at night. As a result of her treatment many writers have described Lady Alice Lisle’s execution as a judicial murder and she is also regarded as the first martyr of the Bloody Assizes.

The shade of Dame Alice Lisle is said to ride in a phantom coach.

The shade of  Alice Lisle is said to ride in a phantom coach. The crunch of its spectural wheels can be heard on the Forest tracks.

[1] T. B. Howell, A Complete Collection of State Trials, Vol. XI (London, 1816), p. 374.


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New Forest: autumn drifts in!

The Agisters control the drifts and direct the commoners who assist with the round-ups.

The Agisters control the drifts and direct the commoners who assist with the round-ups.

A sure sign of autumn in the commoner’s calendar is the commencement of the pony drifts that take place each year. The drifts are round-ups that are conducted by the Agisters and commoners, which aim to collect together as many of the free-roaming ponies as possible for checking, processing or dispersal. Drifting on the New Forest has an ancient lineage and originated during the medieval period as a method of hunting deer. Herds of red and fallow deer would be driven by riders into nets or towards waiting bowmen who would shoot them as soon as they came into range. Nowadays the drifts are used to round up the ponies into pounds, which look like large corrals, where they can be given wormers or fitted with florescent collars and tail-marked by an Agister if they are staying on the Forest for the winter; or they can be loaded onto trailers and removed to the commoner’s holding if they are to be kept in for the winter or sold on. The Forest is divided into four districts with an Agister responsible for each one. The word ‘Agister’ is derived from the old Norman French and basically means to care for and feed animals, such as deer, cattle and horses, for a fee. Agisters patrol their districts daily, often on horseback, and have an intimate knowledge of the terrain. The daily contact they have with many of the animals and commoners in their territory becomes invaluable during the operation of the drift. The Agister will reconnoiter the area to be drifted, usually on the day before, to get an idea of which herds or bands of ponies are where. From this assessment the Agister knows how to conduct the drift and what directions he needs to give to those supporting him. Of course come the morning it all changes!

Commoning community
Over 40 drifts will take place between August and November every year, which will cover all areas of the New Forest. The Agister from each district is able to rely on the assistance of his colleagues, including the head Agister, in the running of the drifts. Many of the commoners, who own the free-roaming ponies, attend and assist with the drifts, some by riding with the Agisters and others on foot. Helping on a drift where ones ponies are depastured is always filled with feelings of excited anticipation. There is always a hope that one’s ponies will come in to be processed. However, many commoners work in full-time occupations that do not give them the flexibility to attend the weekday drifts, so the support of the rest of the commoning community is vital. Commoners will help on drifts outside of their areas or districts to assist their brethren. It is an import activity on the New Forest and one that depends on cooperation, coordination and communitywide support. Once the work is done and the ponies are in the pound, it is also an opportunity for meeting old friends, making new ones and absorbing the atmosphere of an important New Forest tradition.

The Agister cuts the pony's tail to show the owner has paid their marking fee.

The Agister cuts the pony’s tail to show the owner has paid their marking fee.

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The Curious Tale of Timothy Tight

The 'wild' ponies of the New Forest receive veterinary medicine when necessary.

This story takes place on one of the hottest days of the year (1845) in the middle of a drought!

This is the curious tale of Timothy Tight, as written for the Hampshire Advertiser in September 1845, as part of the ‘Sketches in the New Forest’ series. The hero of the story was described as a young-looking person of rather diminutive form who, having learned the skills of a piano-tuner, was seeking to make his fortune. By chance he discovered that an Earl residing in the New Forest had just taken delivery of a rather fine pianoforte, which was a gift for his daughter Lady Mary. Timothy decided to pay a visit to the Earl and offer his services in keeping the piano tuned and in good order. His journey from London coincided with one of the hottest days of the year in the middle of a drought. The animals of the Forest waited beside empty ponds as he made his way along the dusty tracks. He became rather overheated and parched as he tramped along the roads but, by and by, saw way off in the distance a house where he thought he could be relieved of his torment by having a cooling cup of water. As he approached the building he realised that it was a public house – The Horse & Jockey – and upon entering asked for a pint of beer, which he drank most gratefully. Having refreshed himself he continued on his journey and soon found himself in the grounds of an elegant mansion. He felt rather trepidatious about entering but seeing an old man sat in the garden, under the shade of a portico, he presented his card and asked if it were possible to speak to the Earl about tuning the pianoforte. Now, Timothy had never seen an Earl and was expecting someone far grander than the kindly gentleman, without a cravat, dressed in a straw hat and summer-weight clothes, who spoke to him now and did not realise that he was actually addressing His Grace. The Earl knew this of course and was quietly amused, but it just so happened that Lady Mary had only that day complained about her new piano and the Earl, seeing this as an opportunity to make his daughter happy, decided to show the young man into the drawing room to tune the piano.

Boldness brought on by strong beer
Perhaps the boldness of Timothy’s next remark to the kindly old man was the result of the strong beer he had refreshed himself with earlier in The Horse & Jockey, or from the pangs of the terrible hunger he was experiencing, but he began to speculate aloud on the character of the Earl and whether or not he would stand a good dinner and bottle of wine. Indeed, he confessed to the kindly old man that he was totally famished. On hearing this the old man rang the bell and gave whispered instructions to the servant who came in answer. As Timothy tuned the piano a gentleman of stately bearing entered the room. Timothy naturally understood him to be the Earl and bowed deeply but he was in truth the butler. The butler invited Timothy below stairs where a splendid meal, that consisted of a round of beef and a full bottle of sherry, were laid before him. He was making good progress towards the bottom of the bottle when the butler asked Timothy if he could tune the pianoforte in the schoolroom. He would be able to come back later and finish the bottle. Timothy was shown into the room and let to his work but when Timothy began to tune the piano he felt rather giddy. He was sensible of his situation and rather regretted drinking such quantities of strong liquor earlier in the day before imbibing in sherry wine, so he decided to walk around the room to revive his senses.

Oh, dear! Lady Mary.
Unbeknown to Timothy Lady Mary, whose general health was at the best of times delicate, was resting in the schoolroom. The butler had placed a screen around her to prevent her being disturbed and she was now in a deep sleep. Timothy saw the screen and was curious to see what was behind it. There he discovered Lady Mary looking for all the world like an apparition or the most beautiful waxwork doll he’d ever seen. He detected no signs of life in her and so reached over and pinched her cheek. In that instant he realised that she was indeed real. Upon feeling Timothy’s rough examination Lady Mary awoke and began to scream hysterically. Timothy ran away in a state of fright and confusion, with Lady Mary’s screams echoing after him. He soon found himself in an antiquated hall where he slumped down, feeling utterly dejected, exhausted and slightly tipsy. Soon he fell asleep and dreamed of the events of the day – the parched heathland, the thirsty ponies, his visit to the Horse & Groom, the kindly old man and Lady Mary. Oh, dear. Lady Mary. The Earl was informed of the events that had unfolded and quickly realised that Timothy’s behaviour had been foolish rather than vicious. His servants had made a search for the unfortunate piano tuner but had not located him and it was supposed that he’d run away. The Earl continued with his engagement, which was entertaining the local vicar, doctor and some distinguished families from the neighbourhood. As they watched the sun setting gorgeously over the New Forest heathland and woods in the distance they were interrupted by a pandemonium from the servants and cries of “Fire! Fire!” The house was momentarily in uproar until the Earl wisely resolved to ascertain the location of the supposed conflagration. A search was made of the house, which found Timothy Tight lying on the floor in a complete swoon. Upon reviving he explained that he had awoken in the dark and feeling rather groggy had pulled the bell cord to summon a servant but had pulled the fire bell by mistake. On hearing the cries of “Fire!” he had fainted with sheer fright. Timothy Tight was allowed to stay the night to recover himself fully before leaving for London the next morning. He never returned to the New Forest ever again.

The New Forest has 13.5 million day visits each year.

The New Forest is a beautiful landscape in all weathers and at all seasons.

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New Forest: the heritage of the ’60s.

In times past there were no convenient paths and tracks for cyclists or walkers.

In times past there were no convenient paths and tracks for New Forest cyclists or walkers.

In 1966 the Financial Times newspaper published an article about a map of the New Forest that Ordnance Survey was planning to produce. This map would be different from any previous style of tourist map because it was going to use colour to depict the vegetation and types of country. According to the article, the map showed ‘public rights of way, camping sites, car parks, places for angling, boating, riding and golfing, view points and ancient monuments’.[1] It is interesting to note that cycling, which is a popular activity in the Forest today, is not mentioned at all. I can only conclude that the Forest tracks at this time, which were generally unmade and very rough, would have been extremely uncomfortable to ride on using the rudimentary road bicycles of the day. The Ordnance Survey map could be purchased for between six shillings to ten shillings, depending upon whether you wanted it flat paper, folded paper or mounted cloth. I couldn’t possibly hazard a guess as to how many tourist maps of the New Forest have been created since then.

Cars, caravans, and campers
Of course in the 1960s tourists were able to camp all over the Forest, wherever they could access in their vehicles. All campers had to do was to purchase a license from the Forestry Commission. Caravans, tents and cars were common sights across the landscape of the New Forest during this time. According to Forestry Commission figures for the period, the number of camper nights, i.e. one camper for one night, increased from 83,000 in 1956 to 485,000 in 1969. At the end of the tourist season in 1969 an estimated 20,000 cars per day were off-roading on the Forest at peak times. This was at a time when the Forest attracted 3.5 million day visitors per year.[2] Can you imagine what the Forest would look like if the same permit conditions existed for the 13.5 million day visitors per annum who visit the Forest today?[3] Fortunately for the New Forest things changed dramatically in the mid-1970s with the introduction of initiatives, such as car-free zones, dedicated campsites and official car parks. Nearly fifty years later we can appreciate the scenic beauty of the Forest and its abundant plant and animal life thanks to the strenuous parliamentary campaigning of some far-sighted individuals and local organisations. Tourism is an important part of the New Forest economy that, like the impact of its residents, is now managed to ensure that people do not harm the very landscape, which they profess to enjoy. With the heather shortly coming in to bloom tourists will be able to appreciate a sight that is one of the joys of visiting the New Forest. The heathland will be soon be awash with the colours of purple and lilac, in some places as far as the eye can see. It’s a spectacle to be enjoyed by all. A landscape appreciated becomes a landscape loved and a landscape preserved.

The colours that nature paints across the New Forest landscape are just beautiful.  The colours that nature paints across the New Forest landscape are just beautiful.

The purple of the New Forest heather in bloom can, in some places, be seen as far as the eye can see.

[1] Tourist Map of the New Forest – The Financial Times (London, England), Tuesday, March 29, 1966.

[2] Forestry Commission figures quoted in Colin Tubbs, New Forest: History, Conservation, Ecology, (Lyndhurst, 2001), pp. 98-99.

[3] New Forest District Council website – Tourism and Travel, updated September 2015, [accessed 7 August 2016]:

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