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18 June 2014
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Woodlands | New Forest

Woodland wonderland

New Forest

The New Forest in Hampshire dates back nearly 1,000 years to 1079 when William the Conqueror established the area as a royal forest and hunting ground - his 'Nova Foresta'.

The New Forest is a nationally important wildlife environment.

New Forest splendour

The historic New Forest is a nationally important environment comprising woodland pasture, heaths, bogs and the remains of coppices and timber plantations.

Today its 145 square miles of virtually undisturbed deciduous and coniferous forest provide excellent opportunities for nature watching, walking and riding.

The forest still retains many of the traditional practices including the pasturing of cattle, pigs, ponies and donkeys by local people known as Commoners.

Over the centuries the forest has been shaped by man, notably by successive monarchs who used it for timber, recreation and hunting, and by the Commoners grazing animals.

The New Forest was designated a National Park in 2005.

Deer watching

DeerAlthough the New Forest is no longer a hunting ground, there are still about 1,500 Fallow Deer living there.

Deer spotting is a popular pursuit, and visitors can look out for the deer's different coats which change from season to season.

The Fallow Deer has four different coats - the very spotted ones, white spots, creamy coats, and ones that are almost back?

Amongst the other deer in the forest are Red Deer, Roe Deer and Sika Deer.

One of the best ways to spot these shy creatures is to look out for deer prints especially in soft mud and by crossing places near streams.

Another great time to watch deer is at dusk, when the animals like to come out to graze.

Another good way of watching these elusive creatures is from the numerous hides in the New Forest. Also look out for organised dusk walks to these hides during the Summer.

The New Forest deer are carefully managed and culled in Winter to prevent over-grazing.

By keeping down the grazing, other nature is allowed to flourish resulting in a renaissance of plants and butterflies feeding from them.

New Forest Ponies

New Forest ponyOne of the forest's most famous and oldest residents is the New Forest Pony, which can be seen running loose in the wild.

There have been references to the New Forest Pony as far back as 1016. Although the ponies appear to be wild, they are privately owned by the Commoners of the New Forest.

The New Forest Pony is valued for its docility, friendliness, hardiness, strength and sureness of foot.

The areas of the forest occupied by groups of ponies are commonly called "haunts".

New ForestFlowers and butterflies

The New Forest is of great ecological value, largely because of the relatively large areas of lowland habitats which still survive.

The area contains several different types of important lowland habitat including valley bogs, wet heaths and deciduous woodland.

The extensive grazing of animals by Commoners has helped to maintain these habitats, resulting in an abundance of wildlife.

The wet heaths are important for rare plants, such as marsh gentian and marsh clubmoss, several species of sundew may be found in the Forest, and the forest bogs are home to the rare insectivore.

The forest is also a haven for many unusual insects, including the Southern Damselfly, the Stag Beetle, the narrow-headed ant, and the New Forest Cicada, the only cicada native to Britain.

There are also about 35 different varieties of butterfly in the forest.

Photos of woodland courtesy of New Forest District Council.

 

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