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The perambulation (legal boundary) encloses 145 square miles (37,500 hectares). Of this:
The latter two comprise 27,000 hectares owned by the Crown and managed by the Forestry Enterprise (part of the Forestry Commission). Of this 27,000 hectares:
About 5,000 Commoners' animals are depastured in the Forest and controlled by the Verderers - about 3,000 ponies and the remainder predominantly cattle (and a few donkeys).
"Very beautiful is this walk, with its paths which stray down to the water's edge, where the cattle come to drink; the stream pausing round some oak roots, which pleach the banks, lingering in the darkness of the shade, and at last going away with reluctance...."
"....The best advice which I can give to see the Forest is to follow the course of one of its streams, to make it your friend and companion, and go wherever it goes. It will be sure to take you through the greenest valleys, and past the thicket woods, and under the largest trees. No step along with it is ever lost, for it never goes out of its way but in some search of some fresh beauty"
(John Wise, 1895).
A very comprehensive bibliography of the New Forest has been compiled and published by the New Forest Ninth Centenary Trust, New Forest Museum and Visitor Centre, Lyndhurst, Hampshire, SO43 7NY, UK:
Of the many books on the New Forest, I recommend the following for the general reader:
I believe the first two books are now out of print. I would certainly recommend trying to get hold of a copy of "Explore the New Forest" from second-hand book shops; there should be plenty copies available. In addition to the excellent text describing the historical aspects of the Forest, the maps in the book are very useful. Terry Heathcote's book provides descriptions of most New Forest landmarks, heaths, ancient woodland and Inclosure. He also provides some good photographs.
The works quoted in the web site are:
I am also particularly indebted to the works of Anthony Pasmore and the late Colin Tubbs. I certainly recommend acquiring and reading any of their books on the New Forest. They are authoritative sources on the history and the natural history of the Forest.
A list of the books used in the development of this site is shown on the Links page.
The best map is the Ordnance Survey - Outdoor Leisure No 22 (New Forest); 1:25,000 (ISBN 9780319238660). The New Forest District Council tourist information site has maps.
The Forest Commission has recently produced a useful map of the Forest showing car parks and the National Park boundary.
The most detailed historical maps are the 18th & 19th century Drivers's maps available on this website. There is an excellent website showing maps of Hampshire from the 17th & 18th centuries: Old Hampshire Mapped. All maps are available for downloading at high resolution; they are also free of charge. For interesting maps of the Forest, select Milne's map of 1791, or Greenwood's of 1826.
"Scots pines are not inspiring growths to watch. They rise from bare woodland floors of pine needles. Few creepers climb their resinous trunks. They have no remedy for mischance, nor for wood wounds - if their foliage is scorched by a heath fire, they die - if they lose a branch, the loss is not repaired - if their leaders are broken off, they clumsily upturn the topmost horizontal branch as a substitute - and that is all they do to meet the changes and chances of arboreal life; whereas the resources and repairs of misfortune in all deciduous trees, and in holly and yew, are constant, and a delight to watch. They express tree-will to repair, to remedy loss and renew. Scots pine are bad losers."
(Heywood Sumner, 1931)
|Adjacent Commons||Private manors that border Crown land; most are owned by the National Trust.|
|To bring land within Forest Law (historically) or in current parlance to bring within the control of the Verderers and their Bye-Laws. It is a legal act. Disafforestation is to remove land from the authority of the Verderers.|
|Ancient & Ornamental woodlands||Unenclosed broad-leaved woodland.|
|Assarts||Waste cleared and brought under cultivation without authority.|
|Commoner||A person who occupies land to which Common Rights in the New Forest are attached.|
|Crown land||Land within the Forest held by the Secretary of State, DEFRA and managed by the Forestry Commission.|
|Enclosure||An enclosed space such as an earthwork, field etc.|
|Open Forest illegally enclosed, usually on its periphery, or around settlements.|
|Inclosure||Statutory inclosure made under various New Forest Acts, for the growth of timber. The Rights of Commoners are temporarily suspended within Inclosures. Commonable stock is excluded.|
|Open Forest||Lands of the Forest in Crown ownership, on which Common Rights apply.|
|The legal boundary within which the laws of the Forest apply. Historically, the law was Forest Law but now Bye-Laws apply. Within the perambulation, there are strict controls on land use and settlement. A perambulation is a written or mapped survey of the legal boundary; the survey was undertaken on foot to identify encroachments.|
|Purlieu||Land once within the Forest and subject to Forest Law, but later disafforested.|
|Purpresture||Unauthorised erection of buildings and enclosures.|
|The New Forest||All land, whether owned by the Crown, manors or private individuals, within the legally defined perambulation of the New Forest.|
There are very few public rights of way in the New Forest but walkers have permissive access to all Open Forest and Inclosures (unless closed for forestry operations - obey the signs). Close all Inclosure gates. Some of the Forest is privately owned. Walkers have access to the privately-owned former Adjacent Commons such as Bramshaw Commons, Hale Purlieu, Rockford & Ibsley Commons. Do not enter fields around settlements.
To explore the depths of the Forest, the Ordnance Survey map is essential and I would certainly recommend carrying a small compass if you go off the main tracks - it is very easy to become disoriented in the wooded areas. There are many walking guides. I recommend:
The New Forest can be very boggy in winter. If you don't wish to get your footwear muddy, keep to gravel tracks. The Forestry Commission publication "Explore the New Forest" is very useful in his respect because its maps show gravel tracks clearly in colour, unlike the Ordnance Survey map where they are marked as double-hatched tracks.
Give ponies and cattle a 2 metre berth; they are very passive providing you keep your distance. In my 30-odd years of walking in the New Forest, I have never been troubled by them. Remember - they have more right to be there than you have! Never feed them. Give pigs a very wide berth, particularly if they have young. They will chase you!
"But the effect of light is best seen in an evening storm, when it rises from the east, behind the woody bank; while the sun sinking in the west, throws a splendour upon the trees, which seen to such advantage against the darkness of the hemisphere, shows the full effect of light and shade."
(William Gilpin, 1791)