Boost for New Forest commoning

New Forest Pony

Published Thursday 21 March 2013

The New Forest’s ancient farming traditions have received a boost thanks to land secured at Rockford Common near Ringwood, in support of commoning.

Hampshire County Council has acquired 15.78acres as part of a partnership project between a number of organisations with an interest in the future of commoning. These include; the New Forest National Park Authority, New Forest Trust, National Trust, Verderers, Commoners Defence Association, New Forest Association, New Forest Pony Breeding and Cattle Society and Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust.

Commoning is the traditional system of farming in the New Forest and involves those with common rights, allowing their stock to graze the commons with additional land being used to provide extra winter grazing and fodder.

Recent high prices of land within the New Forest has made it increasingly difficult for commoners to be able to purchase the essential extra land they need to allow commoning to continue. The land bought by Hampshire County Council will therefore support the future of commoning, with the long term management of the land passed over to the New Forest Trust with its in depth understanding of the needs of commoners and commoning. It will then be for the Trust to decide how the land should be used to maximise the long term benefit to commoners. Until that time, the land has been let to a local commoner.

County Council Leader, Councillor Ken Thornber, said: 'Commoning is of significant importance to the New Forest and dates back to 1079AD when the Forest was declared a Royal hunting ground by King William I. Today, more than 8,000 ponies and cattle graze openly on the Forest, and ensure that it does not become overgrown with brambles, gorse and other coarse plant growth.

'Commoning also ensures that the New Forest remains a treasured asset for recreation and tourism, as well as one of the major lowland pasture woodlands in Europe, and the County Council’s contribution towards safeguarding this valuable ancient practice is good news for its future.'

Alison Barnes, chief executive of the New Forest National Park Authority, said: 'The purchase of Rockford Farm has been a key stepping stone in bringing together all of the stakeholders to discuss and agree a shared strategy for back-up land across the Forest and for future support for commoning. If commoning is to continue in the long-term, it is essential that joint partnership schemes such as these develop and grow in strength.'

Richard Manley, Chairman of the New Forest Trust said: 'The New Forest Trust will continue to work with the partnership and thanks Hampshire County Council for making this purchase. The Trust was created for exactly this kind of situation and is delighted to take on the lease and in conjunction with others, the management of this land for the long term benefit of the Forest and its commoners who are so vital to its upkeep.'

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About the New Forest National Park Authority

Protect - Enjoy - Prosper

The New Forest National Park Authority’s statutory purposes are to:

■ Conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the Park - Protect

■ Promote opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of its special qualities – Enjoy.

We also have a duty to:

■ Seek to foster the social and economic well-being of local communities within the Park – Prosper.

The New Forest National Park was designated in March 2005. Its unique landscape has been shaped over the centuries by grazing ponies, cattle and pigs which roam free. Majestic woodlands, rare heathland and a spectacular coastline provide fabulous opportunities for quiet recreation, enjoyment and discovery.

Visit www.newforestnpa.gov.uk to find out more.

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