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New Forest Rural Skills

New Forest Rural Skills

Lead Partner

New Forest Land Advice Service

What is it about?

The New Forest Land Advice Service and the Commoners Defence Association have developed a training programme for young farmers, young commoners, farmers and commoners, and other landowners and managers around the New Forest.

So far 376 people have been trained across 72 courses.

The courses are run at Sparsholt Agricultural College, with practical training at various New Forest locations. The focus is on giving the next generation of landowners the necessary knowledge and skills to sustain the traditional systems (coppicing, hedge-laying) and provide older generations with the new skills required for today’s modern-day agricultural requirements.

These courses encourage best practice management of land, integrating economic needs with management for wildlife habitats. They cover subject areas such as pasture and soil management, environmental and sustainable land management, wildlife conservation on the farm, understanding more about record keeping and farm paperwork, and farming.

There is also a mentoring scheme to pass on knowledge from experienced commoners to new and young commoners, which is now in its third year.

Watch the Rural Skills and Better Boundaries video:

By providing rural skills training:

  • Young and new commoners and farmers gain new skills such as pasture management, soils and livestock management, which ensures that commoners’ animals and the private lands of the New Forest are well managed and kept in favourable condition
  • Knowledge from more experienced commoners is being passed on to new or young commoners through a mentoring programme for 15 mentors and ‘students’
  • The natural heritage will benefit as the practical courses will result in 0.75 hectares of woodland coppiced and 150m of hedgerow laid and surveyed.
Mentoring scheme

The mentors within the mentoring programme, although they are paid a nominal amount for their time mentoring someone for a year, are in effect volunteers as the majority of their time they give is free. In addition, members of the Commoners Defence Association volunteer their time to advise and support the project across the three year period.

Seven commoners have mentored 24 young and new commoners over the three years.

Mentors are also given training in mentoring/coaching skills and the ‘students’ are trained in communication skills so that they are well equipped to write a blog, use social media and/or make films of their time in the mentoring scheme.

Visit the training page for information the courses within the Our Past, Our Future landscape partnership scheme.


It is hoped that the mentoring scheme will be continued beyond the funded life of the scheme at a relatively low cost if mentors can be maintained or new volunteers found.

Contact details

Richard Austin – OPOF Training and Volunteer Co-ordinator

Tel: 01590 646661 email:

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