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New commoners invited to take part in Forest mentor scheme

New commoners invited to take part in Forest mentor scheme


Helping to round-up New Forest ponies, caring for stock and sheep showing – these are just a few of the skills learnt by new commoners in an innovative mentoring programme.

The free scheme, organised by the New Forest Land Advice Service and the Commoners Defence Association, created seven pairings in June 2017 to encourage new commoners and help preserve the Forest’s traditional practices, and is now looking for this year’s novices.

Each pairing lasts one year, with participants spending time on their mentor’s land to learn vital commoning skills that ensure the survival of this unique way of managing the Forest’s rare habitats and traditional way of life.

Sami Blastock, from Buckler’s Hard, was amongst last year’s new commoners, and was learning from experienced commoner Charlie Knight based in Beaulieu. Sami said: ‘Charlie has allowed me to participate in many different aspects of farming, including commoning, attending Salisbury Market, Beaulieu Road sales, drifts, meetings and talks. When this course is done I hope to carry on with Charlie for many years to come.

‘Charlie is an absolute expert on deer especially fallow, we have watched sika stags on many occasions when checking the pigs, we would sit and watch and he would tell historical facts as well as throwing in what bird he could hear at that time without drawing breath!’

Richard Austin, New Forest Land Advice Service Training and Mentoring Co-ordinator, said: ‘Over the first two years of the scheme we have created 12 pairs, making it a fantastic way to forge successful working relationships and integrate young and new commoners into the commoning community.

‘The mentors have passed on their skills and knowledge on their holding and at various commoning events around the forest and we are looking forward to welcoming new commoners for the third year.’

The third year of the scheme will start in July and is mainly for young people, but you can also take part if you have rights attached to your property and want to become a practising commoner.

Those interested in hearing the experiences of last year’s participants, and finding out how to get involved, can attend the open evening at 7pm on Thursday 12 July at The Trusty Servant, Minstead.

If you are interested in attending the evening or are unable to attend but would like to know more about taking part in the scheme, please contact Richard Austin on 01590 646661 or

The mentoring programme is part of a Heritage Lottery Fund Our Past, Our Future landscape partnership scheme led by the New Forest National Park Authority in conjunction with 11 key partners.


Notes to photo editor:

Experienced commoner Charlie Knight with new commoner Sami Blastock.

Notes to Editor:

Our Past, Our Future

Our Past, Our Future is a Landscape Partnership Scheme for the New Forest which, supported by Heritage Lottery Funding, will undertake a range of projects to restore lost habitats, develop Forest skills and inspire a new generation to champion and care for the New Forest. The partnership focuses on the enclosed lands which surround the Open Forest.

The five year scheme is being led by the New Forest National Park Authority working alongside several delivery and funding partners, including the New Forest Land Advice Service.

For more information on Our Past, Our Future visit

About the Heritage Lottery Fund

Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about – from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. @HLFSouthEast

About the New Forest Land Advice Service

The New Forest Land Advice Service is available to landowners and occupiers who would like advice and support on a wide range of issues relating to land management. The advisors operate across the National Park, the Avon Valley and the coastal plain. Since the service started in 2010 it has advised more than 350 businesses.

The service offers:

  • A free and independent service for the land managing community in and around the New Forest and Avon Valley 
  • Support for landowners, farmers, New Forest Commoners, equine owners, graziers and community groups 
  • Advice to anyone who owns or manages a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC) in the area.

To find out more about the New Forest Land Advice Service, or arrange a visit, please call 01590 646696 or email

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 to find out more.

Media contact:

Beki Mole, Communications Assistant
New Forest National Park Authority
Tel: 01590 646639

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