The New Forest is well known for its ponies. Ponies ar everywhere. There are more than 3000 of them and they are permitted to roam freely – a concession granted in the 1079 charter. They feed particularly on the heathland and roadside verges and can regularly be seen ambling through the main streets of small towns and villages. At all times animals have right of way in the Forest. Speed limits are set accordingly.
But the ponies are not ‘wild’. Each is owned by a ‘commoner’ (a resident in the Forest) and is branded and registered for identification. Many are used for gymkhanas, riding schools etc. There are strict rules enforced to protect the purity of the breed and they are rounded up periodically to check their health and general condition.
Small numbers of cattle, donkeys and even a few pigs similarly enjoy the freedom to roam. The Forest also has several varieties of deer but, by their nature, they are far less conspicuous.
Occasionally they can become a little overfriendly!
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At this time, April, the trees are only just coming into leaf. The sunlight is able to penetrate the canopy of the woodland, picking out clearly the shapes and textures of the trees and creating attractive reflections on the surface of streams. The heathland is ablaze with the vibrant golden yellow of the gorse. But this is primarily a world of intimate beauty rather than spectacular grandeur.
One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man
Of moral evil and of good
Than all the sages can.
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The New Forest (situated mostly in S W Hampshire) comprises approximately 150 square miles of heathland and ancient woodland. It has changed little since the Bronze Age. The fact that the soils are largely infertile and unsuitable for serious cultivation has contributed to the Forest’s unaltered appearance. The area was a favourite hunting ground for King William I (the ‘Conqueror’) and acquired the name of New Forest by royal charter in 1079.
There will be more to follow.
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Not a self-portrait!