Tuesday, March 23, 2010

September 11, 2009 - The old New Forest

Despite having lived in England for almost forty years, we had never visited the New Forest, a 141,000 acre park like area in the south of the country. "New", of course, is a relative term - this particular forest having been created as a royal forest in 1079 by William I - William the Conqueror - for private hunting use. Essentially, 20 plus small communities were deemed to be a single area exclusively for the kings pleasure with deer strictly off-limit for non-Royals. The actual territory, in reality, is too poor for viable farmland and comprises open foraging areas, heathland, bogs and some treed areas, with about 25 miles of coastline on the English Channel. It is contained within the counties of Hampshire and Wiltshire. Perhaps the most renowned and well loved feature of the New Forest is the presence of hundreds of ponies and donkeys living in the wild throughout the area. The New Forest Pony is one of the indigenous horse breeds of the British Isles and most of the Forest ponies are of this breed.
On a practical note, after William I commandeered the ar
ea, an accommodation was reached with the inhabitants giving them the right to graze horses and cattle, gather fuel wood, cut peat, quarry clay, and to turn out pigs in the fall to eat acorns. Cycling, hiking and camping are popular pursuits of the eight million or so visitors drawn to the area each year. Interesting as our visit may have been, we did not regret having stayed away for forty years.
Several small towns and villages exist in the forest, along with a few rural commercial enterprises making the total
population to an astounding 38,000. In 2005 the forest was granted National Park status - the eighth in England - and is the country's only UNESCO natural World Heritage Site.
Our selected campsite was in the backyard of The Red Shoot Inn, located in the heart of the forest. The pub takes its name from Red Shoot Wood and had previously been a gas station and before that a private members club. The pub has been in operation since 1963. Click here for additional pictures.

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