Wednesday, November 3, 2010

New Forest ponies


At daybreak in the New Forest fog curls eerily upward from bracken and fern, then drifts in vaporous swirls in the uppermost branches of a 93,000 acre spread of ancient oak, beech and pine. Out of the mist, ghostly shapes of New Forest ponies materialize as they graze in the early morning on patches of heath.

The New Forest, which became a national park in 2005, is not only ecologically important, but also steeped in a history both fascinating and violent.

The New Forest's ancient history

Almost 1,000 years ago William the Conqueror, accompanied by his invading Norman army, swarmed England's southern shore. One of his earliest decrees as England’s new king was to claim this vast tract of land as a Royal forest. In those days thundering hoofs, the excited calls of men on horseback, and the panicked gasp of a fleeing stag were the sounds most often heard

Bird watching in the New Forest

 Today the jubilant cries of the hunter have been replaced by gentler sounds. Pregnant sows snuffle as they root in soft earth. Squirrels scamper among last year's acorns and badgers venture cautiously from deep earth burrows. All creatures, domesticated and wild, mingle peacefully with the forest's 1500 fallow deer.

Discover the New Forest's secrets

There is no better way to learn the New Forest's secrets and experience the magic of this 900-year-old natural habitat than to join a guided walking tour. Donning comfortable hiking shoes for an informative stroll across heath and woodland with a volunteer ranger will reveal much of the forest's folklore, history and its unique biology.

Posted by Anne Gordon on Wednesday, 3rd November, 2010


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