The ancient tradition of communing dates back from before the days when William the Conqueror made this area his private hunting reserve and imposed strict laws on the locals. In fact, their grazing and browsing supports rare plant species including wild gladiolus and chamomile.
This in turn helps the wider ecosystem and encourages other species to thrive here including the Hartford warbler and the southern damselfly. In fact, the southern damselfly lays its eggs in the water-filled hoof prints of ponies (and cattle) nearby to the streams that pass through the New Forest.
Over thirty of these drifts take place during the summer and autumn each year giving the commoners a chance to check the health of their animals and wean and handle the foals. There is plenty of nutritious food available for the ponies and you will often find them grazing across the open moorland in small groups.
When the ponies are rounded up as part of the drift, some of them have these reflective collars put on them to help make them more visible at nighttime. A combination of color and 'markings' such as the owner's brand, make each pony easily recognizable, particularly to the practiced eye.
Stallions are presently turned out for 6 weeks in May and June and, as a result, New Forest foals are born in the spring and summer months and truly bring the Forest to life. However, as a breed, ‘ New Foresters’ have gentle temperaments and make excellent family riding ponies.
In fact, ponies sold at the Beau lieu Road sale yard have gone on to win top national competitions. All the animals departure on the Forest are owned by commoners, and it is their responsibility to ensure that their ponies are in good health.
Sisters organize the construction and ongoing maintenance of stock pounds within their area, they arrange and manage the rounding up of ponies. The New Forest National Park is a wonderful place to visit and you can help it stay that way by being a Forest friendly visitor.
After living 45 minutes from the forest for over 3 years now, I wanted to let you in on the bestNewForest towns and villages to visit. It’s one of England’s National Parks and home to the infamous NewForestponies, who reserve right of way at all times.
The New Forest is one of the best places to visit in Hampshire and is known for its dramatic autumnal and winter scenes, and perfect spots for spring and summer picnics. Founded by William the Conquered in 1079ish, nowadays over 15 million people visit the park every year.
The New Forest is made up of these pretty villages and towns, lots of trees, the beautiful seascapes of the south coast and a whole load of wonderful attractions to keep you busy. This is where you’ll find the almighty Pig Restaurant, Palmer Lawn Hotel, and some great Brockenhurst walks.
Ponies, cows and donkeys roam freely in Brockenhurst, and I’d be surprised if you didn’t see at least two of the three on a day out. Brockenhurst also has the main train station of the New Forest, providing the halfway point between Southampton and Bournemouth.
Top things to see in Brockenhurst include the site of the old New Zealand hospital by the church, a 1000-year-old yew tree and many signposted walks. Do NOT leave Brockenhurst without checking out Rhine field Ornamental Drive, it’s the prettiest road in the New Forest and has some great stop off points for picnics and walks.
This medieval abbey village is most famous for its Beau lieu National Motor Museum. Beau lieu dates back to the 13th Century, and the pretty streets are perfect for photo shots and fun memories.
Expect cute locally run stores, a pottery, tearooms and antique shops. People head to Lexington for the main street, especially the market on a Saturday morning.
One of the most popular things to do in pretty Lexington, is to walk the Silent Way along to the waterside hamlet of Key haven. Gawd Sandhurst traffic kinda ruins the vibe here, but it’s still a really pretty village in the New Forest.
The thriving High Street has butchers, bike rental, a Maserati garage and some lovely looking New Forest pubs too. Visit Amherst and you can expect great walking trails, cute pubs, heath land, wetland, woodland and the beautiful river too.
I was genuinely amazed by the beach, the spit and Hurst Castle at the end when I happened to visit one day. Explore Hurst Castle and you’ll be as close to the Isle of Wight as you can get on the mainland, without actually being there.
Stand on the breezy beach in Milford on Sea and you can enjoy stunning views east towards the Shingles, and west towards Hengistbury Head & Christchurch Harbor. The main street is lovely here for a little look round, but if you want something a tad more adventurous, you could book onto a fishing trip and go and catch some mackerel instead.
Among the other breeds they have been mixed with to create the variety you see today include Welsh, Arab, Thoroughbred, Hackney, Highlands and Ex moor. According to the New Forest Pony Breeding Society, they may be any color “except piebald, skewbald, spotted or blue-eyed cream”.
There is also a maximum height for NewForestponies (but no minimum): 14.2 hands (144 cm) from the ground to the top of their shoulder blades. Murderers administer the special laws attached to the New Forest, and have complete administrative control of all the Forest ’s stallions.
Their constant grass grazing is incredibly important to the landscape of the New Forest as, without it, the open forest and heath land would soon turn to scrub land. During the winter, once most of the grass has been eaten and doesn’t grow back as quickly, the ponies may also eat holly and gorse to help supplement their diet.
Some ponies also choose to eat acorns, despite the fact that they are poisonous to them due to the high levels of tannin inside. Every autumn, during a time of year known as the Manage season, Commoners release their pigs, who are immune to the acorns, to gorge on them.
Foals are born in the New Forest every spring, and can often be seen with their mothers, helping to bring the forest to life at this colorful time of year. The breeding takes place every year between April and July, with the mares’ gestation period lasting around 11 months.
These measures have been put into place as many ponies and other freely roaming animals get injured or killed by cars each year. If you’re driving in the New Forest during your holiday, be sure to carry an animal emergency hotline card so you’re prepared should the worst happen.
There’s the tiniest pub with fairy doors and an ice cream hut in the garden. It’s a lovely place to go for a wander, browse the gift shops, and have a stroll in the countryside.
You can walk for miles into the forest and head back for cake or a pub lunch afterwards. Another place in the New Forest that’s good for kids to paddle is Hatchet Pond just past Beau lieu.
Once you're there, the open-top New Forest Tour bus (adult day ticket £13) has added a third route this summer, so you can enjoy grandstand views of coast, countryside and pretty villages such as Burley, famous for its history of witchcraft. Passengers can swap between the three routes, take bikes on board and enjoy an audio commentary about the life of the New Forest.
Ride the new Beach Bus (adult day ticket £5) between Lexington and The and you get a free ice-cream at Lee Country Park. A good place to see them is at Teacher Wood near Brockenhurst, the start of a lovely off-road cycle ride to the pretty hamlet of Bank.
The buses will also take you to Beau lieu for the National Motor Museum and Buckler's Hard, where they built ships for Lord Nelson. But there's also a fantastic coastline, and lovely shoreline walks from Key haven harbor, on the New Forest Tour blue route.
For a treat, have afternoon tea at the Elmer's Court Hotel near Lexington, a 19th-century manor house in 23 acres of landscaped grounds, including the lovely Queen Mary Lawn.