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  • Gerald Ponting

visiting the new forest

Many interesting places and facts were gleaned by members of the Titchfield Gardeners’ Club, encouraging them all to pay more visits to the New Forest when Mr Gerald Ponting, a resident and authority on the area was the guest speaker at our May meeting. He presented a thoroughly enjoyable talk and many members were surprised how much more there is to be seen so close to home. Undoubtedly diaries are filling up with planned days out for the rest of the year.

The area was quite comprehensively populated during the bronze age, evident by the 300 known barrows, or burial mounds and also hill-forts in The Forest. When the Romans settled in the area, it became a pottery production area and there is now a recognised distinctive “New Forest Ware” type.

Little is known of the Saxon period but then came along William the Conqueror in 1066 and a few years later, ordered a hunting reserve. Domesday book records it as “Nova Foresta” and within it were harsh laws mainly to do with the Kings’ deer. No fences were allowed to be erected and hence the locals were allowed to graze their ponies, cattle and pigs on open land, a right that still exists to this day.

Shipbuilding became a very important issue in the medieval period and timber production in The Forest became paramount. Mighty oaks were needed for the British battleships. This resulted in a Parliamentary Act for the preservation of the trees and the fencing of enclosures was granted. (6000 acres at any one time)

King James II was the last king to ever hunt in The Forest. Deer continued to be a hindrance to young trees and by 1851 the “Deer Removal Act” was introduced. A much lesser amount is tolerated today.

Probably considered as a large village, Lyndhurst in very much regarded as the ”Capital of The New Forest,” particularly because it was in the hands of the King during Domesday and also because it is the location of the Verderers’ court – a place where hearings are heard in respect of commoners rights. The New Forest Centre, the museum, St Michael and all Angels Church and Queen’s House are all places to visit in Lyndhurst.

Minstead is probably a Mecca for Sherlock Holmes fans, for it is here in All Saints’ Church that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is buried. Furzey Gardens is also here and is a “must see” attraction for all gardeners.

For those that like a touch of mysticism, perhaps a trip to Burley is the order of the day and pay a visit to the “Coven of Witches” witch museum, although doing so before or after visiting the premises of “New Forest Cider” is very much down to your own discretion!

Owned now by English Heritage, Calshot Castle calls for a visit. Built on the orders of Henry VIII who was concerned by the prospect of French invasion, uses stone from the demolished Beaulieu Abbey in its construction.

Mention was made of Eyeworth Pond, a peaceful, tranquil spot and very natural looking however this pond was actually manmade by damming a stream in the 1880’s to provide power for a gunpowder factory.

The list goes on of interesting places to visit, too many to recount here. Gerald Ponting has written several books about the area, some wildlife specific to the New Forest, also a comprehensive visitors guide which is worth seeking out if you plan to spend more time in The Forest, and why not when it is just on our doorstep.

Steve Nash, TGC.


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