The New Forest

The New Forest in Hampshire has been a popular retreat for city-weary Londoners for generations. My fiancée and I just returned from a few days rejuvenating; staying in a nice hotel set in the heart of the New Forest…

Rhinefield House

We spent a day cycling through the ancient deciduous woodland (see below), less ancient heathland, and positively modern evergreen (largely planted to feed the need for wood during the wars of the 20th century)…

Lily and ancient tree

William the Conqueror set out the boundaries of, what became, Royal Forest used for hunting and allegedly turfed off 36 parishes of local people (although some historians doubt whether so many people could have survived off farming the poor soil of the New Forest). Where trees were cleared, heathland now abounds…

New Forest

These heaths are now famous for the indigenous and feral New Forest Pony (above, and foal below).

New Forest Pony foal

As it was originally hunting ground, you will not be surprised to know that there are large herds of deer roaming the New Forest. We saw this group of female Red Deer while cycling through the forest paths…

Red Deer

Now hunting is not as popular, and without any other large predator, you may have seen in the news that deer numbers are growing to a level where they are causing significant damage to the small pockets of natural landscape that remain in the UK (including the New Forest). I heard that six or seven of the local gamekeepers have been tasked with culling 300 deer each! Such industrial scale killing of such majestic creatures is hard to stomach for those of us visiting and admiring the wildlife, but is a consequence of the imbalances in nature that can inevitably occur when so much of what is wild is concreted over. However, even hardened gamekeepers shy from killing the white harts and hinds (see below) for superstitious reasons…

White Hind

The white hind we saw crossing the road in the distance ahead of us was a wonderful sight that enhanced a sense of mystery that I felt in the New Forest. King William may have decreed that the New Forest was a playground, but some say he was amply punished for his crime of removing so many local people by the fact that two of his sons – including his successor, William II (Rufus) – were killed (both while hunting) in the New Forest.

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