New Forest and Pony Drifts

During a recent trip to England we stopped off in The New Forest on the south coast of England. It was originally developed as a hunting forest by William I in about 1079, and remains as one of the largest remaining tracts of unenclosed pasture land, heathland and forest in the south east of England.

New Forest Heath.I love autumn; and autumn in the New Forest is a wonderful sight. The gorse, trees, bushes and bracken are changing colours.

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As you drive around the forest, there are animals everywhere. During the autumn the pigs are allowed  to forage. The green immature acorns are not suitable for the ponies and cattle to eat, but the pigs love them. This tradition of grazing pigs in the forest is known as ‘pannage’.

Domestic pigs grazing in the New Forest.There are also cattle, donkeys and wild deer to be seen. Some of the animals wear reflective collars to make them more visible to road traffic in poor visibility. You can see them on the donkeys below.

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Perhaps the most well known inhabitants of the forest are the New Forest Ponies, one of the native British breeds. These ponies can grow up to 14.2hh (148cms) and there is no lower height limit. New Forest ponies can be any colour except piebald, skewbald, spotted or blue-eyed cream. The most common colours are bay and chestnut. A combination of colour and ‘markings’, such as the owner’s brand, make each pony easily recognisable, particularly to the practised eye. For the everyday visitor you can rest assured  that the ponies you see on the forest are pure New Forest breeds.

Ponies on the New Forest Heath. Ponies on the New Forest Heath.The animals have right of way on the roads; you often find them in the road and you just have to wait for them to move out of the way.

Traffic jam in the New Forest. Traffic jam in the New Forest.To keep the forest-bred stock healthy, stallions are moved every three to four years. The stallions are let out onto the forest between April and July to breed with the mares. The Verderers decide which registered stallions are allowed on to the forest to breed. In-foal mares and mares with foals at foot are a common sight throughout the year.

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Round ups of the ponies take place throughout the year and are known as ‘drifts’. These round ups are used as a form of stock management; to check the health of the ponies,to allow owners to remove young colts (breed management) and identify any stock that needs to be sold on. Sales for the Forest are held at the Beaulieu Road Sales Yard.

Beaulieu Road Sale Yard.Details of forthcoming sales are also posted here. We managed to arrive between the September and October sales.

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The sale yard is an open air complex of pens that connect to the main sales ring. It must be quite an impressive sight when the pens are full and the auctioneer is in full flow!

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Hrafnslith and the ATC

Sunset over the viking longhouse at the ATCWe spent a lovely weekend at the end of September with our viking friends (old and new) at a training weekend at the Ancient Technology Centre (ATC) in Cranbourne, Dorset. The weekend was organised by Hrafnslith; remember them from the event at the beginning of the summer at Corfe Castle?

Sunset over the viking longhouse at the ATCThe ATC is a great spot. It began over 25 years ago as a school project.  Jake Keen, a teacher working at Cranborne Middle School, designed and led the building of an Iron Age roundhouse based on archaeological evidence. Uniquely, Jake’s ethos demanded the construction and material gathering to be undertaken by school children.

There are a variety of buildings there, including the iron age roundhouse, viking longhouses, and roman style buildings.

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From the outside, the roundhouse looks like a hobbit house; a mound of earth with doors that seem to lead into the hill. But when inside, it’s a circular tiered area around a firepit that becomes the social centre for the evenings. Many a tall tale was told saga style in the evening.

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The longhouse provided a sleeping option. There are raised platforms here along the walls, and the fire in the centre of the house ensured that there was some warmth from the cold autumn nights. There are even runic carvings on the sleeping platforms.

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The outside walls of the longhouse have some wonderful mouldings.

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The roman house also has a garden outside.

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And there are even pigs and sheep. The pigs are very friendly ladies, and have their own enclosure. The sheep roam free……. and they go everywhere! I caught one of them trying to get into our van!!

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Hrafnslith provide viking based shows for the ATC during the season, and in return the ATC allow them to host training weekends for their group and other viking groups. It’s a chance to get some sword/spear/axe practice in and also catch up with a few friends! So here are a few photos of the lads and lasses having fun……….

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