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The New Forest in Hampshire, England, boasts many
Apart from the deer, ponies, cattle, donkeys, badgers, foxes, bats,
mice, water rats, vipers, grass snakes, owls, Dartford Warblers,
curlews and countless other birds, spiders, butterflies and other
insects may be seen in one short walk.
A number of animals roam freely across the heath and woodland.
Fallow deer can be seen, often in large herds, whereas the
Red deer, and its even shyer cousin, the Roe deer, are
harder to spot. Shyest of all are the Sika deer, which confine
themselves to a small area in the depths of the pine forest just
south of the railway line.
Ponies, cattle and donkeys graze throughout the open pastures,
wild heathlands, and boggy mires. These are owned by commoners, who
pay a small fee for the right to graze the Forest. Those you see
about you are never-the-less still very much in a wild state - a fact
that is dramatically illustrated during the traditional autumn
round-ups. Each commoner has his own brand for you to spot (many
local pubs display the full range).
Visitors whose roots are firmly in the town may perhaps be feeling
nervous of some of the beasts they encounter. Let me put your mind at
rest. Not one of these animals will harm you in any way, provided you
respect their independence. A distance of 10 paces from them is safe
at all times, providing they have no young at heel, when it is wiser
to keep a little further away. The ponies particularly are not noted
for their sense of humour, especially if you are tempted to
(illegally) feed them!
Pigs are frequently seen during the pannage season.
This is in the autumn, when those Forest small-holdings, with
Rights of Pannage, can release their pigs to gobble up the
'mast' (ie the fallen fruits of the forest). The favourite and most
abundant fruit is the acorn, but beechnuts and sweet chestnuts are
The viper or adder is naturally feared for its
poisonous bite, but is rarely encountered by the casual visitor.