It was William the Conqueror who decreed that a sparsely populated forested area south of Winchester be turned into a royal hunting ground. It was his “Nova Foresta” or New Forest. Although the locals were allowed to stay, forest law was harsh and penalties for hunting the King’s deer were severe.
By the time James II was King, hunting was no longer as popular and the New Forest became a source of timber for the Royal Navy, the wood from 60 trees being required to build one man- o’- war. Ironically, the deer which had once been so important were now deemed a nuisance and the plantations created in the 18th century were fenced to keep them out. These days the daily feeding of deer at the Bolderwood sanctuary is a big attraction.
Tourism is now the major industry with attractions to suit all tastes.
Beaulieu Abbey, founded by King John and home to the National Car Museum; Bucklers Hard, where Nelson’s favourite ship, The Agamemnon was built; pretty villages like Minstead, where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is buried, and beautiful gardens at Exbury and Furzey. Riding, cycling and walking are all popular pursuits.
Wild life abounds in the Forest as does Flora and Fauna. There is a Falconry, a Reptile centre, and not forgetting the famous New Forest ponies – not wild as many suppose, but all owned by those who live in the forest, known as Commoners.
During WWII many airfields were built in the Forest , and it housed thousands of troops prior to the D- Day landings in 1944.
There are several designated camp sites for those who wish to make a long stay.
The New Forest is now a National Park and is administered from The Queen’s House in Lyndhurst.