The Shared Forest

The Shared Forest

The Shared Forest

The New Forest is shared by many people, and it is important that we all do what we can to keep it special. We believe that most people would like to do more to help, but often lack the knowledge of how best to help. In 2015 the Heritage Lottery Fund agreed to support a landscape partnership scheme known as “our Past, Our Future” including a project promoting the “shared Forest”, led by the Commoners Defence Association. This website, launched in 2018, is an important part of this new approach to spreading understanding of the real New Forest, and helping everyone do their part to protect it.

The new approach is much broader than anything we have done before – commoners working directly with schools and businesses to help everyone connect with the New Forest, and to really understand the role that commoning plays in keeping it so special. If you have a question about the New Forest then please do get in touch with us to find your answer. If you work in a school then do ask about the Education Toolkit, or if you run a local business why not commit to joining the Shared Forest Business Group, sharing your commitment to the real New Forest with employees and customers.

In 2020 the partnership produced, for the very first time, a shared Communications Calendar, to help guide our messaging through the year, with shared seasonal priorities and social media hashtags. The calendar is available for download here.

Our Shared Forest

Our Shared Forest

Amazing rights & shared responsibility

The New Forest is a wonderful place to walk, ride or enjoy a picnic. It is also a living, working landscape, dependent on peoples willingness to graze their animals on it. It is vital to follow the New Forest Code when using the New Forest for recreation. Keep you distance from the animals, for your safety and theirs, and to ensure that their natural grazing habits are not altered. There is plenty of natural food for them to eat on the Forest. Hand feeding teaches them to associate humans with food and can lead them to become pushy and aggressive with people who do not wish to share their picnic. It also attracts them to roads and car parks where they are at risk of a collision a with vehicle. Please keep you dog under control at all times and follow the New Forest Dog Walking Code Take your litter home. It is unsightly as well as being dangerous for grazing animals and wildlife. Throwing rubbish from your vehicle is an offence that carries a fine. In 2020 a group of young commoners made a 2 minute video explaining how people using the New Forest for recreation came help their work> You can watch it here:

Living in the New Forest - A very special place to live

The New Forest is a wonderful place to live, with animals free to roam across the heath, along the roads and up to your front gate. All the land beyond your fence is part of their historic grazing, regardless of who owns it, so it is important to keep it accessible and safe for them to graze. Please do not move your fences, driveways or gates onto the grazed areas, or restrict the animals access to hedges. Hedgerows provide vital fodder, particularly in winter. You are responsible for preventing grazing animals getting into your property. If they do enter you will be responsible for their safety, so please make sure that your gates are shut and your fences and hedges are stock-proof and in safe condition. Keep your domestic rubbish and recycling inside your gate: the council’s refuse collection staff will collect it from there. Rubbish sacks left on the Forest are attractive to grazing animals and may be torn open and the contents eaten. They present a very real danger to commoners’ animals.

Shared Forest Business Group - Join us and show that you care for the New Forest

We have set up the Shared Forest Business Group with local employers to increase drivers’ awareness of the care needed when driving on the unfenced roads. The Group is free to join and simply requires commitment to the Group’s charter to share our concern for the New Forest. Member businesses can use the Shared Forest Business Group insignia on their vehicles and advertising. You can find out more on the Business Group page. We are also working with a wide range of local organisations to share information about commoning and our animals with visitors and residents, ensuring that their experience of the New Forest is enjoyable and beneficial to all.

On the road - Advice for New Forest Drivers

Animals are likely to be close by or crossing the unfenced roads of the New Forest at any time of the day and night. They have right of way, so motorists must take extra care to avoid them. Please be alert when you cross a cattle grid. Remember – animals have NO road sense and:

  • Be ready to stop – animals can step out even when they’ve seen you approaching
  • Drive slowly, especially at night – there is a pool of darkness behind the headlights of approaching cars – an animal may be standing in it
  • Give animals grazing by the side of the road a wide berth – cross to the other side of the road and be prepared to STOP if there is on-coming traffic


Learning about the New Forest - Commoning Education Toolkit

The Shared Forest has developed a series of engaging projects based on the New Forest and commoning for schools, clubs and anyone who wants to share the amazing wildlife and landscape of this incredible area with children and young people. It makes a great introduction for groups who are coming here to stay and an important contribution to the national curriculum for schools in the area.

Free downloadable resources for schools, youth groups and families

Education Toolkit

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