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?

Our Shared Forest

Our Shared Forest

Amazing rights & shared responsibility


The New Forest is a wonderful place to enjoy. Its status as open access land and its accessibility are due to centuries of grazing by commoners’ animals. This history of grazing is also the reason why it remains an incredible place for nature.  We can all do our bit to ensure that it is as good for the next visitor as it is for us.

Please keep your distance from the livestock. The New Forest depends upon their natural grazing, and provides everything they need – all year round. Any animal that needs extra care will be taken home by its owner. Feeding is bad for them and bad for the New Forest. It disturbs their natural trickle-grazing habits, draws them to people and roads, and creates aggression in herds. Foodstuffs cause colic or choke, which can lead to a very painful death. Grass cuttings, carrots, and apples are all a real danger to them.

For the safety of your dog, the grazing animals, and our special wildlife please keep you dog under close control and definitely in sight at all times. Follow the New Forest Dog Walking Code

Leave no trace. Barbecues are not permitted on the grazing land, for obvious reason. Every year we see grazing burnt by disposable barbecues, and wildfires ignited. Litter and leftovers must not be left where animals can get to them.

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 fences and hedges is probably part of their historic grazing, regardless of its ownership. Because of the ecological benefit of this continuous grazing you will also find that it is often designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).  It is vital to keep it accessible and safe for the animals. Please do not move your fences, driveways or gates onto the grazed areas. In the New Forest each property owner is responsible for maintaining their fences to keep livestock out: Many gardens contain poisonous plants and other hazards. If they do enter you will be responsible for their safety. Make sure that gates are kept shut, and fences and hedges safe and stock proof.

Please keep your domestic rubbish and recycling inside your gate: due to the special nature of the grazed New Forest the council’s refuse collection staff will collect it from there. Rubbish left on the grazing land is a very serious hazard.

Never put out anything for the animals to eat or drink. Not only is this an offence under the byelaws, but it is very bad for the animals and bad for the New Forest. It alters their natural grazing and drinking behaviour, upon which they, the landscape, and its ecology depend. Artificial feeding causes aggression in herds, and artificial water sources can spread dangerous viruses, including Strangles. No commoner will thank you for interfering with their animals’ ability to fend for itself whilst it is turned out to graze. The owners and the agisters keep a close eye on the livestock, and any animal in need of additional care will be taken home if this proves necessary.

Shared Forest Business Group - Join Now - Show your commitment to the New Forest

We have set up the Shared Forest Business Group with local employers to help them demonstrate their commitment to this very special place, and to promote safe driving in the special circumstances of the New Forest. 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. Follow this link to find out who are members are and how you can join us.

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. Follow the link to find out more about this great free resource:

Click here to see the free downloadable resources

Education Toolkit
A Shared Forest

A Shared Forest

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