A WOMAN from Burley who has dedicated her life to the Forest is bequeathing her £1million cottage and land to a charity to give a family a home and keep the tradition of commoning alive.
Dionis MacNair, who was awarded an MBE in 2010 for services to the Forest, has stunned members of the New Forest Trust, after announcing that she is to leave her three-bedroom cottage and 11 acres of land to the charity.
She told the Forest Journal that “the appalling problem of affordable housing for commoners” had prompted her to pledge her home to the trust.
Families However, Miss MacNair, who has been an elected Verderer for 30 years, has made it a condition of her will that the cottage can only be used by local families with an established history of commoning.
The property was bought by Miss MacNair’s father for £2,000 after their Portsmouth home was destroyed by bombing during the blitz in the Second World War.
The house was originally bought with two acres of land, but Miss MacNair has added to it over the years and it now stands in 11 acres.
Miss MacNair said: “We need more affordable houses for commoners if the tradition is to survive.
“This has always been a commoning dwelling and I want it to remain such.
“It is very difficult for a young person to get started these days because the house prices are crazy.
“Having served as a Verderer for so long, I know how very important it is for the Forest to have a stock of affordable housing for local families who are practicing commoners.
“Without a home and land to keep their animals, commoning would die out very quickly.”
Miss MacNair added: “I hope that my cottage will help fill that gap, and maybe even encourage others who love the Forest to consider leaving something to the trust in their will.”
Chairman of the New Forest Trust Richard Manley said: “We live in a wonderful area, and what makes it such a desirable place is the animals, so commoning is so important to keep the area special.
“There are lots of people living on the breadline in the Forest, but what makes it harder for commoners is the extra need for land, not just housing, and that’s what makes Dionis’ legacy so admirable.
“This is a wonderful surprise, and receiving this generous legacy will be very important to the trust – it is just what we were set up ten years ago to do.
“Dionis’ cottage is in a perfect location to provide a farming base for a commoning family for generations to come.”
The New Forest Trust was formed in 2003, to conserve the New Forest now and for the future.
Its aim is to raise money to support activities and organisations that work towards conserving commoning, looking after the woodland and Forest and support the people who live there.