THE Pannage season gets under way in the Forest today.

It involves pigs being released into the Forest to snaffle up acorns that can be poisonous to ponies if they eat them.

A spokesman for the Verderers said: “Once again a fairly heavy acorn crop is expected this year, and therefore the Forestry Commission and Verderers have agreed that the pannage season will commence on Saturday, September 8.

“Unless an extension is agreed, the pannage season will end on Sunday, November 11.”

Pannage is the practice of turning out domestic pigs in a wood or forest in order that they may feed on fallen acorns, beech mast, chestnuts or other nuts. Historically, it was a right or privilege granted to local people on common land and it is still an important part of the New Forest’s ecology.

It helps with the husbandry of the other New Forest livestock as pigs can safely eat acorns as a large part of their diet, whereas excessive amounts are poisonous to ponies and cattle.

The spokesman added: “Owners of property abutting the Forest are reminded that it is their responsibility to fence out Forest animals from their land.

“Fences that keep ponies and cattle out will not necessarily be adequate to stop pigs.”

Commoners who wish to exercise their right of pannage must arrange for their Agister to inspect, mark and ring their pigs at least 14 days before they turn them out.

For further information regarding the pannage season, contact the Verderers’ office at The Queen’s House, Lyndhurst, Hampshire, SO43 7NH or call 023 8028 2052.