PANNAGE season has begun on the Forest.

Commoners with the right of mast on the Crown land can turn their pigs out for sixty days in the autumn.

The dates of pannage are decided by the Verderers and in a heavy acorn year an extension can be granted.

This year is looking like quite a light acorn year which is bad for the pigs but good for the ponies, for whom the acorns are poisonous.

Pigs don’t just eat acorns, they forage for beech mast and chestnuts too. The rules on the northern commons are different and pigs can run out all year round.

All pigs have rings in their noses to prevent them hooking and damaging the ground. It doesn’t prevent them from foraging above ground.

In the past many ordinary people would have kept a pig to feed their family. During the war my grandfather, who was originally from London, kept a few pigs.

Rationing meant meat was scarce and on one occasion he put a butchered pig on the bed of the truck and covered it with wood. He drove all the way to Wimbledon to deliver the wood to his family.

On another occasion he carried two suitcases loaded with meat on the train- it was quite a job to make it look like they were as light as a feather.

I love to hear the old stories of how people evaded the rationing rules. The American officers were based at Minstead Manor.

The local commoning family were allowed to collect the leftovers from the kitchen to feed to the pigs- more often than not the food was too good for the pigs and the family had it.

My granny always blamed the American soldiers for stealing the cow bells as souvenirs. Now is a good time to check your fences.

All property owners have the responsibility to fence against Forest stock, including pigs which are pretty artful and can get through the smallest of holes.

We are all really enjoying the autumn days. This week we have begun to bring the cattle home and rather unusually for the season managed to get a second cut of silage off of one of our more productive fields.

The mares and foals have come in for some extra grass too. Have a lovely week.

Lyndsey Stride

Commoning Family

Twitter: @Cuffnells Pannage season in the Forest