WELL, it has been a week of ups and downs. The rain has finally come and the fields and Forest are all a vibrant green again, which contrasts so beautifully with the turning autumn leaves. Nevertheless the bogs and wetter crossings are still passable in places, which is extraordinary for mid-October. The fungi on the Forest is beautiful and peculiar- the lawns, bogs and woodlands are full of dozens of different species. The no-pick policy seems to be working in our part of the Forest and unlike the last few years we have seen very few commercial pickers out in the woods. The deer are busy hoovering up the acorns and crab apples and each morning as we walk to school we are serenaded by the rutting bucks. It has been a hard week with the cattle as one of our cows aborted very late. It is always devastating to lose a calf. We are awaiting the results but we and the vet suspect it was caused by neospora, a parasite found in dog poo. It is something we cannot vaccinate against or control which is so frustrating. I have been working very hard over the past few weeks on the text for the Commoning Voices Exhibition which opens on the November 3 at the New Forest Heritage Centre in Lyndhurst and runs to the January 6. The exhibition aims to celebrate the New Forest commoning community, revealing the people, animals, passion, knowledge and skills. If you are free I will be at the centre on the opening day alongside other commoners and would love to chat about our commoning lives. We also launched our Shared Forest Education Toolkit this week and alongside Jonathan Gerrelli, the head agister, presented the children of St Michael and All Angels C of E Infant School in Lyndhurst with their Shared Forest badge. It is really important that local schools help their pupils to understand just how special the New Forest is and how they can help to conserve it. The children have written this wonderful article explaining their learning:

Year 2 at St Michael and All Angels Infant School have been learning about the New Forest. We have learnt about Commoners, we learnt that they have commoning rights, which allows them to graze their animals in the forest. We really like thinking about the animals being the ‘architects’ of the forest because without them the forest would be a very different place! We have made posters on how to respect the ponies that are on the forest. We know that people must not feed the ponies as this can be dangerous for people and ponies. The ponies get all their good food from the forest such as gorse, holly, grass and other plants. It is bad for ponies to eat human food so people should not feed them anything. We also know that you should not pet the ponies. We have also learnt about the verderers, we know that they make sure that the commoners and others follow the laws of the forest. We learnt about the agisters and how they look after the animals in the forest. We have also learnt that there are many other National Parks in this country. We feel very lucky to live in the New Forest and hope that by learning more about it we will be able to help people look after this beautiful place so it will be there for many, many years for people to enjoy and discover its wonderful treasures.