WE SEEM to have gone from long hot dry days to short wet and dark days. Wellies and waterproofs now line the entrance to the house.

Pannage started a little early this year, before the acorns had really begun to drop, now with the rain and wind the acorns and crab apples are falling in abundance and the pigs are feasting.

The ponies and cattle have moved in to the woods to escape the worst of the rain and to forage for the nuts. Across the New Forest commoners are gathering their cattle herds.

We had a stroke of luck with some of our cows, a fellow commoner drove them in whilst catching his own so it was a case of simply driving up to the pound and loading them.

We do have a couple of wanderers to track down though! The twins had their first taste of cattle driving when we went in search of Grandad’s cattle. It is a great way for children to learn the ways of the Forest, driving cattle is a slow and gentle task.

To see our kids driving the cattle in the same place that my granny would have walked her cows in to milk every day was very special.

Occasionally the local Agister will organise a cattle drift with a few commoners but these are less common than they used to be.

With the days shorter and more animals back on the holding everything has stepped up in pace.

Like most commoners we tend to carry out our commoning in the evenings and at weekends. It is a whole family activity, a way of life that has shaped the New Forest for hundreds of years.

It was a pleasure this week to lead a walk for the board of the Dutch equivalent of the National Trust, ‘Naturmonumentum’.

They were here on a fact finding mission and were fascinated by the way in which biodiversity and the traditional management of the New Forest were so interdependent. They were surprised by the lack of recreation management and were concerned about the impact of the open access policy on the wildlife.

There are just a couple of conservation areas in the New Forest where dogs are required to be on leads and fields are fenced, these are at Bolderwood and Queens Meadow and are specifically in place for the protection of the deer.

It is a shame that the Verderers and Forestry Commission are not bolder in protecting the New Forest. These conservation areas could be extended to protect our open heathland during the ground nesting bird season. The National Trust are currently leading the way in nature conservation in the New Forest.

With a dogs on leads policy at Foxbury they have seen a significant rise in Nightjars nesting, a significant success that the wider Forest needs to learn from. In the words of climate activist Greta Thunberg, ‘The eyes of all future generations are upon you and if you choose to fail us, I say: We will never forgive you’.

We must all put the Forest first, our generation cannot be the last to see Wild Gladiolus, Chamomile lawns, Nightjars or Skylarks and we must each play our part.

Commoning Family

Lyndsey Stride

Twitter: @Cuffnells