The History of the Forest
Despite the fact that it may claim to be the largest single unit of ‘unsown’ vegetation remaining in lowland Britain (Tubbs 1968), the New Forest is none the less a man-made system. The shaping of the Forest owes as much to its past history of human management as to its current grazers. The two are, of course, not entirely independent. Man’s activities clearly affect relative numbers of wild herbivores within the Forest area today, as in the past. Man’s domestic animals, too, are major contributors to overall levels of grazing within the Forest. But other human activities have also affected the Forest and its development, and continue to do so. The whole development of the Forest may be seen as a chronicle of human activity and human pattern of land-use — and Nature’s continued response to the different pressures of each generation. The current ecological functioning of the Forest system is influenced by this history and by current methods of land-use; these modern activities are themselves restricted by the laws and traditions of the Forest, and by an administrative system which has evolved over 900 years. The Forest today is a complex product of all such factors, human and biological. Fully to appreciate the ecology of this curious system it is therefore critical to understand its social context, both historical and present-day.
KeywordsThirteenth Century Forest Clearance Wild Herbivore Forestry Commission Statutory Body
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