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This year's New Forest pony drifts hampered by abusive cyclists, disobedient walkers and poor fencing

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ABUSIVE cyclists, unmaintained fencing and disobedient walkers are just some of the issues agisters faced while undertaking the annual pony drifts this year.

In a report to the Verderers' Court it emerged that a small number of cyclists had caused problems at the drifts by refusing to follow advice to stay away. The agisters recalled in some cases a minority had become abusive.

Problems were also reported with a group of walkers at Hilltop, who had seen signs warning them not to enter the drift area, chose to ignore them. Other walkers had claimed not to have seems the warning signs.

Agisters faced a number of problems during the drifts this year
Agisters faced a number of problems during the drifts this year

Meanwhile, the verderers have also warned that long-term plans must be developed to maintain fencing around Forest inclosures so animals can be successfully rounded up.

Referring to a recent drift in when only 50% of ponies were rounded up by agisters due to a lack of inclosure fencing at Fawley, Official Verderer Lord Manners warned problems would persist without a proper maintenance regime.

Pointing out that Forest inclosure fencing is essential to ensure stock pounds were are useable, the verderers said that they had already replaced some lengths of fencing that were no longer required by Forestry England.

The verderers committee minutes revealed: “The problem is increasing as more inclosures are thrown open. An estimated 80% of the pounds need an inclosure fence.

“Given that stock is essential to the maintenance of the SSSI, the court feels that Forestry England should therefore accept responsibility for fencing where it is essential for stock management.”

Deputy Surveyor Craig Harrison said he understood the need for fence maintenance and would consider the issue further. He was also invited to attend a drift to witness first-hand the issues that can occur from a lack of suitable fencing.

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