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Rare chance to take on a vital New Forest role of agister

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THERE is a rare opportunity to apply for one of the New Forest’s oldest and most respected jobs after longstanding agister Andrew Napthine decided to step down after almost 30 years.

There has not been a vacancy for the role, which involves safeguarding livestock across the Forest, at any time in the last 20 years.

Employed by the Verderers’ Court, five agisters undertake a range of jobs across the Forest including organising annual pony round-ups, dealing with road accidents involving commoners’ animals, monitoring the welfare of livestock, and collecting marking fees.

Andrew Napthine at work
Andrew Napthine at work

They are on call 24 hours a day, six days a week.

Paying tribute to his longstanding colleague, head agister Jonathan Gerrelli said: “Andrew has always carried out his duties in the calm quiet way that is needed when dealing with animals.

“Coming from an old traditional Forest family of commoners and learning from them the skills needed, particularly from his grandfather Len Mansbridge who was not only a commoner but also served as a verderer.”

Since becoming an agister in late 1991, Andrew worked throughout the Forest spending most of his time in the northern area, covering Bartley, Cadnam, Stoney Cross, Fritham, Hale, Godshill and Penn and Canada Common run by the National Trust.

The team of five agisters are employed by the Verderers
The team of five agisters are employed by the Verderers

Mr Gerrelli said: “It’s a large area, with a lot of stock, and one of the worst roads in the Forest for accidents involving the animals, and this has meant Andrew being called out on countless occasions at all times of the day and night in all weathers to go and deal with what can be at times very harrowing situations.”

Another part of the job is dealing with sick and injured animals and monitoring their welfare, especially in the winter and spring. Sometimes agisters need to put animals down when they are very unwell or badly hurt.

Mr Gerrelli said the role will require the successful applicant to be strong, dedicated and have the skills to deal with the public. He added: “It is a tough and at times physical job, and always comes with the risk of being injured.

“Galloping across the Forest when rounding up ponies is a dangerous but necessary job and, like all the agisters, Andrew has had many falls and he has suffered some quite severe injuries over the years, but has always come back from those injuries and carried on.”

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