THIS year’s pannage season will begin on Monday when pigs are let loose to gobble up acorns in the New Forest.
Pannage has been a tradition since the time of William the Conqueror, and usually lasts for around 60 days. The start of the season varies according to the weather and when the acorns fall, and this year will run until mid-November.
Every autumn when the acorns, chestnuts, beechmast and other nuts have fallen, hundreds of domestic pigs, owned by commoners, are allowed out to roam the Forest to eat the crops which are poisonous to other grazing animals, including cattle and ponies.
The pigs often attract visitors eager for photos – but previous years have seen warnings not to get too close to sows which can be aggressively protective of their piglets.
In a presentment to the Verderers’ Court, Forestry England Deputy Surveyor Bruce Rothnie reminded property owners that it was their responsibility to ensure their land was properly fenced to stop animals getting in.
He also told commoners that pigs could not be turned out until they had been inspected by one of the agisters. He added that they should not be turned out in the inclosures.
Commoners must pay a fee for each pig they turn out and the animals must be marked with an identity tag in the ear, with a ring put through its nose to limit the damage to the Forest floor caused by rooting.
Mr Rothnie warned: “Any unmarked animals running on the Forest do so in contravention of the verderers’ bylaws and the owner is liable to a fine of up to £200.”
Some breeding sows may be permitted to stay on the open Forest after the end of the pannage season but only if this is agreed in writing by the Deputy Surveyor for a specified period.
The pannage season will run until Sunday 15th November.
Pony drifts now under way
THE annual programme of New Forest pony round-ups has begun this month after it was reduced in August because of large numbers of visitors to the national park and coronavirus restrictions.
The drifts are now under way in scheduled sections of the New Forest throughout September and October. Organised by the agisters and commoners, they are for health checks, branding, processing or dispersal.
For their own safety, the verderers have urged members of the public to avoid the areas on those dates.
Today (Friday) a drift will take place at Slufters, and on Sunday at Hilltop and Hardley. Next Tuesday there will be a drift at Wilverley and Longslade followed by Blackfield on Saturday 19th September and Burley Lawn on Sunday 20th September.