The following paper was presented at the New Forest Knowledge Conference 2017 entitled: New Forest Historical Research and Archaeology: who’s doing it? Below you will find the abstract of the paper and a video of the paper given if permission to film it was given by the speaker.
Dr Michael J Grant, COARS, Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton, University of Southampton, European Way, Southampton, SO14 3ZH
The New Forest epitomises the term landscape – land shaped by the people – and has been subject to a unique series of events culminating in the current structure of its vegetation and land use. The rich documentary and cartographic record attaining to the New Forest has provided key insights into processes since the medieval period, yet the record of human activity further back in the past becomes increasingly sparse, especially before the Bronze Age where little can be gleaned from the archaeological record. This means there needs to be a reliance on other sources of information that can infer past human activities and their impact within the Forest. One such long-term archive resides within the peatlands that are so numerous across the Forest. By analysing the plant remains and pollen grains preserved within the deep ‘bog’ sequences it is possible to determine the vegetation present within the Forest in the distant past and how it has constantly evolved since the last ice age. These long records highlight periods of increased human activity and changes in past land management, therefore providing a much-needed environmental context for the archaeological remains found within the Forest. Most notably these records show that the heathlands are not solely the result of Bronze Age clearances, and some areas of the Ancient and Ornamental woodlands have always sustained a tree canopy and therefore never subject to extensive clearance – a claim that very few woodlands in England can substantiate.