This paper was presented at the New Forest Knowledge Conference 2018 entitled: The Role of Commoning in the Maintenance of Landscape and Ecology: A New Forest, National and Global Perspective.
Graham Bathe, Open Spaces Society & Researcher
At one time there were 900 royal hunting forests in England and Wales, perhaps covering a quarter of the land. A king could not even visit them in an average lifetime, let alone hunt in them. So, what were they really for? This talk will examine the genesis of the royal forests, the role of commoners within them, and how such rights arose and have shaped the landscape. It will consider winners and losers in royal forests, and how the rights of the king, his forest officers, the local nobility and peasant graziers all interplayed. It will seek to explode some of the myths associated with the royal forests, and explore the protection afforded to commoners and vegetation within them. Finally, it will consider how the modern values placed on the forests, of conservation, amenity and access are all dependent on maintaining ancient traditions.