The old practice of Pannage - still alive in the New Forest
Pigs eat the acorns and protect the ponies
Up to 600 pigs can be found snouts down in the New Forest each autumn from mid September, eating the acorns which have fallen from the plentiful - and beautiful - New Forest oak trees.
“Pannage” is the practice of releasing domestic pigs into a forest - also known as the right of "common of mast’ which is the privilege of selected New Forest commoners. It goes all the way back to the time of William the Conqueror, who founded the New Forest. In many areas Pannage is no longer carried out but in the New Forest National Park it still has a vital role to fulfil.
Poisonous to ponies but perfect for pork!
Both pigs and ponies love acorns, but whilst pigs thrive on them, ponies die from them.
They are poisonous in large quantities to both cattle and ponies, and the effects are cumulative over several years. Pigs on the other hand have a lovely time seeking out the acorns (they are believed to spit out the toxic skins), get fat and turn into very special sweet, nutty tasting, tender pork for our delectation!
This year’s Pannage season should have been over by now but has been extended by a few more weeks to mid December because there were so many acorns this year.
And we were fortunate a couple of weeks ago to come across this sow with at least a dozen tiny piglets, close to the road between Brockenhurst and Beaulieu.
Immediately we approached with the camera however, the piglets retreated whilst the sow started making her way extremely purposefully towards us! And having heard about others having been charged - and even bitten - by a sow this year we beat a hasty retreat!
It’s not too late to book a late autumn break and catch the entertaining sight of Pannage, in fact The Hollies in Brockenhurst is on the open forest very close to where we spotted our sow - and close too, to the Pig Restaurant!
Do call us for a chat about winter self catering holidays, several more of the properties we manage are situated right on the forest where you just might spot pigs in autumn but are almost certain to see ponies, cows and donkeys daily throughout the year.
Plus - there’s a great independent butcher in Brockenhurst too with prime local pork for sale! (And excellent butchers in other New Forest towns and villages too...)
More about commoning and commoners rights