Commoners are people with ‘commoning rights’ to let animals roam the forest. The rights are attached to land in the forest- about 800 properties have them. The New Forest is one of the few places in Britain where commoning survives on a large scale. The Forest of Dean is another.
About half the people with commoning rights in the New Forest still use them. It takes time and money to have animals on the forest and to look after them properly. The commoners’ animals eat down the undergrowth. Without grazing the forest would look very different, so commoning is important to keep the forest the way it is.
Many commoners join the ‘Commoners Defence Association’ (the ‘CDA’). The name goes back to times when the commoning way of life seemed to be under attack. The CDA still defends the rights of commoners, and works hard to make sure that animals on the forest are looked after properly.
Bert Stride is in his nineties, but hopes to be commoning when he’s a hundred. Hear him describe his feelings about a commoning life.