The New Forest is England’s newest National Park. Made up of heathland and forest, it also includes a number of picturesque villages and towns. Lyndhurst, the home and final resting place of Alice Liddell (of Alice in Wonderland fame) claims to be the capital of the New Forest, and is a bustling town full of tea shops, pubs and gift shops.
The New Forest contains relatively large areas of lowland habitats including valley bogs, wet heaths, dry heaths and deciduous woodland. The semi-wild New Forest ponies are probably the New Forest’s best-known common animals but there is a large population of deer comprising fallow deer, roe deer and red deer; three species of snake; and numerous rare plants and insects, including the New Forest cicada, the only cicada native to Great Britain.
The New Forest was created as a royal forest in around 1080 by William the Conqueror for the hunting of deer and was first referred to as the New Forest (or Nova Foresta) in the Domesday book in 1086. Formal commons rights were confirmed by statute in 1698. These allow commoners to turn cattle and horses (the famous New Forest ponies) out into the Forest to graze, to gather wood, to cut peat for fuel, to dig clay and to turn pigs out between September and November to eat fallen acorns and beechnuts. The commons rights are attached to different plots of land and different land has different rights. In the great storm of 1703, four thousand oak trees were lost in the New Forest. Plantations were created in the 18th century to provide timber for the Royal Navy. The forest was further plundered in the 20th century when there was felling of broadleaf trees and replacement by conifers to meet the demand for wood during the first and second world wars. In places, this process is being reversed today with some plantations being returned to heathland or broadleaf woods. The New Forest became a National Park in 2005.