It’s Pannage Season in the New Forest!

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If you go down to the New Forest from Monday September 13, you’re sure of a ‘pig’ surprise!

Because the National Park’s free-roaming ponies and donkeys have now been joined by several hundred of our unique Pannage pigs – domestic porkers turned out every autumn to feast on the forest’s fallen acorns, beech mast and chestnuts.

Like many things New Forest, Pannage, known as ‘Common of Mast’, is one of six ancient rights accorded to commoners from the era of William the Conqueror and is believed to be unique in the UK.

It originally started as a practical way of ensuring that the forest’s glut of acorns, which can be harmful to ponies if eaten in quantity, were taken by the pigs. A pig will pick up an acorn, crack it like a nut and eat the kernel after spitting out the harmful skin, whereas if ponies eat too many green acorns, the tannins in them can destroy their liver.

Every year Pannage dates are decided by the Court of Verderers, who sit in their own ancient courthouse in Lyndhurst, the New Forest’s ‘capital’. The timing varies a little every season, dependant on the progress of the acorn crop and this year you’ll be able to spot pigs at Pannage until November 14, when they are all recalled for the winter (unless the season is extended further).


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