New Forest: A Year In The Wild Wood
With Peter Owen- Jones
Writer and environmentalist, Peter Owen-Jones spends a year in the enchanting landscapes of the New Forest. He explores its wildlife and history, meeting the Commoners whose ancient way of life has helped shaped the land since Neolithic times.
Full film available to watch here.
“The New Forest is a timeless place, there are no fences, and so animals roam free. I’ve always wondered how the forest and the commoning way of life has survived for so long in the middle of southern England. It’s been an incredible experience finding out. ” Peter Owen-Jones.
New Forest Commoners
Over the year, Owen-Jones ventures out into the forest and immerses in the lives of the Commoners. They are a group of about 700 people who have retained grazing rights for their animals. These rights date back to medieval times. Peter’s journey takes him from the first foals born in spring, to the winter burning of the heather. He discovers a hardy people, who despite the urban growth around them, and pressures of 13 million visitors a year, retain a deep love of the land. Peter learns of a determination to see a way of life survive.
A window into the prehistoric forest that once covered much of Britain, the New Forest National Park covers an area of over 219 square miles. Extending from the edge of Salisbury Plain through ancient forest, wild heathland and acid bog down to the open sea, Owen-Jones discovers hidden wildlife treasures. The rolling heathland is home to dazzling lizards, our largest dragonfly and carnivorous plants, And deep in the ancient woods, he finds jewel-like beetles, goshawks that stalk between the trees and an explosion of rare fungi. To his great surprise, he then discovers that many of the trees were planted by man, used to build the battleships that built the British Empire.
New Forest History
Stepping back in time, Owen-Jones delves into the history of the Commoners. He discovers how their pastoral way of life emerged from Neolithic herders and their ponies descend from the first wild horse, which date back more than 500,000 years. And he reveals how the brutal Forest Laws imposed by William the Conqueror, were used to crush the commoners so the forest could be preserved as a royal hunting ground and how these same laws continue to help protect the New Forest to the present day.
As the commoners tell their stories, Owen-Jones hears how the older generation now fear for the future of commoning. The cost of property is spiralling and rents increasing, consequently young Commoners are being priced out of the New Forest. And so, their way of life, and this ancient land is under threat.
‘I’ve met people who, against all odds, have retained this ancient way of life, in spite of modern pressures. They have a deep connection and love of the land. It’s what shapes and defines this extraordinary place” – Peter Owen-Jones
All three shorts are available to watch online. WATCH NOW
- Presenter:Peter Owen Jones
- Directed & Edited by :Nick Stringer
- Photography:Paul Williams
- Drone & Natural History Photography:Aaron Cook
- Assistant Cameraman:Matt Roseveare