The pannage season: Secrets of the New Forest

The New Forest: the need for a pannage season

I am fortunate to live on the borders of the New Forest in the beautiful county of Hampshire, located on the southern shore of England.

I promised in my post of 2nd October to provide a follow-up on autumn in the New Forest (

The New Forest, founded in 1079 by William the Conqueror (, was his royal hunting ground.

The Forest covers an area of some 566 square kilometres. It is comprised of huge tracts of natural woodland, heath and river courses.

The New Forest became a national park in 2005 and is famous for its native ponies that live freely on the Forest. This freedom however can be  a problem for the ponies and cattle as autumn brings a threat to their well-being. Hence the entrance of the pannage season.

The pannage season

The windy days of autumn do their job in releasing mature acorns and other nuts from the trees. Walking in the Forest at a quiet time of day you can hear the acorns thumping unto the forest floor and splashing into the rivulets and streams, which wind their way through the Forest.

Unfortunately, the acorns and some nuts are poisonous to the ponies and cattle.  

Pannage is the practice of releasing domestic pigs into the Forest so they can feed on fallen acorns, beechmast, chestnuts or other nuts, protecting the ponies and cattle .

Historically, this practice was a right of local people on common land or in royal forests. In the past, some 6,000 pigs were pannaged.

More recently about 600 pigs are released in September for approximately two months. They are allowed to hoover up the acorns and nuts poisonous to the New Forest ponies and cattle. 

Pannage Pork, is pork from pigs that have fed off the woodland floor of the New Forest. The acorns are reputed to give the pork a unique nutty flavour.

Hope you enjoyed the story from the New Forest! [Featured image photographed by David Marcu on Unsplash @davidmarcu]

Tra for now