New Forest Verderers

New Forest Verderers

Editor's Note: A visit to the Verderers website will show that every week animals in the Forest are mown down by motorists. To that end, we urge people to appreciate this and take a moment to consider also the information below. Please visit if you'd like to read more about the Verderers sterling work.

ABOUT THE VERDERERS AND THE NEW FOREST.....and some things you should and should not do in the Forest!

The Verderers Court is a statutory body set up under the New Forest act of 1877.  It is the last remnant of the old form of Forest Government which was at one time found in many parts of the Country.  The Verderers regulate commoning (the exercise of common rights such as grazing ponies) in the Forest.  They also have wide responsibilities in respect of development control and conservation.  The present Court consists of 10 Verderers.  5 are elected by the Commoners (people with common rights) and the other 5 are appointed, one each by DEFRA, the Forestry Commission, the National Park Authority and the Countryside Agency.  The Official Verderer is chairman of the Court and is appointed by the Queen.

To help them with their work, the Verderers employ a Clerk (administrator), a part-time Assistant to the Clerk and 5 Agisters.

The Agisters are responsible for supervising the day-to-day welfare of the ponies, cattle, donkeys, pigs and sheep which graze the Forest and are owned by the commoners.

What to do if you find a sick or injured animal or are involved in or witness a road accident.

If you see an animal which looks ill, is injured, or in distress you should report it as soon as possible, giving a clear description of the animal and what you think may be wrong with it as well as where you saw it and at what time. 

During working hours you should telephone the Verderers’ Office on 023 8028 2052.  If you are unable to obtain a reply then try the Forestry Commission on 023 8028 3141.  The Forestry Commission line is answered 24 hours a day.  If you don’t get an answer from either of these numbers and the situation is urgent, please call the Police on either 999 or 08450 454545 and ask them to contact an Agister.

Road traffic accidents involving Forest animals should always be reported immediately to the Police by dialing 999.

Incidents involving deer should be reported to the Forestry Commission.

Some Rules of the Forest

PLEASE DON’T FEED OR TOUCH THE PONIES!  The ponies are semi-wild although some may not appear so.  It is important that you do not feed them either by hand or by throwing food on the ground.  The ponies do not need it and some things may make them ill.  Unfortunately, hand feeding also makes some ponies aggressive and every year people are attacked because people feed the ponies and they become greedy and demand more.  A pony which causes injury to a person is usually removed from the Forest permanently.  That is unfair to the pony whose home is the Forest and it is unfair on its owner.  Remember the ponies belong to someone else.

LEARN TO RECOGNISE WHEN A PONY IS FEELING GRUMPY!  Ears laid back means “go away and leave me alone” or it may mean “give me your sandwich”!  In such situations it is wise to retreat as quickly as possible!  A bite or kick from a pony hurts and the latter could break your leg.  A child could be killed.

PLEASE DON’T DROP LITTER.  Apart from being unsightly (and illegal), dropping litter in the Forest is harmful to the animals.

PLEASE LEAVE YOUR BIN-BAGS INSIDE YOUR GATE.  If you live or stay in a property with Forest animals just outside the gate, leave your bin-bag inside the gate and out of reach of inquisitive animals.  The animals make a horrible mess when they tear open a bag of rubbish and of course, they may injure themselves on a sharp tin or become ill if they eat the wrong things.

PLEASE DON’T DUMP GRASS CUTTINGS OR HEDGE CLIPPINGS ON THE FOREST.  Strange though it may seem, as lawn mowings are after all “grass”, they are LETHAL to ponies and donkeys.  Lawn mowings left in a heap heat up and start to ferment.  If they are eaten by ponies and donkeys gas is released into the animal’s stomach and intestine.  Their stomach or intestine may then rupture and the animal dies in agony.  Clippings from yew, laburnham, rhododendron, some conifers, azaleas and many other garden plants are poisonous to animals and for these reasons all garden waste must be disposed of properly and not dumped on the Forest.

KEEP THE GATE SHUT!  Whether a gate goes into an inclosure, a field or a garden, it is there to keep the animals out.  Animals have come to serious harm through getting into places where they shouldn’t be.   Occupiers of property within the Forest have a duty to fence against legally depastured stock.  That means if your fence is rotten or your gate is left open and a pony gets in and tramples your beautiful lawn or eats your shrubs you cannot claim compensation from the animal’s owner.  Indeed, if the animal is injured or is poisoned in your garden the owner may claim compensation from you!  There have been cases of animals falling into swimming pools (especially if they are covered with plastic sheets) and apart from the poor animal drowning, the owner of the property has been successfully sued. 

DO KEEP YOUR DOGS UNDER CONTROL.  Every year Forest animals, particularly young ones, are injured by dogs.  Some are even killed or die later from infected bites.  We all love to let our dogs run on the Forest and provided they are reliable around animals that is fine.  If in doubt, however, keep your dog on a lead.  Remember also that at certain times of year some quite rare birds nest on the ground and a nest which has been destroyed is a sorry sight.  In spring the deer have their young and a fawn left whilst mum goes to feed is very vulnerable.

DO ENJOY THE FOREST AND ITS ANIMALS.  Watch from a safe distance and enjoy the animals and the unique beauty of the Forest.  Remember that the Forest is the animals’ home and it is only fair to respect it and let them live in peace.

If you would like further information visit the Verderers’ website - NEW FOREST VERDERERS - or telephone the Clerk to the Verderers on 023 8028 2052.

Thank you for reading this and we hope you enjoy the Forest.


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