Thursday 29th January 2015

Ytene: The Forest -New Forest. 

Echoes of ancient times

(531 words)

The New Forest is old, it is in fact ancient. The beech and oak woodland is typical of how much of England’s landscape would  have been in pre-medieval times.

However, an ancient meaning of the word ‘forest’ is open hunting ground, not just woodland, and this very much applies to the New Forest because it contains great stretches of heathland and bogland – some of which, like Cranes Moor, are the same today as they would have been after the last glaciation. This is highly unusual in the intensely managed landscape of England.

Much of the Forest, (as the New forest is commonly called locally) looks quite unlike the rest of the county.

The landscape has become a saleable commodity, it would cost an absolute fortune to buy as much as a shed in the Forest, but the thing that has made the Forest such a place for stories is it’s marginality , it’s thin soil and lack of agricultural fertility: it’s wildness. These are the qualities that make it a refuge and lurking place for people on margins: outcasts, dissenters gypsies, vagabonds – those without means or money.

There are the people that seem to have been in the Forest forever-the people who may have resented the Saxons and the Danes as much as they resented the Normans. And it was with the Normans that the name ‘New Forest’ arrived. The old name for the Forest was ‘Ytene’, and it only took on the banal name ‘New Forest’ because it was William the Conqueror’s new forest, where, as William of Gloucester put it: ‘Gane of hondes he loved y nou, and of the wilde beste. And his forest and hys wodes, and most ye nywe forest.’

William made the Forest Crown property, and imposed forest law. Forest law operated outside common law and protected the ‘vert’ (the vegetation of the Forest) and the game there: the boar, the hare, the coney, the pheasant, the partridge, the wolf, the fox, the marten, the roe deer – but most of all, the red deer. It was due to this royal ownership that the Forest survived.

Stories have developed through the years, suggesting that William cleared the Forest of its inhabitants, destroyed villages and churches, and drove people from their land – but there is no archaeological evidence to support this. The lack of agricultural fertility indicates there would not have been a large farming population anyway. I write this but in my personal experience there is a large farming community, many farms ranging from cattle  and milk and crops. I went to school with many kids from farmsteads. This would be modern day rather than in William the Conqueror’s time.

But still the laws were harsh, and hungry people were banned from hunting deer. This must have created such resentment, and hence poaching became rife. And how this would have created stories and from different times and merging creating and affecting what we read today. Stories passed down and from families and diaries and of course what little of written records.  This will lead us onto King Rufus, of whom I have already done a post about.


Gerry A/C 2015 Jan.




26 thoughts on “Ytene…

  1. Excellent writing! And very interesting for me whose ancestors came from England, though I’ve never been there myself. The little Pathé video was good, but cut off. I wonder if I could find the whole thing somewhere. And I’d better read about King Rufus.

    1. I wish you luck on that finding of Pathe newsreel, I did try because of the cut off but with no luck,,, if you do please let me know or even post it yourself….So pleased you enjoyed it thank you and welcome as always…

  2. From the photographs I’ve seen of Great Britain, I’d love to saddle up and ride through your terrain, Gerry…the entire group of Nations offers so much history and awesome beauty, it is always a joy to see what you have up your sleeve to share with the rest of us.

    1. Thank you Marcy,, this area is a real horse part of the UK, many riding stables and of course the new forest ponies roaming the land. I am just glad you and others enjoy these posts.. welcome always and thank you…

  3. Wonderful information I wouldn’t have know had I missed this post. Thank you for sharing. It is most interesting when you realize how important this type of forest is to animals and birds. So many extinct in many parts of the world.

    1. Yes this forest is now National Trust,, and therefore animal and bird welfare taken care of….this is a good thing,,, I do feel today is taken over by money people and holiday homes…sadly that is… welcome always and thank you….

  4. Brilliant Gerry, the Normans did us a favour didn’t they? I don’t believe the conquerer could have driven many people from their land as back then the population would have been very sparse, but hooray for the poachers if they had to find a way of feeding their families.

    1. As time went on the poachers as it they were became the main people of the forest, landowners etc… there are many stories like these based in the forest, I did do a few a couple of years back,, might re do .. welcome and thank you ..

  5. Such A fabulous blog !
    I just loved reading it !! I have to say that it’s inspiring me in many aspects, I have to admit that I love the way you see the stuffs in a different way from the others please continue!!

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