A thousand-year-old tradition of farming commons in southern England may be jeopardized as housing prices drive out farmers and render the commoning rights moot. Yes, there are still self-identified commoners in England. BBC radio recently interviewed a handful of the remaining commoners who rely upon the New Forest in Hampshire to feed their cattle, sheep and chickens. The 23-minute radio report focused on how the farming commons is a way of life that has preserved the distinctive ecological landscape – and how this future is now in doubt.
New Forest is said to be the largest remaining tracts of unenclosed pasture land, healthland and forest in the southeast portion of England. The land became a royal forest in 1079 when King William I shut down 20 hamlets and isolated farmsteads, provoking an uproar. He then consolidated the land into a single tract, the New Forest, which he used for royal hunts.
The traditions of commoning in the New Forest are quite involved and detailed, as Wikipedia notes:
Commons rights are attached to particular plots of land (or in the case of turbary, to particular heaths), and different land has different rights – and some of this land is some distance from the Forest itself. Rights to graze ponies and cattle are not for a fixed number of animals, as is often the case on other commons. Instead a marking fee is paid for each animal each year by the owner. The marked animal's tail is trimmed by the local agister (Verderers’ official), with each of the four or five Forest agisters using a different trimming pattern. Ponies are branded with the owner's brand mark; cattle may be branded, or nowadays may have the brand mark on an ear tag.