Verderers are the guardians of the New Forest

August 22, 2014

Agister rang rover

VERDERER’S VEHICLE: This Land Rover is one of the fleet of vehicles used by the vederers and their assistants, the agisters of the New Forest.



ON DUTY: The stand at the New Forest Show where visitors and residents alike could ask the verderers any issue they had about the running of the forest. The team fielded many queries whilst I was there.



HORSE SENSE: The pony  pictured here will be owned by one of the commoners in the Forest. It’s welfare is the responsibility of the commoner but also the verderers.



A COMBINATION of ancient and statutory powers provide an unusual mix to help them run the New Forest.

The Court of Verderers was established under the New Forest Act of 1877 and their knowledge has been expanded in recent years to accommodate traditional forest law, and more recently European and national park legislation. The Forest became a National Park in 2004.

The vederers regulate any development in the forest and work closely with Natural England and the Forestry Commission that manages the forest on behalf of the Crown.

The Court also considers proposals for new roads, telephone and electricity lines, car parks, exchanges of land, camping sites, recreational facilities, improvement of grazing, timber inclosures and many other matters.

One of their most important functions is ensuring the health and welfare of the commoners’ animals. They have a set of bye laws that can be enforced in the local Magistrates’ Court.

Commoners hope that verderers have practical knowledge of forest management and animal husbandry, rather than just sitting behind a desk.

To assist the verderers are five agisters who ride in the Forest and work with the Commoners in the welfare of their stock.

One of the ten-strong team of vederers that spoke to me at the New Forest Show at the end of July, but declined to give their name

He said: “Back in the 12th Century William the Conqueror wanted a hunting reserve and it was serviced for that through the New Forest Charter in 1127. The Court of Verderers ran the forest for the monarchy and the King would occasionally come down and hunt deer.

“They let the stock graze and gave commoners’ rights to the local people for their stock. This role hasn’t changed that much over the years. We (as the vederers) still look after the forest and have statutory powers to stop development should it be inappropriate and that is still why the forest looks like it is today.”

He made a special pleat to visitors not to release Chinese lanterns in the Park as they are a risk to the ponies, livestock and wild animals by becoming entangled in the wire frames or accidentally eating them and also a fire risk in hot weather.

Lanterns can pose a risk to farmyards and in fields and particularly in residential areas of village where there are thatched roofs.

Lanterns made of bamboo frames can cause problems as well. The National Farmers Union have mentioned a case of a calf getting its head stuck in a bamboo-framed lantern after New Year celebrations and it could have been at risk of choking and unable to drink its mother’s milk if it had not been discovered.

He said: “I don’t think people are aware that the consequences of a fire risk are very high at the moment.”

  • THE Court of Verderers meets on the third Wednesday of each month in public session. Presentations are made and an Open Court is followed by a private committee. A ‘presentment’ is a verbal Statement made to the Court (accompanied by a wirtten note) in which concern is expressed, a complaint made or a question asked about a matter relevant to the Forest. If anyone has any questions for them, they can call them on 023 8028 2052.

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