Stroll more, scroll less by Celia Klassen Time for Tea

Stroll more, scroll less by Celia Klassen
Press/Times staff writer
In contrast to last week’s “hello” from England’s capital city, this week’s “hello” comes from deep in the countryside. Although England, or even the whole UK looks small on a globe compared to the USA, it holds great diversity both in people and in environment.
My grandma was born in a place called “The New Forest” which is anything but new. The special thing about the New Forest is that people have retained the right to graze their horses open range. Any road you enter the area on goes over a cattle grid to keep them within the general area – which is 219 square miles. It is one of the largest remaining tracts of unenclosed pasture land, heathland and forest in southeast England.
Those who have the right to graze their horses on this land are known as the New Forest Commoners. Their rights are maintained by verderers and agisters. It was once deciduous woodland. Gradually trees were cut down to make ships for the Royal Navy and during the Second World War an area of it was used as a bombing range.
More land was cleared to try and grow crops for food during the war. The soil is poor, however, and the area has turned into heathlands where only gorse and heather grow.
Forest laws were enacted to preserve the New Forest as a royal deer hunting location. Hunting deer in this area was punishable by the King. People who live in the area (known as commoners) had rights to turn horses and cattle onto the forest, to cut peat for fuel or gather wood for fuel as well as other things.
Ponies have grazed in the area for so long that there is a recognized horse breed known as “the New Forest pony”. Although colors vary they are valued for hardiness, strength, and sure-footedness. Breeding of the ponies is heavily controlled to keep the breed as it is; no more than 58.25 inches (14.21/4 hands) and they are not usually smaller than 12.
Bay, chestnut or grey colors are allowed but piebald, skewbald, and blue-eyed cream are not allowed. They remain out in semi-feral conditions all the time except for when they are rounded up once a year for health checks and ownership marking (done by trimming their tails to set patterns).
The writer loves the New Forest partly for the memories there, but also it shows how England used to be, before it became increasingly covered in cities. Tripping over roots, hiking over the heathland and sniffing the gorse – which smells like coconut. Paddling (in boots) in the streams, catching minnows in the summer. It’s also not far from the coast.
Of course, even in August, you might need a hoody on the beach in England! But it’s still the salt air and nice sand. This is the side to England you never see in the movies. You don’t really see it in a typical tour guide either.
I saw a sign yesterday that said “stroll more, scroll less”. I think that is good advice for all of us!

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