Efforts to ensure traditional New Forest knowledge, skills and practices survive will receive a boost thanks to a new mentoring scheme.
Experienced commoners who own the animals which roam freely across the Forest will be teamed up with a new commoner to pass on their knowledge, with the ‘students’ spending time on their land.
The New Forest Land Advice Service and the Commoners Defence Association have created the free Commoner Mentoring Scheme because the commoning system is vital in managing the Forest’s rare habitats. The animals’ grazing shapes the landscape which would otherwise become overgrown with gorse and brambles.
The mentoring programme is part of a Heritage Lottery-funded ‘Our Past, Our Future’ Landscape Partnership Scheme led by the New Forest National Park Authority in conjunction with 11 key partners.
Lyndsey Stride, Young Commoner Group representative, said: ‘The National Park remains one of the few extensive lowland commons where common rights are still widely practised. But with rising house and land prices, increasing traffic and a vibrant, yet crucial tourism economy, the New Forest’s traditions and culture are at risk of serious decline.
She said: ‘The New Forest Young Commoners Group recognises the importance of passing knowledge down through generations; it is fundamental to the future of commoning and the Forest.
‘Commoning has to be learnt on the job and we are seeing a lack of young commoners, particularly those keeping cattle. This scheme is a great way of bringing on young commoners and keeping this vital tradition alive.’
The scheme is mainly for young people but you can also become a student if you have rights attached to your property and want to become a practising commoner.
Find out more at an open evening at 7pm on 14 April at The Drift Inn, Beaulieu Road, or contact Richard Austin on 01590 646661 or firstname.lastname@example.org.