Forest Diary: Slow down for New Forest animalsPUBLISHED ON: 2 NOVEMBER 2017
A unique way of life exists here in the New Forest where our ponies roam freely. As the darker nights draw in drivers need to be careful on their journeys, as we all head home after work, we need to drive slowly across the Forest.
I’m a practising Commoner, for many years my family have lived and worked here in the New Forest and the ponies are a big part of our family. My pony is called Ramnor Milly, she usually lives in the Forest all year round with other mares (females) in a small group, but I’ve taken her off the Forest while she recovers from a problem with her foot.
I’ll never forget the evening that we got a call from the Agister telling us that Milly’s foal had been hit by a car on the Lymington to Beaulieu road. She never recovered from her injuries and died that night. That particular road is quite a notorious road for animal accidents, unfortunately Milly and her daughter’s preferred haunt (area where they graze) is the Crockford Bottom valley mire which runs across this road. Five years later, Milly went on to have another foal and she’s called Ramnor Twilight.
Ponies are more likely to get killed or injured on the Forest after dark, especially during November and December, once the clock go back an hour and the early evenings become gloomier.
At this time of year drivers should also watch out for wild deer on Forest roads at night, or early in the morning. The New Forest has always been renowned for deer, with the largest areas of wild heathlands and ancient woodland in lowland Britain; it supports a large population of deer. These usually shy creatures are much more active at the moment as the end of the mating season comes to an end. Extra care should be taken if you’re driving on unfamiliar roads and be wary of not just one deer crossing the road, as they often travel in groups.
As a Ranger for the Forestry Commission I come into contact with visitors on a day to day basis. I get asked lots of questions about the ponies. ‘Who do they belong to?’, ‘can we feed them?’ are questions we regularly get asked. In partnership with the New Forest Verderers, Commoners Defence Association and the NPA Forestry Commission Rangers like me will be helping to spread the message about this serious issue and promoting the Go Slow message this winter.
We hope that by helping people to have a better understanding and awareness of Forest stock we can reduce the number of animals and drivers that are injured each year and allow our beloved ponies to remain on the forest for as long as possible.
(New Forest commoners join representatives of local organisations at Beaulieu Road Sale Yard to appeal to local drivers to slow down as the clocks).
If you’re unfortunate enough to be involved in a road traffic accident involving a pony, cow, donkey, pig, sheep, dog or deer you need to call the Police (999 for an emergency or 101 if it’s not), even if you hit a pony and it runs off, as an injured pony may survive if they are attended to quickly.
Everyone loves the New Forest ponies, as a horse owner myself I love them, but we all need to act responsibly for our own protection, as well as the ponies.
Please add three minutes to your journey as the darker nights draw in and drive slowly for New Forest animals.