Verderers grazing scheme

Who are the Verderers?

The Verderers of the New Forest are the last remnants of the old form of forest government.

Monthly courts are still opened with the traditional announcement: ‘Oyez, oyez! All manner of persons who have any presentment to make or matter or thing to do at this court of Verderers, let them come forward and they shall be heard. God save the Queen.’

Although, nowadays the Court invites any commoner or other person wishing to make a statement or complaint on public matters affecting the forest to come forward, in the past it would have been for the Forest officers to present offences to the Court.

The Verderers are responsible for:

  • Protecting and administering the unique agricultural commoning practices in the New Forest
  • Conserving its traditional landscape, wildlife and aesthetic character, including its flora and fauna, peacefulness, natural beauty and cultural heritage
  • Safeguarding a viable future for commoning upon which the foregoing depends.

The Agisters are employees of the Verderers.

They assist the Verderers to carry out their duties by:

  • Watching over the forest to ensure owners of depastured stock meet the requirements of the Verderers in respect of stock welfare, payment of marking fees etc
  • Informing the Verderers of any possible breaches of the byelaws
  • Attending road accidents and other incidents involving forest stock
  • Arranging and managing the rounding up of ponies and cattle, especially on the autumn drifts
  • Regularly inspecting on foot, by vehicle and on horseback, their area of the forest and the depastured stock.

The Agisters are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week to respond to any problems involving forest stock.

The autumn ‘drifts’ – when the ponies are rounded up – are a good opportunity for commoners to brand any new foals, remove any ponies they may want to sell or take in for the winter and check the health and well-being of the remaining stock.

What is the Verderers Grazing Scheme (VGS)?

The Higher Level Stewardship scheme funds the Verderers Grazing Scheme (VGS) which provides financial support for commoners who are exercising their rights in a responsible fashion.

In addition to these direct payments to commoners for depasturing their stock, the scheme is able to fund a range of projects to sustain commoning into the future, including the Stallion Scheme and the Bloodlines Scheme.

The grant supports the work of the New Forest Land Advice Service, which offers help to commoners with aspects such as:

  • their Single Farm Payment claim
  • how to adhere to cross compliance
  • managing land in Nitrate Vulnerable Zones.

The VGS also contributes to the cost of micro-chipping New Forest ponies when they are sold at Beaulieu Road Salesyard, and buying reflective collars for ponies and cattle.