The Verderers’ Court dates back to medieval times, and was re-established by the 1877 New Forest Act. The court consists of ten Verderers – five are elected and five are appointed. One is appointed by the Minister of Agriculture DEFRA, one by the Forestry Commissioners, one by the National Park Authority and one by Natural England. The official Verderer, who presides over all, is the Sovereign’s representative. The five elected Verderers must all be commoners.
Working in conjunction with the Forestry Commission and Natural England, the Verderers regulate commoning and certain forms of development on the New Forest. Members of the public are welcome to voice any concerns about the forest at the Verderers’ Court, which meets ten times a year. The Verderers will then consider all ‘presentments’ and make a final judgement once all issues have been discussed in private session. Many of the decisions about the management of the New Forest must firstly be approved by the Verderers.
For more information about the Verderers, visit their official website at www.verderers.org.uk
A team of Agisters is appointed by the Verderers to deal with the daily management and welfare of the commoners’ stock, including dealing with road accidents involving ponies, cattle, donkeys or pigs.
In the late summer and autumn, round-ups, or ‘drifts’ are held throughout the forest by the Agisters to treat any health problems the ponies and cattle may have, and to keep a count of the stock roaming the Open Forest. Mares and foals are marked during this time – foals are branded and the tails of mares are cut in distinctive patterns – enabling the Agisters to see that the grazing fees have been paid and to indicate in which area their owner lives.