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As the Verderers Court of the New Forest bids a fond farewell to the Honourable Ralph Montagu, it welcomes his replacement, Barry Dowsett, a local man who has lived more than half his life in Woodfalls, on the northern boundary of the National Park.
Ralph Montagu, the eldest son of Lord Montagu and co-owner of the Beaulieu Estate, has been the Forestry Commission’s appointed Verderer for the last nine years – following in the footsteps of his ancestor, Lord Henry Scott who served the Court from 1880 to 1892.
Kevin Penfold, the Deputy Surveyor for the New Forest, commented:
“On behalf of the Forestry Commission, I’d like to acknowledge and thank Ralph for his service to the Court, the work of the Verderers and the New Forest. He has always put the Forest first and is highly respected for his thoughtful contributions to the Court’s debates and the management of the forest.
“The Verderers Court contains experts in many subjects, but with particular emphasis on commoners and their rights. If there is a weakness, it is in the understanding of landscape with the importance of tranquillity as elements of the Forest’s character, together with a wider understanding of estate management. Ralph’s contribution has strengthened the Court in just this area and has helped to give balance to all the Verderers’ decisions.”
“In marking Ralph’s service, I would also like to take this opportunity to welcome Barry Dowsett as our newly appointed Forestry Commission Verderer. Whilst the position is appointed by the Forestry Commission I am sure, like Ralph, Barry will be an independent voice who will work hard to serve the purposes of the Verderers court and the best interests of the Forest.”
Barry Dowsett originally moved to the area, from London, with his family in 1958. He began exploring the Forest aged 16, at a time when roads were not fenced, ponies inhabited Lyndhurst High Street and Holmsley and Stoney Cross airfield runways were still in situ.
After a career as a government research scientist, he took early retirement seven years ago to join a small team managing a large tract of SSSI woodland near to Salisbury. He also joined the Forestry Commission as a Volunteer Ranger in 2002.
“I consider it a great privilege to be appointed Forestry Commission Verderer and I look forward to becoming involved in the future management of the New Forest. I am committed to preserving and enhancing the Forest and its vital and traditional commoning practices.
“My years as a Volunteer Ranger have greatly increased my knowledge of the Forest's flora and fauna and varied habitats, together with the traditional commoning practices which shape them. All this has led me to develop a deep fascination and love of the Forest and its customs.”
The Verderers’ Court dates back to medieval times and consists of ten Verderers – five are elected commoners and five are appointed. The five appointed Verderers are appointed by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Forestry Commission, the New Forest National Park Authority and Natural England, with the Official Verderer, who presides over all, the Sovereign’s representative.
The role of the Verderers is to protect and administer the New Forest's unique agricultural commoning practices and conserve its traditional landscape, wildlife and aesthetic character. Further details about the Verderers’ Court can be found at www.verderers.org.uk.
Notes to editor
The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible for forestry in Great Britain. It supports woodland owners with grants; tree felling licences, regulation and advice; promotes the benefits of forests and forestry; and advises Government on forestry policy. It manages more than a million hectares (2.5 million acres) of national forest land for public benefits such as sustainable timber production, public recreation, nature conservation, and rural and community development. For more information, visit www.forestry.gov.uk/newforest.
Paula Quigley or Hannah Keddie at Grayling PR, tel 02380 382970 or email firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com.
Libby Burke at the Forestry Commission on 02380 286832.