Forest Rights

Forest Rights


It was a noble pastime of the Anglo-Danish kings to hunt for game in the English countryside.  William the Norman Conqueror brought a particular passion for vigorous hunting sessions.  Having initially agreed to abide by the customary English folkright he quite soon after imposed certain regulations over the hunting grounds.

Forest or nova foresta was a term given by the Normans to determine the areas adopted by the crown for hunting purposes.  It does not only describe the tree cover but also the heath and moor that would provide good hunting to chase the game.

Prior to the Norman Conquest, Anglo-Danish kings had enjoyed hunting over certain areas set aside for their pleasure.  There were few limitations other than to keep out of the way during the formal hunts.  The Normans imposed legal restrictions with regulations that were severely punishable.  These forest laws caused considerable disruption and raised feelings of hostility by the common people toward the Norman regime.

A ‘Charter of the Forest’, sealed by the juvenile King Henry III in 1217, was drawn-up to complement the Magna Carta.  William Rufus and his Norman lords had abused many of the ancient English common rights.  The Charter re-established several eroded traditions and disafforested restricted lands.  After many years of unrest under forest law, local people were eventually compensated with the common right to graze their livestock and domestic animals on the forest.  The Charter also repealed the death penalty for the capture of venison, though transgressors were subject to very severe consequences.

By the Tudor period the Verderers’ courts (forest regulators) were more actively engaged with the protection of timber.  Common rights survive today in the crown Forests, protected by law.  Such rights are attached to land or property

For detail on forests – See ‘Environment

For details on forest rights – See ’Common Rights




Free Roaming of Livestock

Sheep grazing the roadside verges at Bream in the Forest of Dean are the subject of great controversy.  A public spaces protection order may be imposed if opposing residents’ views are accepted.  The ancient right of common (to roam freely) may be challenged by the Forest of Dean District Council – preventing any sheep to “enter and remain” in the village of Bream – facing a fine of up to £1000.

Introduced two years ago, a so-called Public Spaces Protection Order will allow the Council to ban specific activities within certain areas to crack down on threatening or violent behaviour.

Comments are closed.