Every autumn the sound of gentle snuffling comes from the undergrowth in the The New Forest. Pannage season sees Commoners turn their pigs out on the open forest, exercising the Right of Mast which dates back to medieval times.
The pigs happily eat acorns, beech nuts and chestnuts which are poisonous to the cattle and New Forest ponies which graze across the forest throughout the year.
This year’s Pannage season is drawing to a close – it officially ends on 17 November. The season normally lasts about 60 days, although it can extended – as it was in 2022 – if there is a glut of acorns. The pigs are fitted with nose rings to prevent them from rooting too deeply or damaging grassland.
They can travel up to 7.5 miles in a day in search of food, as revealed when GPS trackers were fitted to a group near Burley.
The natural woodland diet results in a rich and delicious flavour for pannage pork. Visit New Forest Marque for the local producers selling pannage meat.
Pannage is now almost unique to the New Forest and is one of its timeless seasonal activities. The pigs are a popular draw, but as to where to see them, the answer is ‘pretty much anywhere’.
As they are looking for acorns and beech nuts, the New Forest’s ancient and ornamental woodlands are the best bet for catching a glimpse of the photogenic porkers.
There are plenty of walks through the forest woodlands where you might just get lucky and spot a group as they hoover up on the forest floor.
The walk between Bolderwood and Acres Down loops through pig-friendly woodland. Or start your walk from the nearby Millyford Bridge car park. Burley’s pigs can be spotted on a walk from Anderwood. Also try Denny Wood where the pigs love rummaging between the beech trees, while Fritham is another popular hangout.
As with all livestock on the forest, it is important to follow the advice of the New Forest Code and not get too close, disturb or try and feed the pigs.
Dogs should also be kept under control in case they chase or come into contact with the pigs. The pigs do have right of way on New Forest roads – something to bear in mind if you are driving round the forest during the autumn.