I am so lucky that I live only 5 minutes drive from The New Forest National Park.
We tend to refer to it as The Forest and anyone local will know what you mean by this. The Forest is approximately 15 square miles of woodland, heathland and wetland. It exists today because it was designated a royal hunting ground for William I back in 1079.
One thing I discovered whilst researching this was that the word 'Forest' in this context doesn't actual mean forest as we would know it today. It was a term used to describe an area of land purchased under law ('afforested') for use by the Crown (William I).
When The Forest was first created very strict Norman laws were brought in to stop local peasants (commoners) from interfering in any way with the animals (mainly deer and wild boar) and the vegetation they fed on because this ensured plentiful supplies of fresh meat to the Crown as well giving the king and his noblemen a place to hunt deer. Commoners were not allowed to pen in their own animals by building fences to keep them in as this would have impeded the running of the deer and boar when hunting took place. So in return for abiding by these laws the commoners were permitted certain rights, including the right to graze their animals on the Open Forest. And that is why today when you visit The New Forest you will see horses, cows, donkeys, pigs and sheep roaming 'wild'
Most weekends I will go into The Forest to photograph the animals. May/June is my favourite time of year as there are an abundance of foals. I especially love the little Shetland foals as they are no bigger than a large dog. It is fascinating to watch them grow up and now I see ponies who I remember from being a couple of days old. One of my most special moments was witnessing a foal being born: just lucky to be in the right place at the right time.
Walking in the Forest you can lose yourself completely to the peace and quiet of Nature. Although there are a lot of visitors here there are still places where you will not see another soul, but they are my secret places and sorry I am not sharing them with anyone.
If you are ever in the South of England come and visit you will not be disappointed