Recorded in the Doomsday Book as Nova Foresta in 1086, the cultivation of the New Forest in Hampshire can be traced back as far as the Bronze Age.
Today it’s home to spectacular wildlife, including wild ponies, badgers and deer, living side by side with their human neighbours.
Narrated by Tamsin Greig, this new series tells the fascinating tale of the forest through the seasons, beginning with September’s ripening of acorns, which signals the start of the red deer’s rutting season.
‘The New Forest is a place that’s possibly unique,’ says James Ross, the producer and director for the Winter and Summer episodes, as he chats to TV Times.
‘It’s nearly 1,000 years old and, opposed to many other forests, is an ancient mix of woodland that has always had commoners – people who live and work in the forest – as well ponies and cattle living on it.’
With November frost comes TB testing of livestock, an anxious time for tenant farmers, as failure to pass means all the forest’s cattle will be slaughtered.
‘It is full of characters who, in a completely understated way, are walking encyclopaedias!’ explains James.
‘Richard is this incredible guy who knows everything about the forest. Ann is a tenant farmer [with ancient rights to graze her animals on the land]. They understand how thousands of years of cultivation have affected the forest.
‘They see a dip in the land and know it’s an old Iron Age pasture,’ he adds. ‘They understand why one bit of the forest is birch, another beech and another oak. When you start seeing the forest through their eyes, it’s mind-blowing!’