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Pigs let loose to fatten up on forest fare

Pannage tradition dates back to Norman times.

Domestic pigs roam the roads near Burley in the New Forest in Hampshire, during Pannage, or ‘common of mast’ (PA/Andrew Matthews)
Domestic pigs roam the roads near Burley in the New Forest in Hampshire, during Pannage, or ‘common of mast’ (PA/Andrew Matthews)

By Rebecca Curry, PA

If you go down to the woods today you may be in for a surprise.

Hundreds of domestic pigs have been released into the New Forest as part of a tradition dating back centuries.

Up to 600 domestic pigs wander the forest and eat fallen acorns and other nuts every Autumn during Pannage, which dates back to the time of William the Conqueror, who founded the New Forest in 1079.

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Farm pigs are allowed to roam the New Forest (PA/Andrew Matthews)

And the practice does not just help fatten the pigs up.

It improves the condition of the soil and reduces the risk to ponies and cattle, which can be poisoned if they eat too many nuts and acorns.

Like forests, the tradition is not as widespread as it once was.

But it still takes place in the New Forest every year, when pigs are allowed to roam for a minimum of 60 days.

This year Pannage started on September 9 and runs through to November 10.

Local bakeries and shops sell piggy-shaped biscuits during the season to celebrate the practice.

But visitors to the New Forest are advised to keep their distance from the real thing and not feed or pet them.

PA

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