The cycle of the forest year keeps turning and once again we're in the middle of pannage. Pannage or ‘common of mast’ is one of the common rights attached to various New Forest holdings which allows commoners to graze their pigs on fallen acorns, which are poisonous to ponies and cattle; the pigs also eat beech mast and crab apples, all of which carpet the woodland floors in a good season. Traditionally pannage allowed commoners the opportunity to fatten their pigs in preparation for slaughter for use during the winter. In the 1800's more than 6000 pigs roamed the woods, over the years numbers have declined to no more than 600, although they appear to have increased in number of the last few years. The pigs come in all sizes, from large Saddlebacks to groups of piglets; usually nonchalant to our presence, a mother can become defencive if she beleives her young are in danger...and they can more!