A Clip Round The Ear


Early this afternoon Jackie drove us off to the north of The Forest. Refraining from the opportunity to indulge in her customary giggle on passing Sandy Balls, she settled for a late lunch at The Fighting Cocks in Godshill.

View from The Fighting Cocks

Cattle 1cattle-2The view from the pub across to the green always includes animals. Today we had a predominance of cattle, including one of the Highland breed.

Pony and crows

The one pony in sight sheltered under a tree, surrounded by grubbing rooks.

Filled Yorkshire pudding meal

My choice for lunch was a large Yorkshire pudding filled with the pubs own tasty home made sausages, creamy mashed potato, fresh peas and onion gravy. This made me think of my maternal grandmother, a Yorkshirewoman whose eponymous puddings were made in a large baking tin. I drank Doom Bar. Jackie enjoyed a baked potato containing cheese and beans, accompanied by a coke. The publican was very friendly and accommodating of a couple who had turned up for a meal after 3 p.m.

Donkeys in car park 1Donkeys 1

Donkeys had taken over the gardens and car park.

Donkeys and cattle

This engaged some of the customers.

Family and donkeys

The crouching girl showed sensible discretion as she rapidly rose to her her feet which led her legs away faster than the rest of her as she clutched an adult hand when the donkey paid her some attention.

Donkeys scratching

Two other asses availed themselves of wooden posts for a good scratch

Donkey on road

then set off down the road in search of some traffic to disrupt.

The Fighting Cocks mural

The skilful mural decorating one of the inside walls of the hostelry obviated the need for me to photograph the building.

This is the time of year when, if you are quick, you will see sounders of swine as they speed through the forest, snuffling, foraging, grunting and squealing in search of mast, or acorns and other fruit of the trees.. The first group of these had vanished by the time I emerged from the car. This is an extract from the New Forest website:


Pannage is the practice of releasing domestic pigs into a forest (also known as ‘Common of mast’), and goes all the way back to the time of William the Conqueror, who founded the New Forest. Pannage is no longer carried out in many areas but can still be observed every year here in the New Forest National Park. In the Autumn after the acorns, beechmast, chestnuts and other nuts have fallen, up to 600 pigs will work their way through the forest eating them from the forest floor.

You can usually find the pigs roaming the forest floors from around the third week in September or whenever the acorns begin to drop from the beautiful trees. The exact Pannage dates are decided by the New Forest Verderers and the Forestry Commission and is based on seasonal variations. The 2016 Pannage season start[ed] on 12th September.”

Gloucester Old Spot pig 1

Near North Gorley I managed to catch a trio of these animals including a Gloucester Old Spot. Note the rings through the noses, which would be the envy of some of our young people.

Pig head butt

The larger of the other two pink ones suddenly delivered a ferocious snout side-swipe to the other. The open mouth gives an indication of the decibels achieved by the resounding squeal emanating from the victim. Perhaps this was Mum administering a clip round the ear.

Gloucester Old Spot pig 2

It is difficult to convey the pace at which these apparently cumbersome creatures hoover the forest floor.


After they had had their fill they flopped by the roadside.

Speaking of having had one’s fill, you have seen my late lunch, so will not be surprised that I did not join Jackie this evening in a second helping of our Chinese Takeaway.


  1. Ah yes pannage, which brings two memories. The first is the pig that entered the public bar of the Royal Oak at Fritham, circa 1974, circled once and left. No one commented. The second is trying my hand at golf with my uncle at Burley, circa 1976. He hooked into some scrub, a low raking shot. We heard a thwack followed by the loudest squeal and moments later a large pink sow came rumbling out clearly intent on finding the purveyor of high velocity golf balls that had interrupted her dignified lunching. We survived unscathed that time.

      1. Can I have a plug for my homeless shelter charity The Dirty Bum? When I say “plug”, I mean a mention on your puerile humour show 🙂

  2. I always enjoy your livestock photos. It’s good to see the pigs feeding in this way; its much healthier for them. Does wonders for the flavour as well. 🙂

  3. You are absolutely right! I’ve always thought there was a certain irony in one generation of young women who wanted the freedom won by feminism, and the following generation who now want rings through everything as well as the return of the one through their noses.

  4. I used to have the same reaction when I lived near Six Mile Bottom. I’m suffering sausage envy. Pigs look in good condition. Sorry about disconnected comments – just home from work and starving!

      1. Derrick, I’m surprised a man who can plumb such depths of youthful humour can’t see the Freudian link between “sausage envy” (Freud may have used a slightly different term) and Six Mile Bottom.

  5. I had not encountered the British expression “a clip round the ear” and when I read the title of this post I immediately thought of the small bluetooth clip that some people wear as a headset.
    Also had a good chuckle at Sandy Balls….a lot funnier and more interesting than Fighting Cocks!

    1. Thank you Cynthia. Jackie would agree with you. I’m glad it was possible to look up ‘clip round the ear’, because I wondered whether everyone would know the phrase.

    1. I was once asked by an ex-colleague to provide some décor items for a restaurant he was working for, called Spewers Rest. I decided that the likelihood of such a name, in that field, being a success meant a high chance it would fold before I was paid, so I withdrew. Hence I never found out if the tender was a wind-up (the “ex”- in “ex-colleague” was significant!) or if it really did operate.

  6. Oh my … Such a beautiful place for animals to roam and indulge, whilst humans do the same in some special pubs!
    Wonderful captures Derrick. I had no idea about the piggies. They add such a lazy exuberance ❣

  7. It sounds very relaxing being able to walk around and see pigs and donkeys roaming here and there. I found the little girl’s caution amusing, but quite sensible too. Donkeys are big and she’s rather small. 🙂

  8. A wonderful setting for all kinds of animals, including humans. I love the idea of pigs roaming the countryside, eating nuts and acorns. That’s what all pigs ought to be doing, in my humble opinion!

  9. Wonderful photos Derrick. I was once mis-informed that Sandy Balls got its name from a wing commander – but when I visited – I learned that it was named after the giant round grassy hills that have sand soil (resembling gonads) since Henry VII’s time. I also like the way that the ‘Commoners’ (actual term for locals with New Forestry rights) pronounce Godshill as ‘Goshill’ in case they be accused of blasphemy. I must get out to the forest soon – the Pannage is my favourite time of year.

  10. Love the picture of the animals., and lunch looks delicious. In response to your comment on my recent blog post…So glad those very big pigs aren’t on my roof!

  11. Wonderful post, Derrick–from the place names (giggle) to the donkeys and on to pannage. I’ve never heard of that. I suppose there may be places where pigs roam here in the U.S., but nothing that I’ve heard of, and certainly no custom–though I suppose there was in times past.
    Love the photos, as always.

    1. It’s also highly unlikely in the US that there would be French terms for old practices, because they smack of the colonial rulers which the founders of the original United States were throwing off. I’m not sure what “pannage” literally means (“-age” is a French suffix), but many terms in the New Forest (an area set aside by invaders from Normandy a millennium ago) are of French origin. D’s blog mentions several (“verderers”, “agisters”, etc.)

      1. The US is large and varied, and I’m sure there are still terms and practices that came from Britain and colonial rule. But Americans were big on fencing in the wilderness, too.

  12. Amazing that you have roaming pigs in the New Forest. What a great tradition–although I’m not sure that I would want to come across one on a walk. Those big piggies will taste mighty good after eating all that mast.

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