Forest comes from the Latin word meaning outdoors – so medieval forests included woods, heaths, wasteland and all manner of open spaces. Their aim was to protect the beasts which the king hunted – deer and boar amongst others. The rules of vert and venison were designed for the protection of habitat, animal and ease of the hunt.
By 1086 there were in the region of 25 royal forests. The Anglo Saxon Chronicle contains many bitter complaints on the matter. At one point during the thirteenth century it’s estimated that a quarter of the country was designated royal forest which meant that it fell under forest law which was an arbitrary system based on the king rather than common law and its precedents.
Now I know that there is still a words, words, words challenge ongoing but it seems to me that this has real potential – so here is an unexpected History Jar challenge – how many of the medieval royal forests can you name?