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Holly in the New Forest

Everywhere you wander in the New Forest, there are signs of life. The Holly Trunks are full of stories. Being hardy, shade loving trees, they thrive amongst the woodlands and often support ancient beech and oaks.


Some of these holly trees are centuries old with the ancient trees showing signs of pollarding. The top branches in times gone by were left on the ground to be stripped by the ponies for extra food through the winter months, and once you notice, you will see that almost every holly tree bears markings. Not from humans this time, but it is a favourite of the New Forest ponies to sharpen their teeth and of the deer to remove the velvet from their antlers.



Holly is always associated with this time of year with its bright red berries, which are only produced by the female tree, and the spiky leaves, but as the tree ages, the leaves become smoother. Holly symbolises good will and protection from evil spirits and is used in many beliefs symbolically. A holly wreath on your front door this time of year symbolises the protection and good will entering your house, with the ring symbolising eternal life.



The tradition that has gotten lost over the centuries is the burning of the wreath. This used to take place after the Christmas period to rid the evil spirits caught in the holly, therefore entering a positive New Year.


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