(Reference: E.F. Lincoln's The Medieval Legacy, London, Macgibbon & Kee; c1961.)
The New Forest established by William the Conqueror in Hampshire was set aside as a royal chase and excluded from the application of the ordinary law of the land. The "Dommesday Survey" indicates that the act of "foresting" these lands had the result of depopulating only a few of the Anglo-Saxon settlements previously established on the land. Most were simply brought under the Forest Laws. The whole county of Essex was administered under the Forest Laws, with areas of continued cultivation.
The majority of "forests" designated under Norman rule were utterly barren, such as the Forest of the High Peak and the Forest of Skiddaw, which was treeless. The sandy soil of the New Forest was less wooded than it is today. The Forest of Essex, Sherwood and Arden were wooded, but in general, forests were either tracts of peat hag and bog; or sandy soil too porous for intensive medieval cultivation. Forests were generally unproductive for timber and created in a time when conifers were unheard of in England.