A NEW TV series which shines a spotlight on ancient traditions in the New Forest starts tonight.

A Year in the New Forest is a four-part insight into what the makers describe as the "unique nature" of the people and animals who live in the area.

The first episode shows the Forest in autumn, when the leaves turn red and gold and pigs roam freely in search of acorns during the annual pannage season.

The other hour-long episodes follow life in the Forest through the seasons, celebrating its magical landscape and the people who care passionately about preserving its ancient way of life.

Much of the series focuses on people known as commoners - villagers with the right to let their ponies, cows and donkeys graze the Forest.

Describing how the commoners and their animals co-exist one woman says: "They’re not friends, you’re never friends, but you have a relationship.”

The series also shows red deer taking part in the annual rut and mushroom experts examining some of the 2,500 species of fungi found in the Forest. Climate change and other problems presented by the 21st century are among the other issues explored.

Anthony Climpson is chief executive of Go New Forest, which works to promote the area's tourism industry.

He said: “These programmes will help remind viewers just what a great place the New Forest is to spend a day, short break or longer holiday.

“The beautiful weather this summer is leading many to rediscover the joys of spending time in rural England.

"Our research shows the New Forest is already attracting many more young people who not only want to reconnect with nature but enjoy a little luxury.

“We hope the TV series will emphasise to viewers the New Forest is the perfect place for this sort of refreshment and renewal where tranquil, romantic landscapes provide an antidote to the stress of modern life.”

A Year in the New Forest is on Channel 4 at 7pm.