IT is 100 years since the Forestry Commission was established to restock the country’s timber reserves after the First World War.

Now, an exhibition is looking at the history of the New Forest and the role its staff have played in shaping it.

Forestry 100 – The Story of Your Forest also looks at the key challenges the Forest is likely to face over the next century.

The exhibition is full of unseen photographs from the archives of the Forestry Commission, which has been renamed Forestry England in the past few days.

It was opened by Jayne Albery, one of the commission’s longest-serving members of staff, and New Forest deputy surveyor Bruce Rothinie, who has been with the organisation for 40 years.

Mr Rothnie said: “This 100 year anniversary is an important milestone for our team who are out in the forest every day helping to care for it. It is a chance to look back at key events but also to consider what the future might have in store.”

It was in 1924 that the New Forest became part of the Forestry Commission under the Transfer of Woods Act.

During the Second World War, the Forest produced 12.5million cubic feet of timber for the war effort – enough to fill the Royal Albert Hall four times over, and a almost a quarter of the timber supplied by the commission nationally during the war.

In 1940, Godshill bombing range was established across 400 acres of fenced-off forest, and every type of bomb and artillery developed by the military was tested there – leaving around 400 craters on the landscape by the time it was closed in 1946.

After the war, the commission was given extra responsibilities to protect the ancient ornamental woods for the future. The Verderers authorised the commission to enclose and plant another 5,000 acres – the first new enclosures since 1851.

In 1959, five areas of the Forest were named Sites of Special Scientific Interest: Beaulieu Heath East; Cranes and Vales Moor; Hatchet Pond; Linwood Valley; and Wilverley Walk and Holmsley Station. The protected sites were extended in 1971 and 1987.

By 1970, visitor numbers to the Forest reached 3.5m. That year, vehicle access to the open forest was restricted in a bid to combat erosion.

The following year, the a ‘minister’s mandate’ was issued, which declared that preservation of the Forest’s character was to be the priority for management of the unenclosed areas, rather than timber production.

The Forest was further protected in 2005 by the creation of the New Forest National Park Authority and the designation of a Special Area of Conservation.

By 2018, the number of visitor days recorded had reached 15.2m.

Visitors to the new exhibition will see how generations of keepers and rangers have cared for wildlife.

Photos from the 1960s onwards show how recreational use of the Forest has grown and changed, with images showing its first campsites and the opening of visitor centres and trails.

It finishes by touching on what the next 100 years might have in store in the form of wider threats to nature.

Bruce Rothnie said: “We are already planting the New Forest of the future. The trees we plant today and the improvements we make to habitats will take many years to reach maturity, and we must try to make sure that when they reach this point they are able to thrive whatever they face. This requires all of those who love the Forest to work together with a shared responsibility to ensure it is ready to meet the future needs of society and a changing natural world.”

Forestry 100 – The Story of Your Forest is at the New Forest Heritage Centre in Lyndhurst until July 7.