The old meaning of forest is an extensive area of rough land on which the king or major landowner had the right to keep deer for hunting. These areas were subject to stringent laws to preserve the game.
It was the Normans who formalised the concept of a Forest. One of the first was the New Forest established by William the Conqueror. Such areas were often not the sole property of the king but also had landowners and people with common-rights.
Some of our most important ancient tree sites are mediaeval forests – including the New Forest, Sherwood Forest, Windsor Forest, Epping Forest, Hainault Forest, and Hatfield Forest.