The clocks have changed and autumn is now in full flow with Pondhead, and indeed the rest of the Forest, full of rich leaf colour. What has been lacking is those seasonal crisp dry frosty mornings which have been replaced by rain, rain and more rain. In fact, 3 October has now been confirmed as the wettest day since records began in 1891. It seems that there has been little respite since and they are curently forecasting that it could end up as the wettest ever October! October is generally regarded as UK’s wettest month so let’s hope things will change in November.
The weather forced us to cancel several tasks during the month and on a number of others, our hardy volunteers have put up with the conditions bravely and soldiered on. On the subject of weather, it is worth restating that sometimes we may have to cancel an event at short notice as weather forecasts are not always entirely reliable. In the circumstances, if you are booked on a task and are not sure if it may be cancelled due to weather, please always check the Events Diary before you leave on the morning of the task – it will be marked CANCELLED if it is not taking place. In the event that you have to cancel attendance, please cancel your booking on the “My Bookings” page as this will immediately free up a space for someone else.
On a positive note, we have achieved much over the past month during task days that have taken place despite the weather. Most of the charcoal timber has now been gathered in ready for next year’s charcoal season. While much was collected on the trolleys by our volunteers, the task was gratefully handed over to the Alaskan Malamutes who really exceeded all expectations with the amount of timber they were able to shift. After some early teething problems with sleds, these were quickly abandoned and our trolleys converted, proving ideal for the purpose. The dogs will return on some further Saturdays before Christmas when we have a few additional jobs lined up for them – watch this space.
Lymington Times 23 October
As far as other tasks are concerned, we have now cleared all the brash left over from Forestry England operations that caused considerable damage to the ramson (wild garlic) area and also the bluebell area immediately behind it, which was strewn with cut branches, etc. At the same time, we managed to do a temporary repair to the adjacent deer fence which has been letting deer in rather than keeping them out. We have ordered 12 standard lime trees to plant in this area which will be delivered to site when available and form the basis of another conservation task.
In addition, a considerable amount of work has been done in the Snake Pass area where much of the silver birch has been thinned and sunny glades created. Looking ahead, next week’s tasks will concentrate mainly on some ride maintenance cutting back vegetation that is ingressing onto the rides. Now that we can properly assess the amount of charcoal timber available for next year, we will not be doing much coppicing, if any, this current conservation season. However, our biggest project over coming months will be the creation of a lawn area by removing scrub, to the south of the circular walk – this won’t be a small job!.
October 7th. also saw our last charcoal burn of the year. Subsequently, the kiln had a good clean out in readiness for its planned major repairs. After using pallet wood to fire it up during the past season we’ve ended up with around half a ton of nails and other bits of metal in the fire box! The kiln is now turned around and ready to be towed to the fabricators in due course. We don’t have a date for the work yet but once it goes, we will take the existing stockade and wet shelter down and have a big bonfire on site ahead of constructing new versions of these structures. Indeed, a start has already been made on the new improved wet shelter using the ash that was felled as a result of chalara (die back).
Behind the scenes, there has been some significant sycamore and rhododendron eradication taking place. As you will be aware, Pondhead has a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) designation and it’s current status is “unfavourable – improving”. In order to improve its status we shouldn’t have more than 5% of each species in the woodland so hence the reason for getting rid of as much as possible. During the month, we also gave a “Zoom” presentation to Lymington Natural History Society and an on-site talk to some Brockenhurst students about woodland management.
For those of you who placed orders for Pondhead branded clothing, the order went into our suppliers a couple of weeks ago and should be arriving shortly – we will let you know when it’s available.
We are fortunate in Pondhead that we suffer very little anti-social behaviour but over recent weeks logs have been appearing across rides and it’s nothing to do with us. As soon as they are cleared by both ourselves and members of the public, they appear again. No one has been spotted doing it but mountain bikers have been seen by the public on some of the less visible rides and we wonder if they are being placed as some sort of obsticle course. Whatever, the reason the logs are creating unecessary trip hazards especially in slippery conditions. We have highlighted the issue on our own Facebook group and that of Lyndhurst village, pointing out that it is a criminal offence to cause unecessary damage to a an SSSI – max fine £20K! If you encounter any logs please clear them well off the ride. Thanks.
Finally, a perspective on the availability of spaces on conservation tasks (or lack of them). Taking everything into account we are only six spaces a week down on last year’s availability as we have increased task days from two to three. In addition, we have run some additional events on both weekdays and Saturdays. At present, none of the other regular conservation programmes are running in the Forest – Forestry England, NPA and National Trust and this is placing pressure on our spaces. Additionally, autumn is a time when we’ve seen volunteers take breaks and holidays in the past but no one is going anywhere at present in view of Covid. We’ve been aware of a few moans and groans on the subject but we could have easily taken the decision not to run a programme in line with the above organisations – we may have to halt if current restrictions tighten! In order to be as fair as possible to our existing loyal volunteer base, we have stopped registering any new volunteers for the time being. In addition, we will no longer provide advance notice of when task dates go live and they will be released randomly so please check the Events Diary regularly – this will give everyone an equal opportunity. With no significant coppicing planned this year, there will be sufficient numbers of volunteers on tasks to accomodate this season’s work schedule. Accordingly, we don’t envisage making any changes to volunteer numbers on tasks, especially with the pandemic gathering momentum again.
Many thanks for all your support in difficult times.