It really has been a strange summer in more ways than one. The recent very hot weather in the first half of the month saw a record demand for our charcoal which has put us ahead of last years sales, despite closing down for seven weeks at the begining of the usual BBQ season. This could not have been achieved without our dedicated “bubble” of sawyers who have ensured that there was always an adequate supply of cut timber to stack the kiln. To put this into perspective, we have sold 1200 bags of charcoal since lockdown was eased – this equates to 3.6 tonnes of charcoal which required 11 tonnes of timber to produce. That’s an awful lot of sawing! Well done to all concerned. Charcoal sales usually come to an abrupt halt at the end of August each year but we will continue doing burns throughout most of September to build up stock to see us through the winter when there is only modest demand.
Last winter’s welding work on the kiln has held up well during this season but now that it’s done in excess of 200 burns, it’s time for something more substantial in the way of repairs to see us through the next few years. Accordingly, we have decided to have a new inner chamber and doors fabricated with some improvements to the existing design. The initial quote is £3000/3500, for which we have adequate funds available. The work will take place once the kiln is decomissioned for the season.
This bulk of this year’s chair courses were originally scheduled for June but couldn’t take place then and were moved to August following the easing of lockdown. Having experienced lovely sunny weather for most of the summer, the week of 17 August saw a distinct change with several seasons in one week – very heavy rain and gale force winds interspersed with sunshine, all of which meant we had to cancel 3 out of 5 courses planned for the week. It’s called Sod’s Law!
Elsewhere, our work improving the Pondhead Circular Walk received some positive publicity in a recent edition (7 August) of the Lymington Times: –
Looking forward, we plan to start a modified conservation task programme in mid/late September and you will be able to book on these via the Events Diary when they start to appear shortly. In the current unprecedented times it is widely acknowledged by HM Government and others that spending time in green spaces can benefit both mental and physical wellbeing. In order to achieve these benefits with minimal infection risk to our volunteers, our current intention is to have 6 volunteers per task plus 2 task leaders and hold tasks more regularly (subject to demand), on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. In doing so we will be operating within the current Government rules and guidance which state: –
“You should only be socialising in groups of up to 2 households (including your support bubble) indoors and outdoors or up to 6 people from different households when outdoors. More generally, you can continue to meet in larger groups if necessary for work, voluntary or charitable services, education, childcare or training, elite sporting competition or training, to fulfil legal obligations, to provide emergency assistance, or to enable someone to avoid illness, injury or risk of harm.”
We will keep a close watch on the Covid situation and if it is perceived that the risk becomes unacceptable for any reason, we will have to suspend tasks. We have risk assessed these activities for Covid avoidance and a copy can be downloaded here – if you intend to join any tasks, please familiarise yourself with its contents. If you don’t feel able or prefer not to volunteer in present circumstances, we understand and won’t take you off our volunteer register because of it.
The damage to the wild garlic (ramsons) area along the Limewood boundary following forestry operations last winter has been the subject of ongoing correspondence between ourselves and Forestry England in recent months. They have now cleared the large timber piles from the area, ahead of a site meeting with them that took place recently on 26 August. This was very much a “clear the air” meeting with the focus on how we move forward with perhaps a little more acknowledgement for the work done by our volunteers. With regard to the ramson area, we intend to plant it up with a dozen standard small leaf lime trees to see if it will eventually provide enough shade again for the ramsons to flourish once more. There will be some initial site work to do there once we start our conservation programme.
Running alongside the ramsons area will be the proposed new sewer pipeline from the Limewood complex, which will follow the course of the gravel track towards Beechen Lane before veering off to the right into adjoining fields opposite the entrance to our cicular walk. We are aware that work has commenced on the processing plant inside the Limewood complex but it is a planning condition that we are party to a meeting with the contractors before any work is commenced inside the inclosure. We do not wish to be onstructive over this work but, at the same time, we need to ensure that we are not faced with another ramson-type episode.
With plenty of cut timber lying around at present in various places, we had hoped to bring back Toby and his horses next month but unfortunately the trailer he uses for our work is currently out of action so we will not be seeing them again this year. However, there may be an opportunity for some Alaskan Malamutes to visit – these are very large husky type dogs that have been bred for hauling heavy loads on sledges. We’ll keep you posted if this possibility becomes a reality.
Finally, in addition to deer and badgers we also have at least one family of foxes in Pondhead and I’ve been fortunate to capture some of them with my camera recently and have included them in the slideshow below. Whatever your view on foxes, there are very photogenic! If you’re interested in these any other wildlife images check out www.newforestnature.uk. – a blatant plug on my part to help my website up the Google rankings!
If these last few months in the Forest and at the coast have taught us anything, it’s that stupidity travels faster than any virus on this planet! Take care everyone and stay alert.