A Happy New Year to you all. Many thanks for all your efforts over the past year – you really are making a difference to the woodland. At this time of year it’s customary to look back and reflect on what was achieved during 2017.
It was certainly a highly successful year for PCT and one that saw us come of age and become one of the foremost conservation groups in the New Forest with a growing reputation. Reflecting back only a short while ago to early 2014, we had a plan but nothing else – no volunteers, no funds, no equipment and no license from the Forestry Commission to operate in Pondhead. However, after a few teething problems, we negotiated a 10 year license with the FC and received generous seed funding from New Forest NPA and the New Forest Trust enabling us to hold our first conservation task on 23 October 2014. Since those early formative days, PCT now has a feeling of maturity about it and we have proved to a few early doubters that we are here for the long term and are not a “5 Minute Wonder”.
2017 saw us successfully complete our initial 3-year Woodland Management Plan that we agreed with the FC at the outset as a condition of our license. As matters stand, we have also achieved all the objectives we set ourselves in our original Business Plan and, hopefully, repaid the faith shown in us by our initial supporters, particularly the New Forest NPA and New Forest Trust as without their generous funding our project would never have got off the ground. To cap it all, early January last year saw us receive the UK National Parks Volunteer Project of the Year – a prestigious national award and prize money of £1000.
Other achievements during 2017 included record charcoal sales, the successful introduction of our “Make a Chair in a Day” courses and another appearance on national television courtesy of Channel 5’s “Britain by Bike” with Larry and George Lamb. In March, a dragon made Pondhead its home and has become a big attraction in its own right. In April, we acquired a 20 ft. container to store our equipment which freed up space in several people’s garages. After a year’s absence, we were once again represented at the New Forest Show in July and our display, including the charcoal retort, generated a lot of interest. Towards the end of the year we were nominated for the Queens Award for Voluntary Service (the MBE equivalent for voluntary organisations) by New Forest NPA followed by an assessment visit by the Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire’s representative. We will not know if we have been successful until early June 2018 when the Queen’s Birthday Honours List is announced so fingers crossed! Even if we are not successful, it’s quite an honour to be nominated and a measure of our growing reputation.
It is a year that our volunteers can look back on with pride and a sense of accomplishment – a year during which you contributed over 3000 volunteer hours to the project. As we have grown as an organisation, we have also started to spread responsibility and the rota system of wood colliers (charcoal burners) worked very well throughout the spring and summer. At the start of the autumn conservation programme, we have also commenced spreading the leadership of our conservation tasks. If anyone else would like to add their name to either charcoal production or conservation leading, please let us know and we will put the necessary training in place.
The year was rounded off with another Christmas Woodman’s Breakfast on 21 December which attracted a good crowd of volunteers and friends. This is our traditional Christmas get together where there was plenty to eat, plus mulled wine and mulled cider (not to mention two bottles of Jack Daniels!). Dave Dibden rolled back the years with some virtuoso guitar work and seasonal melodies and a good time was had by all.
As we move into 2018, we are pleased to announce the premiere of our first promotional video which quite of few of you feature in – hopefully this will help us drive volunteer recruitment, especially with the annual New Forest Volunteer Fair taking place in Lyndhurst Community Centre on Sunday 28 January, where we will be represented once again and hope to see some of you there.
Here it is (turn the sound on) – let us know what you think.
We will be also looking to strengthen our management team of Trustees at our next AGM by bringing in several individuals from outside organisations to help mainly in advisory capacities. The AGM is taking place on 16 January at the Sir John Barleycorn in Cadnam, commencing 19.00. We will circulate the minutes with our next news blog but you are welcome to come along on the evening. The AGM will be followed by a Trustee business meeting.
Finally, if you intend to make a New Year’s resolution why not resolve to book on some conservation tasks in Pondhead, especially if we didn’t see you during 2017. There are still plenty of spaces available in January so please book up if you can.
A PICTORIAL REVIEW OF 2017