So wrote 19th century poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his poem, “The Rainy Day”. Well, I think we’ve had more than our fair share of rain in recent months! We’ve never known Pondhead so waterlogged with some rides resembling streams. As a consequence of the weather, it’s been necessary for us to cancel more events than usual over the current conservation season that’s now nearing it’s end. In addition, ground conditions have made it difficult for us to plan conservation tasks too far in advance. The sodden ground has also lessened the stability of many tree root systems which together with several periods of high wind, has caused many to fall. There are always some winter casualties but this winter has seen many more than usual, with several falling across rides and tracks. We have cleared those we are able but some require removal by Forestry England and their specialised equipment. As I write some are still requiring attention and no doubt we are having to wait our turn as there are many trees down across the Forest.
Following recent task cancellations due to adverse weather, we have added some additional spaces to upcoming events and added a new task date on 12 March. We are aware that some of you have not been able to get onto events recently as they have been fully booked so book early via the Events Diary to avoid disappointment! We really are victims of our own success and it goes to show what a great bunch of volunteers we have.
Despite the weather, we remain on target to complete all work planned for this conservation season. This has been helped by the fact that we dropped one coppice coupe from our original plan as we already have sufficient charcoal timber for the next two years. In the past month, we have completed our last coppice coupe in Rosie Close, cleared excessive bramble and other vegetations along the gravel tracks and almost completed renovation of the old ride at the back of Rosie Close that had been completely overgrown for many years. If the weather improves and we get a dry spell we will add a few more task dates to undertake some maintenance work around the woodland.
While we’ve experienced excessive rain, temperatrures have generally been above the seasonal norm which is encouraging early growth of our spring woodland flowers with some primroses starting to emerge and the green shoots of bluebells appearing all around the wood. The next month sees the official beginning of Spring – March 1 on the meteorological calendar and March 20 on the astronomical calendar, otherwise known as the Spring Equinox. This time of year the sap starts to rise again in the trees, delivering water and sugar to the new leaf buds as they swell and burst. Their demand for water will help dry out the woodland as a single large oak or beech can absorb in excess of 50 gallons of water a day. Once they are in leaf, their leaves also stop significant amounts of rainfall reaching the woodland floor assisting the drying out process.
By the middle of March we aim to start charcoal production, weather permitting, to build up stock ahead of Easter which is when seasonal demand usually starts. In the past month our kiln has returned from the fabricators with another two large panels welded into place, which hopefully will see us through the season. Our charcoal burns are undertaken by a small team of trained volunteers and are advertised in our Events Diary. There is no need to book onto these events but feel free to turn up, if only for an hour, to help with some sawing – if you turn up at lunchtime, the BBQ is usually fired up so just bring your sausages or burgers. This year, on some burns, we will also be training volunteers to make mini besom brooms which we hope to sell at the New Forest Show in July. Just come along and have a go – we aim to make charcoal burn days social events. Throughout the season, we also need volunteers to empty the kiln and bag up charcoal for sale and you can sign up to these events via the Events Diary. On these occasions we start at 9 am and aim to finish by midday with five volunteers needed on each occasion. As the income this generates is crucial to our continued activities, please sign up where you can (old clothes essential).
For more than a year there have been ongoing discussions over a planning application for a new sewer to be routed through Pondhead for the Lime Wood complex. Planning approval has now been granted subject to strict conditions which take account of our concerns that we expressed to the planning authority. It also stipulates that we are to be included in ongoing discussions. They have three years to start the work which should only take a few weeks. Full details can be obtained by clicking here.
On several occasions in the past, we have mentioned Give as you Live. If you shop online, this is a way in which you can raise funds for Pondhead Conservation Trust at no cost to yourself. To date £476 has been raised for our funds which helps to buy new tools (and volunteer chocolates) so why no sign up! Until recently, Amazon was one of their listed online retailers but from 11 February, they are operating their own donation scheme via Amazon Smile. As a charity, we are registed with Amazon Smile and you are able to nominate us to receive their donation. Try it out.
A reminder – don’t forget the New Forest Painters Spring Exhibition in Brockenhurst Village Hall on 7 and 8 March (10 am to 5 pm) where the oil painting (below) will be the subject of a silent auction with all funds being donated to PCT. Why not pop along – admission is free and you may even wish to bid!
Finally, we will be placing another clothing order with our suppliers at the end of March. You can place your order via our Pondhead Clothing page – all items are subsidised by PCT for at least 30%, Get your order in now – pay on delivery.
That’s all for this month – hope to see you in Pondhead soon