It’s that time of year again with chestnuts roasting on an open fire and Jack Frost nipping at your nose, so don’t forget to get into the seasonal spirit at our Christmas Woodmans’ Breakfast on Thursday 21 December at 9.30 am. The location this year will be the newly coppiced area in Rosie Close where there will also be a bonfire to clear some of the brash.
According to the meteorologists, today marks the start of winter. The colourful autumn lasted well into November but the past week has seen some hard frosts and the trees are finally letting go of their leaves as the woodland goes to sleep for the next few months.
However, work never stops in Pondhead and our immediate aim is to complete the two coppice coups that we are currently cutting in Rosie Close and Crab Tree Close. The coup in Rosie Close is the largest we will be cutting this year and we’re doing it all with hand tools. Originally, it was the intention to make a start with hand tools and the chainsaw team would finish it. However, it’s amazing the speed at which PCT volunteers work and it’s looking increasingly likely that we will not need their help. The work in Crab Tree Close is equally impressive, especially the timber extraction route that has been cut there. Well done everyone – we are ahead of schedule for this season’s tasks.
In order to save on temporary fencing (which costs £135 for 100 metres), we are constructing staked dead hedges around the Rosie Close coup to prevent deer damage and it’s giving the area a rustic appeal that is receiving quite a bit of favourable comment from walkers. One side completed – only three more to go! If you haven’t had a go at hedge laying yet, give it a try as it’s very therapeutic.
One of the conditions of our license from the Forestry Commission is that we provide them with a three-year woodland management plan. Having completed our initial plan successfully and, after a few unforeseen delays, we have now submitted our second three-year plan which has been approved. In conjunction with this plan we walk around the inclosure with the FC twice a year to assess the work that has been carried out and consider any extra bits that may need doing. In the past couple of weeks we walked the Beat Forester (Simon Holloway) and Beat Keeper (Alan Stride) around Pondhead and it’s pleasing to report that both were impressed with the amount of work that has been completed – well done everyone. Our new management plan is now available to read on the website.
Other recent visitors included James Brown and his small team from the National Park Authority archaeological unit to undertake a survey. They were joined by a group of enthusiastic PCT volunteers and, using LIDAR maps as our guide, we roamed around the inclosure looking for clues to the past. LIDAR (Light Direction & Ranging) uses harmless laser beams fired from an aircraft to penetrate the ground and digitally remove any buildings and trees to expose the surface features. The following is a LIDAR image of Pondhead – you can also download the image by clicking here.
Existing features of which we were already aware are clearly visible – the water filled scrapings on our circular trail (circled in blue) and the old marl pits (circled in red). The remains of marl pits are quite common across the New Forest – marl is a lime rich clay that was used as a soil conditioner on the acid soil of the area. However, the most interesting feature is circled in green. During the survey we discovered two parallel banks, each over 100 metres long, with two raised earth squares at the southern end. Raised earth squares are typical of medieval lodge type structures so further research will now be undertaken by the NPA – watch this space!
During the survey we were also on the lookout for any admiralty marks carved into trees as there are very few of these left in the Forest. From the 1600’s, the Forest’s trees became more important to the Crown than its deer, in order to provide ships’ timbers for the rapidly expanding Royal Navy. Admiralty Surveyors would make regular visits to mark trees with an arrow to signify that they were reserved for shipbuilding. Unfortunately, we didn’t find any in Pondhead but this picture shows the distinctive arrow mark found elsewhere in the Forest. If anyone finds one while out walking, James would welcome any details of the find.
While on historical matters, over a period of time we have been collecting various pieces of information relating to Pondhead’s history, which we know had Royal connections going back centuries. We have now pulled all this information together and a downloadable copy is available by clicking here. We hope you will find it interesting. We aim to add more as it becomes available.
We have also updated our Pondhead map and are getting a supply printed to give out to visitors to the inclosure along with a leaflet providing more information on Pondhead in general. These will also come in handy when we attend the annual New Forest Volunteer Fair which will be taking place next year on Sunday 28 January in Lyndhurst Community Centre – more details will follow in due course.
Since forming PCT, we have been visited by a variety of organisations and have recently agreed to provide assistance to another. Stuarts House Care provides support to adults on the autistic spectrum and we have agreed to help them with conservation opportunities for their clients who will be accompanied by their support workers. They will be coming along to a few events to work alongside us in the near future.
Now the boring bit! The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force in May 2018. This legislation is quite complex and is designed to provide data security for individuals with regard to personal information held by outside organisations. Even small charities like ourselves are affected and we have redesigned our online enrollment form to ensure we are compliant. The only purpose in mentioning it here is to make you aware of the legislation and let you know that we will only use your information to contact you about Pondhead matters and will not share it with any other organisation.
Finally, as this is our last news blog of 2017 here’s wishing you a Merry Christmas and whatever you wish for in 2018. If you wish for some more conservation tasks, those for January are now in the Events Diary. For those of you who have signed up to volunteer but have not yet had the opportunity to turn up for a conservation task, why not make it your New Year’s resolution.