As we slowly and cautiously emerge from lockdown, perhaps there is light at the end of the tunnel or is it another Covid train heading directly towards us? Only time will tell. We just hope you’re all keeping clear of this horrible virus.
Do you know that this week is UK Volunteer Week – it’s an annual celebration of the contribution that volunteers make to their communities throughout the year. While our activities have been curtailed over the past 10 weeks, it’s an opportunity for the Trustees of Pondhead Conservation Trust to thank you all for your efforts over the past 12 months and we hope that we may be able to return to something near normal come the autumn. It’s ironic that we experienced one of the wettest winters on record only to be hit with lockdown as the hottest spring on record came along. I guess that’s climate change for you!
As at PCT’s year end on 31 March, our volunteer hours while undertaking tasks in Pondhead totalled 5857 – that’s the equivalent of 4 full time employees on a 45 hour week! This was slightly down on the previous year (6124) as a result of our having to cancel more conservation tasks than usual because of the very wet autumn and winter weather. Despite those cancellations we still achieved a tremendous amount. Having decided to drop one of the planned coppice coupes in view of the significant stacks of charcoal wood already available to us, our attention turned to other projects including opening up two old rides that were completely overgrown, both of which are blending in well and are being used regularly. Indeed, we continue to receive unsolicited positive feedback from those who walk in Pondhead.
We have stepped up our activities a little since our last newsletter. It appears that there is a bit of a general shortage of imported charcoal out there – currently, as soon as we bag after a burn, it’s delivered and gone. At present we have no stock and our next two burns are already sold. As at the end of May we are £1200 down on the same period last year as we stopped all activities for the whole of April and the greater part of May. We hope to narrow the gap over the next month if the present weather persists.
We have kept activities to a small group of volunteers at this stage, mainly for practical reasons. With the further easing of the lockdown since Monday, we have risk assessed our charcoal activities and can now allow three people on a task with out any problems with social distancing. In addition to the burn day, we are now splitting the bagging task from the emptying and stacking task, with three volunteers on each. There are also morning and afternoon sessions for sawing timber from the kiln.
Charcoal burns and emptying/ stacking has been undertaken between Dave/Derek and Mike/Phil, mainly because they have to trailers to transport charcoal to the store. All other tasks are being undertaken by the chainsaw team and those volunteers who volunteered for sawing following our recent request One practical issue we have is that we have a small stock of masks but are unable to get further supplies at present. By operating with a small team of volunteers, they can keep their masks and use several times. Whenever it is practical we will start to involve more volunteers so bear with us. In the meantime enjoy a stroll around Pondhead it’s looking good.
During downtime, we have been thinking of ways of enhancing our circular walk with the aid of QR (Quick Response) codes. A QR code works in the same way as a barcode at the supermarket. It is a machine-scannable image that can instantly be read using a Smartphone camera all you need is a QR app. Give it a try on the code below with your smart phone.
With regard to our chair courses scheduled for this month we are hoping to re-schedule in August depending on what the conditions and regulations are then in place. If not deemed safe then we will refund paticipants which would be a shame but people’s health is paramount in the situation we find ourselves in. In the meantime, Perry has come up with a new design for a garden chair that seats two and the orders are flying in with PCT getting a cut of the sales.
The general scene in Pondhead is a very verdant one with foxgloves providing splashes of pink everywhere – well worth a visit at present. Despite the mayhem that appears to be going on across the Forest at present, Pondhead remains an area of peace and tranquility ignored by the hordes who currently are seemingly doing their best to set fire to the Forest with disposable BBQs and parking wherever they like. With all this going on, the local bodies responsible for the New Forest have produced the following sign/leaflet which has been long overdue as no one ever bothers to read the bye law notices in car parks. All that’s needed now is a bit of enforcement!
Finally, thanks to all of you who volunteered to become more closely involved with the running of Pondhead a few months ago – we haven’t forgot you but it’s been put on hold while we navigate our way through this Covid crisis.
That’s all for now folks – hope you manage to get into Pondhead as it’s looking great at present – a far cry from those wet dull days we experienced during autumn and winter as can be seen from the slideshow below.