This is the time of year in Pondhead when nature takes priority and any other activities, apart from charcoal, take a back seat for a few months. Spring has now well and truly sprung. It’s the time of new life.
Migrant birds like the chiffchaff are back in the woods and the cuckoo has been heard in the locality. The sound of birdsong is ringing all around our woodland as birds pair up and choose their nest sites. Their dawn chorus reaches its crescendo between the end of April and June The first songsters begin singing about an hour before sunrise, with the peak being half an hour before, and half an hour after sunrise.
With regard to Pondhead’s four-legged inhabitants, a family of four fox cubs have been spotted in the inclosure and soon badger cubs will start to emerge from their sets having spent the first eight weeks of their life underground. Elsewhere, a pair of Mandarin ducks have been spotted in one of the streams and the early flying butterfly species are back on the wing.
Woodland flowers also emerge at this time of year to take advantage of the sunlight on the woodland floor before the tree canopy closes in and creates shade. Already we have primroses, celandines, wood anemones and wood sorrel. However, the bluebells may be a little later this year as a result of recent frosts – there are a few flower spikes here and there at present. Overall, it’s a magical time in Pondhead.
Other animals spotted and who are not so welcome in Pondhead because of the damage they cause are fallow, roe and muntjac deer. We recently placed a trail cam on one of the streams to see what wildlife, if any, frequented it and were surprised to find all three species of deer paddling and drinking!
All human activity in Pondhead is currently centred on the charcoal kiln and it’s been a busy few weeks with charcoal sales already just short of £1000 this month. Something tells us that’s it’s going to be another bumper year for sales. In addition to our regular outlets, we are now supplying the Gun Inn at Keyhaven with charcoal. This popular pub is now under new ownership and they are very keen to use seasonal produce sourced from the New Forest and cooked on an Argentinian BBQ grill. Their head chef, Mark, spent a few hours with us on a recent burn and is very impressed with the quality of our charcoal.
Our refurbished kiln continues to operate well with slightly higher yields than previously and it was joined this week by a smaller version which has been donated to us by a friend of Dave Dibden. Dave’s friend built it himself a few years ago after seeing how our kiln worked but no longer has a need for it so it will help supplement production in what we anticipate will be a very busy year.
In view of the high risk of fire, particularly on the open heaths, a BBQ ban is now in place across the Forest (apart from the campsites) which we fully endorse and are including reference to this on the latest print of our charcoal bags. The bags are currently on order and you may (or may not) be interested to learn that they now cost us 55p each. As a consequence we have increased our prices this year – our first in six years!
The log shelter has been re-erected in recent weeks following formal permission being received from Forestry England. When it was taken down initially, the whole process took only 33 minutes. It took a little longer to put back up again but the job was completed in a few hours with environmentally friendly preservative applied to each log before it was placed in situ – check its construction progress on our Facebook page. Prior to this the main beam was stress tested by Perry in a manner which befits the way we do things in Pondhead.
On 30 March, seven Pondhead Trustees met in the evening in the charcoal kiln area to hold our socially distanced AGM, later than usual this year because of the Covid situation. As we were unable to invite volunteers on this occasion, a copy of the meeting notes may be viewed by clicking here. You will see from these notes that it was proposed that we invite Peter Frost to our board of Trustees. Peter is a former Verderer and former Board Member of the of the New Forest National Park Authority. He has a wealth of knowledge of the New Forest and imparts snippets of this knowledge in a series of 5 minute YouTube videos which are well worth following. Subsequent to the meeting, we are pleased to report that Peter has agreed to join us.
Finally, Covid will be with us for some while yet by all reports but we hope that many of you will have had your first vaccination jab at least, to ensure that you are protected from the worst affects of the virus. However, as the vaccine is new it’s not yet clear if the jab will prevent people continuing to carry the virus after vaccination, so to be on the safe side before you meet up with your fellow volunteers why not self test at home with a lateral flow test which is now available free via the Government website. Don’t panic, we’re not proposing a “Pondhead Passport” but the kits are easy to order, usually arrive the next day and contain enough for seven tests.
Stay safe everyone – here’s hoping we can all get back together again in Pondhead soon.