As we move from one decade to another, it’s a good time to reflect on what’s been happening in Pondhead. We’ve certainly come a long way from our first conservation task on 23 October 2014 attended by just 6 people, of whom Mike Green and Trevor Bumfrey remain active volunteers – what staying power! Since that first conservation task, Pondhead has received well over 20,000 volunteers hours, which total has been increasing exponentially year on year with the current year likely to set another record. There are still spaces on most January tasks so please book on via the Events Diary
It’s your efforts that are continuing to transform Pondhead from a neglected woodland into a multi award winning community woodland. As another year ends, it’s a good time to look back on what we have achieved over the past twelve months, so here goes: –
The weather was kind to us and it was coppicing, coppicing and more coppicing as we completed our largest ever area of hand coppicing in Rosie Close, before moving on to start another hand coppiced coupe in Pond Close. Meanwhile the chainsaw team were busy at work on an overstood area of coppice in Crab Tree Close behind Lime Wood Hotel. Elsewhere an otter was spotted in the main stream that runs along the north east perimeter of the inclosure and filmed by an employee of the Environment Agency on a site visit. During the month our AGM was held and attended by and increased number of volunteers which was good to see. The month also saw us attend the annual New Forest Volunteer Fair once again and on 31 January we had the first snowfall of the year which gave Pondhead a completely different appearance for a few days.
Following the late snowfall in January, February 2019 was one of the warmest on record, which enabled us to crack on and virtually complete the season’s coppicing plan on schedule by the month end. We even ran a “Coppicing Course” for the National Park Authority. A newly planted standard English Oak appeared in Rosie Close during the month which would later be named the “Volunteers’ Oak” to commemorate our Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.
All outstanding conservation tasks were completed by the second week in March ahead of the bird nesting season, including the planting of 1500 young trees that had been donated by the Woodland Trust. By mid month, our charcoal making operations re-commenced following some welding repairs to the kiln. However, the highlight of the month was the visit of Toby and his Comptois horses, Fleur and Celine who spent three days horse logging with us delivering timber to the charcoal kiln.
Easter fell in late April and we were blessed with exceptionally warm weather which saw charcoal sales soar to over £1K during the month but more holes appeared in the kiln! Following the recent planting of the “Volunteers’ Oak” a team of volunteers constructed a rustic post and rail fence around it, which they cleft from a large felled oak extracted by Toby’s horses during their visit in March. Towards the end of the month everything was in full leaf and bluebells were providing their annual carpet of blue attracting an increasing number of visitors to the woodland.
While the Easter heatwave was not replicated during May, it remained mostly dry with charcoal sales holding up well and we also successfully completed our first two chair courses of the year. The first cuckoo of the year was heard as were nightjars. There was the exciting news that we had been shortlisted by the Royal Forestry Society for their annual Community Woodland Award and we were visited by their judges for a tour of Pondhead.
After a prolonged dry period (remember those?), much of the month was subject to rain showers before a mini heatwave at the end of June when we held a midsummer BBQ for our volunteers which was well attended. A brass plaque at the “Volunteers’ Oak” was officially unveiled (twice!). The charcoal kiln disappeared to Totton for a few days for another welding job and despite the month’s indifferent weather, charcoal sales held up reasonably well and we completed a further two chair courses. However, the highlight of the month was the news that we had won the Royal Forestry Society’s Community Woodland Award which was presented to Dave and Derek at Windsor Great Park.
Warm weather returned for most of the month and it was a peak time for butterflies. Charcoal making continued by our team of merry wood colliers and we completed a trial spoon course with a group of volunteers, some of whom proved more skillful than others! We also had visits by three groups participating in the National Citizen Service scheme. We undertook our first ever “stream sampling” event which showed a varied variety of wildlife including a baby sea trout! The warm weather didn’t quite last until the first day of the New Forest Show where we were treated to dull wet weather. However, sunshine returned on the following two days and we received a lot of interest in our display which expanded and got bigger as the show progressed, thanks in part to Perry’s rustic pole architectural structure.
August is always the last full month of charcoal production and the kiln undertook its 173rd burn since it was first commissioned in 2015 and it has held up reasonably well following two welding jobs to patch holes in the metal interior. During the season we produced around four tonnes of BBQ charcoal which required twelve tonnes of cut timber – over 1100 bags of charcoal were sold. We also completed our fifth and final chair course of the year – over the five courses no one failed to take a chair home with them. During the spring and summer Hampshire Ornithological Society conducted a series of bird surveys in Pondhead and their report was received during the month indicating that there were 31 different breeding bird species present in the woodland.
Our charcoal kiln was put to bed for the winter but not before we spotted two more small holes that will require another welding job before March 2020. For most of the month we enjoyed an Indian Summer which enabled us to make a great start to our autumn/winter conservation programme. Our main focus for the month was opening up an old overgrown ride in Pond Close at the rear of the charcoal area which was completed ahead of schedule and uncovered a large area of bluebells which had been starved of sunlight for many years. However, the main event of the month was the return of Toby and his horses which coincided with our Open Day on 21 September which took place in glorious sunshine and attracted a good crowd. In fact, it was the last day of the Indian Summer and hasn’t stopped raining since!
The warm wet weather continued throughout the month – in fact there was hardly a dry day but our hardy volunteers were up to the challenge! Most of the month was spent on ride management, clearing a large swathe of vegetation along the side of the oak plantation in Rosie Close. During the month we also organised a series of four walks in and around Pondhead as part of the New Forest Autumn Walking Festival. In addition to our Facebook page we also set up an Instagram page to make us even more social media savvy in the 21st century.
The warm wet weather continued with the trees still hanging on to their leaves as a result and this delayed the start of the season’s coppicing programme until the middle of the month – two weeks later that usual. Hand coppicing commenced in Pond Close in the area where we believe the old pond was situated when Pondhead was at the heart of a Royal Deer Park, nearly 600 years ago. Meanwhile, the chainsaw team made a start on a hazel coupe in Rosie Close near the Beaulieu Road gate. Our 2020 chair courses went on sale and started selling like hot cakes and by the month end 23 out of 30 spaces had been sold.
The rain continued! Despite the weather we cracked on and finished coppicing Pond Close while the hedge makers took their art to new levels – we defy any deer to get in there and nibble the sugary regrowth on the hazel stools. Demand for our chair courses continued resulting in only two spaces remaining for our 2020 courses. However, the highlight of the month was our annual Woodman’s Brunch which gets bigger (and longer!) every year. Even the weather couldn’t stop us and it was quite appalling at times during the day. At one stage, what appeared to be a mini hurricane blew through but the band played on as everyone else held on to the tarpaulin shelter to stop it launching into space – check out the video by clicking here if you dare.
ADDITIONAL DIARY DATES
A couple of extra events for your January diaries.
On Thursday 23rd, we will be holding our Annual General Meeting at Deorfrith Lodge (Scout Hall) in Wellands Road, Lyndhurst from 7.30 pm and there is an open invite for any volunteers wishing to attend – full details in the Events Diary.
We will be attending the annual New Forest Volunteer Fair once again this year which is being held in Lyndhurst Community Centre on Sunday 26th. Full details can be found by clicking here. Check out the poster girl and boy they are using for the event!!
We will not be submitting a further clothing order until the end of March but in the meantime, we have the following surplus stock: –
1 x Waterproof Jacket (XL)
1 x Waterproof Jacket (L)
1 x Fleece (L)
1 x Sweatshirt (L)
2 x Ladies fit Polo Shirts (L)
Please let Derek Know if you would like to purchase or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Have a happy, healthy and peaceful New Year. See you in Pondhead in 2020.