Well it’s been another busy month in Pondhead but first things first.
Hot off the press – on Friday, 12 July, Dave and Derek attended the Royal Forestry Society’s “Excellence in Forestry Awards” at the York Club, Windsor Great Park where Pondhead Conservation Trust was announced as winner of the 2019 Community Forestry Award, beating other woodlands from across London and the South East. Interestingly, in second place was a Forestry Commission community woodland in Kent! Accompanying the trophy which we keep for a year, was a cheque for £500.
The Royal Forestry Society was formed in 1882 and received its Royal Charter in 1905. It is the largest and longest established education charity promoting the management of woods in the UK. The Community Forestry Award encourages and rewards projects which have been established and managed in a way which is sustainable and beneficial to the landscape, the local people, biodiversity and the economy in both the short and long term. This is another prestigious award which recognises the tremendous work of our volunteers – well done everyone.
At the start of the day in Windsor, we were given a guided walk to learn about the ancient trees and forests of Windsor Great Park with John Deakin, Head Forester of the Crown Estate – we were pleased to point out that we also managed part of the Crown Estate! This was followed by a BBQ lunch which preceded the presentations in the afternoon. A very interesting and proud day.
Back to the New Forest, having thought summer had arrived earlier in the month of June, we received downfalls of much needed rain for much of the month before a mini heatwave at the end of the month. Despite this indifferent weather, charcoal sales have held up remarkably well so far compared to last year, especially as June 2018 was a record month for sales. Sales for this season until the end of June are only £150 down on the same period last year. We also managed to get the kiln to metal fabricators in the middle of the month for some much needed welding repairs without causing any disruption to supplies to our outlets. Thanks to Robin for getting it to Totton and back safely!
During the past month, we held a further two chair courses and were very lucky with the weather on each occasion. Once again, every participant was successful in making a chair to take home with them. We now have one further course scheduled for September, which like the others is fully booked. Quite often we receive visits from the public to see what we are doing on these courses and the past month was no exception as former TV presenter Johnny Ball looked in on one of our events. As recently advised we will also be running another trial spoon course on 20 July for a mixture of PCT volunteers and invited members of the general public. There are still spaces available at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/from-tree-to-spoon-tickets-63962189631.
Talking of charcoal, did you know that Saint Alexander is the patron saint of charcoal burners and his Saint’s Day is 11 August. For several years this has been celebrated with a Charfest which this year is being hosted by the Dorset Coppice Group. The event is taking place between 9 and 12 August and further details can be found by clicking here. The event is taking place in Bonsley Wood which is just outside Blandford Forum and will be open to the general public on the Saturday for a donation of £2 per person, when you will be able to see a variety of charcoal production methods in action so be prepared for it to get a bit smoky at times! To give you a flavour of what to expect, watch the video below demonstrating an earth burn. It features Alan Walters from Sussex who gave us advice at the start of the Pondhead project and who will be at Charfest.
As the June weather improved, we enjoyed a very pleasant Midsummer Day BBQ in the charcoal kiln area which was well attended. Those present enjoyed a variety of New Forest produced sausages supplemented with apple juice (both fermented and unfermented!). This was followed by the official unveiling of the brass plaque for our commemorative oak by John Gardner, who was one of our first volunteers. The “Volunteers’ Oak” now stands in perpetuity to commemorate our Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.
Citizen Science has also been on the agenda in recent weeks. Citizen Science is defined as “the collection and analysis of data relating to the natural world by members of the general public, typically as part of a collaborative project with professional scientists”. The first of these Pondhead projects has involved the Noble Chafer beetle, which is classified as ‘Vulnerable’, meaning that they face a very high risk of extinction in the wild. Found mainly in old orchards, they are present in small numbers in Pondhead and we have been taking part in a national survey with pheromone traps to monitor and release the male of the species = three males were recorded on this occasion. In addition, we have also undertaken some sampling on the stream that runs along our north eastern boundary of Pondhead and found plenty of wildlife present including a small trout. Both of these projects have been organised by Gemma Stride from the National Park Authority.
In addition to our other events, we continue to entertain outside visitors and the past month has seen members of Ringwood Natural History Society enjoyed a guided walk around Pondhead and staff from the National Park Authority spent a “Staff Discovery Day” with us.
Turning to other matters, the proposed sewer for the Limewood complex that was to be routed under the main gravel ride has been subject to a planning application (as mentioned in our last newsletter). Having studied the application in detail it became obvious to us that the proposed work lacked sufficient detail regarding how the spoil from the drilling pits would be treated other than dumping it on sensitive vegetation on the ride sides, albeit on a temporary basis. In the circumstances we made formal comment on this aspect which was subsequently backed up by similar and more detailed comment by Natural England and others. As a result the planning application has been withdrawn, at least for the time being until their plans are more clearly defined. We are not against the work in principle but we need to ensure that it is undertaken sympathetically.
Before our next newsletter is scheduled to be published, we will be attending the New Forest Show on 30/31 July and 1 August with a stand in the “Heart of the Forest” area. If you are attending, make sure you pop in and say hello we will be right at the entrance to the area.
Finally, thanks to all who have been helping with emptying the kiln and bagging up charcoal. These days are an integral part of our project as it funds everything else so please help out if you can as there are still spaces available in the Events Diary. The same applies on charcoal burn days when you don’t need to book – just turn up for an hour or so and lend a hand with some sawing. The BBQ is generally fired up around lunchtime.
That’s all for now – enjoy the rest of the summer.