Firstly, a big thankyou to those of you who answered our recent requests for help. As a result of your efforts we have collected most of the outlying piles of timber cut last year and relocated it by the retort or within easy access.
Further dates for “charcoal” days have now been added to the Events Diary up until the end of June so please sign up where you can – it’s this work that pays for all our other activities. With Dave on holiday for two weeks from 20 June, we will be without a chainsaw to cut up timber on charcoal burn days and, as a consequence, there will be few tasks to do on these days but they still have been included in the calendar in order that you can see when the retort is in operation – feel free to come along and keep me company!
Our charcoal production has been going well recently after some early problems with high moisture content in our cut timber following the record rainfall over the winter. Everything is now drying out well and burn times have reduced from 12 hours in April to 8 hours on recent burns. Charcoal quality remains high despite a big hole appearing on the inside of the outer wall of the retort exposing the insulation! We have managed to patch it up on a temporary basis to keep us going until the end of the season, so fingers crossed. Sales were poor during April but May more than made up for it and we are now back on target with stock flying out of the door as soon as it is bagged.
The retort has now been moved to the triangle area of Pond Close (opposite Bean Close) – see map. It will remain there for the rest of the summer and the area is looking every bit a working woodland site with all the timber we have retrieved during the past week from Bean Close. The site has been further enhanced by some hurdle fencing work currently being undertaken by a local group of 13/14 year old Scouts as part of their DoE bronze award and supervised by Perry and Phil. The area was further enhanced by the recent appearance of Perry’s latest design for a hazel chair. Meanwhile, his attempt at a living willow bench by the ponds is sprouting well!
Since our last update, we have had our six monthly walk around the inclosure with the Forestry Commission and they were very complimentary about the continued progress with the hazel coppicing and ride restoration work undertaken by our volunteers. Well done everyone.
The 500 hazel whips that we planted earlier in the year are all sprouting and looking very healthy at present. One of our July tasks will be to erect temporary fencing around this area to prevent deer damage as a young Roe buck is being seen there on a regular basis! We will also be undertaking some more tree planting next winter as we have recently been awarded a Community Pack of 420 saplings by the Woodland Trust complete with stakes and protective spirals – species included are hazel (105), blackthorn (105), crab apple (105), dog rose (75) and elder (30).
Most woodland flowers appear in early spring before the canopy closes over as the standard trees burst into leaf. Following the end of the bluebell season there is now a good display of foxgloves appearing around Pondhead and apart for their flushes of pink, everything is looking increasingly green as the trees put on strong bursts of growth.
We are also well into the tick season across the New Forest. In the absence of ponies in Pondhead and only a few deer, the area is not a hotspot for ticks but it always pays to have a quick check when you get home. Most tick bites are quite innocuous but there is always a small risk of Lymes Disease – click here for further advice.
Finally, during the past week we received an educational visit by a group of Scottish forestry students who had travelled down from Inverness to experience a completely different forest landscape from that which they are accustomed to in the northeast of Scotland. They were particularly interested in the charcoal retort which we were emptying and we even allowed them to take four bags beyond the New Forest boundary and all the way to Scotland. Their trip was organised by the Forestry Commission and included various other locations in the New Forest.
That’s all for now. Enjoy the summer – hope to see you in Pondhead.