I have been trying to write this for the past few days and find myself constantly re-writing it as the situation changes daily. It’s fair to say that none of us will have experienced a crisis like the one now facing us in our lifetimes. The overriding priority must be to follow official advice and look after ourselves and each other. We must play our part by not taking any unecessary risks or doing anything that would serve to spread the contagion. In the circumstances there will be no further charcoal burns or other volunteer activity in Pondhead until further notice. This is a great shame as it feels much safer in the wood than standing in a supermarket or pharmacy queue at present!!
As a consequence, our Events Diary is clear of tasks and will remain so for the duraton of the crisis. In any event, our conservation activities have wound down as the season came to a natural conclusion earlier this month, ahead of the bird nesting season. In addition, we have already cancelled our initial foray into spoon making courses and our June chair making courses are extremely unlikely to proceed.
Our final conservation activities included completion of the restoration of the old ride at the rear of Rosie Close (now known as Snake Pass) plus some drainage work around the circular walk near the pits. With time on our hands we have been coming up with more names for the rides that criss cross Pondhead such as Beechen Boulevard and Blackberry Way – see if you can find them on our Google map of Pondhead. This is an interactive map produced by Perry which contains loads of useful information about the woodland – something to occupy your time while self isolating.
We did manage two charcoal burns in recent weeks. Unsurprisingly, after one of the wettest autumn/winters on record these proved quite unpredictable as a result of charcoal timber with a high moisture content and damp pallets that we use to get things started. Burn 1 took two days and on Day 1 we spent over 7 hours driving moisture off the charcoal wood in the kiln. This took a further 3 hours on Day 2 before the burn eventually finished into the dark when flaring off excess wood gas was quite spectacular, lighting up the surrounding area. By Burn 2 we had acquired some dry pallet wood and managed to complete the burn in a day but not before darkness fell once again!!
On a brighter note, the weather appears to be improving dramatically and woodland spring flowers have started to emerge in Pondhead, together with winter hibernating butterfly species. There’s already a good show of primroses in a few areas where we have worked hard to encourage them. These will be followed shortly by wood anemones and wood sorrel. The shoots of bluebells are emerging from dormancy with their flowers usually appearing late April/early May although they may be earlier this year, in the light of the milder winter we have experienced. This together with the trees breaking into leaf will completely transform the appearance of Pondhead and dry it out. Unfortunately, it appears that many of us will not be in a position to experience it this year if travel restrictions continue to increase.
In recent weeks there was a successful outcome to the silent auction at the New Forest Painters’ Exhibition. As mentioned last month, local artist Barry Peckham donated a painting depicting the horse logging in Pondhead. And the winning bidder of £285 was…………………..Dave Dibden. Well done Dave – it’s going to a good home.
Some of you may be aware that at the end of last September the Glover Report on the future of National Parks was published which makes interesting reading but has not been universally welcomed in some quarters, particularly in the New Forest. A little while after publication we were approached by a journalist for the Geographical Magazine (official magazine of the Royal Geographic Society) for our views on the report from a conservation charity perspective. The underlying article has now appeared in the March edition of the magazine which gives some excellent coverage for our activities plus comments from yours truly which are a reasonably accurate reflection on what I said at the time! Click here to read the article – we start to appear half way down.
Over the coming months and in the absence of any activity in Pondhead, we will continue to post these blogs but they may have more of an educational content relative to our activities. In the meantime, keep calm, stay safe and don’t forget to wash your hands.