Issue No: 1
FOREST MAT TER S
Review of the New Forest Association
In the news 1 NFA sponsorship of the National Park’s “Our Past, Our Future” scheme; Planning Committee’s mapping system; the FC’s Inclosures plan. Reflections on ponies Dionis Macnair, the longest-serving female Verderer and a practising Commoner, takes a look at the Forest’s iconic quadrupeds.
New Forest deer : The muntjac John K Fawcett continues his series on the Forest’s familiar fauna with an account of these controversial usurpers.
Named oaks of the Forest A number of the Forest’s majestic oaks have their own moniker; Paul Hibberd sets out to see how they have grown.
Smooth snake survey Ben Limburn, of Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, reports on the findings of a unique collaborative project.
Book reviews Village Greens, by Graham Bathe, and Samuel the Donkey at the New Forest Show, by Farmer Bryan, for the younger folk.
PLUS 4-page 150th Anniversary Events pull-out supplement
LETTER FROM OUR CHAIRMAN FOREST MATTERS Periodical review of the Friends of the New Forest – New Forest Association Issue 1: Autumn/Winter 2016 Opinions expressed in Forest Matters are not necessarily those of the New Forest Association Contributions for the Spring/Summer 2017 issue should be sent by email to the Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org Deadline: 30 April 2017 Note: Unattributed photographs within articles were supplied with the text and are understood to have been taken by the author or to have been submitted with the photographer’s permission. Other photo credits are given in italics. Cover image: Ober Water J Ward Design and layout by Philippa Firth www.philippafirth-graphicdesign. com Printed by James Byrne Printing Ltd, Poole, Dorset www.jamesbyrne.co.uk Copyright © 2016 The New Forest Association Founded 1867 and Registered Charity No. 260328
Welcome to our new-look magazine. First of all, I must record my many thanks to Graham Long who has stepped down from the task of editing our newsletter after five years of sterling work commissioning articles, putting each issue together and seeing it through printing. Fortunately, two new volunteers have offered to help us and I am grateful to Robert Whiting, who has joined us as editor, together with Philippa Firth, who has taken on the task of designing and laying out the magazine. It has been a busy time with no let-up since the AGM with adoption of a revised constitution. Your trustees have grasped the task of looking forward both to the future of the New Forest and of our Association, while our Council and the two committees – Planning and Transport, and Habitat and Landscape – have had more than enough current issues to keep them fully occupied. After many years of tireless work for the Association, in the tradition of Clement Esdaile and Lesley Errington, to name but two legendary former Secretaries, Mike Chilcott retired from the role of Hon Secretary, although remaining as a valued member of Council. Once again we have been fortunate to be joined by a newcomer. Keith Braithwaite allowed himself to be co-opted as the Hon Secretary and has thrown himself into the job with vigour and enthusiasm. Finally among the changes, I am very pleased that Peter Roberts, our former chairman, was persuaded to join the board of trustees. I freely confess that at times I rely on Peter’s great knowledge of the New Forest to keep me on track. You cannot have failed to see our new logo and branding on the front cover – what is this about? First of all, be reassured that the formal, established name of the charity remains the New Forest Association. But, although we have a long and proud history of campaigning for the long-term protection of the New Forest and we are well known to other Forest organisations, our membership has been steadily declining for some time and we are not reaching visitors to the New Forest, whether they are staying tourists or those living nearby who make day trips to the Forest. We are exploring various ways to make the Association more widely known and decided that rebranding to campaign under an inclusive, descriptive and easily understood name was an important step – hence our new brand, “Friends of the New Forest”. Do you appreciate and care for the New Forest? Do you want the Forest to be protected for the long term? Then become a “Friend”. We launched the new brand in a quiet way at the New Forest Show with a new leaflet and were pleased at the positive responses we received from those coming to our stand. The coming year – 2017 – will be a landmark year as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the meeting in Lyndhurst when our founding fathers resolved, “That this meeting approves of an Association being formed for the preservation of the open lands of the New Forest, and for the general protection of the Commoners’ rights over the Forest”. We have been working hard on a comprehensive programme of anniversary events, which you will find in the Anniversary Year supplement in the centre of this issue of Forest Matters. I look forward to seeing you at the launch event, “The New Forest: A Foot in the Past and an Eye to the Future”, to be held on the evening of Tuesday 24th January in Lyndhurst Community Centre. Please put the date in your diary. John Ward
SPONSORSHIP: OUR PAST, OUR FUTURE The New Forest National Park Authority (NFNPA) has launched a £4.5 million Landscape Partnership Scheme which, supported by Heritage Lottery Funding (HLF), will undertake some 20 projects to benefit the Forest, ensuring that the Forest’s distinctive landscape survives through future change and modern-day pressures. Friends of the New Forest are providing sponsorship for two of the NFNPA’s projects. The five-year scheme is being led by the NFNPA working with some 10 partners. The scheme, successfully accepted last year, will see the partner organisations take collective responsibility to deliver a range of projects between 2016 and 2020. We have promised sponsorship over three years for two of the projects – Apprentice Rangers and Restoring Lost Landscapes. Below, we look at what is involved.
Apprentice Rangers The New Forest National Park Authority, working together with the Forestry Commission (FC), National Trust (NT), Hampshire County Council (HCC) and Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust (HIWWT), will offer Environmental Conservation apprenticeships enabling Apprentices to obtain various qualifications as part of their Diploma, including a Level 2 Certificate in Land Based Activities, First Aid and Manual Handling. A variety of land-management qualifications – including chainsaw training, safe use of pesticides and trailer training – will also be offered.
The taught element will be provided by Kingston Maurward College in Dorchester and placements will be with the various ranger teams in the New Forest. The project will employ two Apprentices in each of the first two years (2016/17 and 2017/18) and three in the third year (2018/19). The main outcomes will be: • Increased skills and the opportunity for young people to enter the workforce and develop their skills through appropriate on-the-job experience and training in how to protect the special qualities of the National Park for the future. • Seven Apprentice Rangers who will gain a Level 2 Diploma in Workbased Environmental Conservation and a Level 2 Award in Business for the Environment and Land-Based Sector. • Conservation of the natural heritage by practical habitat management, protecting and promoting species to meet priorities of the UK and local New Forest Biodiversity Action Plan.
• Management of public access, recreation and interpretation to promote awareness, understanding and enjoyment of the New Forest National Park and its surrounding areas. • An enhanced resource and skills base within New Forest ranger teams during the Apprentices’ placements. Each Apprentice Ranger costs approximtely £16,000. Kingston Maurward College are providing matched funding of £2,500 for each apprentice. The NFNPA will host the Apprentices, providing day-to-day support, management and on-theground training. HCC, HIWWT, NT and FC are all providing on-theground training and support. The first two Apprentice Rangers, Joe Ison and Katherine Argyrou (see their interviews overleaf), were selected by interview earlier this year and began work in October and placements with the National Trust in November. We are providing £24,000 sponsorship for the Apprentice Ranger programme.
The First Two Apprentice Rangers Gillie Molland is Lead Ranger with the New Forest National Park Authority. “We are very excited to be able to offer this opportunity to those wishing to start a career in countryside management. With fewer seasonal positions available now than when most of us started our careers, it is difficult to get on the first step of the ladder and gain the all-important experience necessary for securing future jobs. “This is a unique opportunity not only to learn what makes the New Forest special and how it is cared for but also to gain experience of working with five New Forest Ranger teams as well as being supported by a wealth of knowledge from the New Forest Association.” We asked the new arrivals – Why did you want to apply to the apprentice scheme? Why did you want to do the New Forest apprenticeship?
and professional training which will help me to get a paid job later on. I also hope to learn more about why we carry out certain management practices, more identification skills and develop my leadership skills. One of the most important things however is that I hope to have a fabulous time learning by working, as not many people get to say they love doing their job! Joe: Becoming a New Forest apprentice is a wonderful opportunity to learn a variety of new skills from experts in different fields and to experience a wide range of jobs within the New Forest. What are your long-term plans / what would you like to do after the apprenticeship? Katherine: Looking to the future, I know that my dream is – and has been for a long time – to be a Ranger and so, in the long term, I hope that’s what I become. However, I am aware that in order to get there I may need to start by doing seasonal ranger work or being an assistant ranger first.
Katherine: I absolutely love nature, wildlife and being outdoors in the fresh air. It is where I am happiest and feel a deep connection to it and the environment. I believe The New Forest is a unique, special and rare place due to its many varied habitats, cultural heritages, historical pasts and practices so the chance to actually be able to work there is really exciting. Also, the structure of the apprenticeship is brilliant as we get to work with lots of different organisations, charities and people which will really help me to learn more through the vast array of knowledge and expertise they will be able to share with us.
Joe: I hope to pursue a career within the New Forest and develop my skills and knowledge so that I can make a valuable contribution to the New Forest National Park.
Joe: I have always lived in the New Forest and love where I live. I am interested in learning how to preserve the beauty of the area for future generations.
Joe: I feel very privileged to have been chosen for the apprenticeship and I’m very excited about the experiences and qualifications I will gain over the next year. It is a wonderful opportunity and I plan to make the most of it.
What are you hoping to achieve or get from it? Katherine: I hope to learn more about wildlife, nature and the environment while gaining qualifications, certificates
What are you most looking forward to? Katherine: I’m looking forward to each new day, really; they are so varied which makes it so interesting and enjoyable. However, I am most looking forward to the practical habitat management side of things and being out there seeing unique, interesting and amazing wildlife and learning more about it.
Restoring Lost Landscapes A number of projects are aimed at practical work and managing the land surrounding the Open Forest to improve and protect the natural environment. The New Forest Land Advisory Service (NFLAS) are leading a number of practical conservation projects which are looking at the sustainable management of woodlands and Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINCs) and the creation of traditional boundary features, such as hedgerows to create habitat corridors. Among the projects, the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust (HIWWT) are removing invasive non-native species, mainly Himalayan Balsam, along the Cadnam and Lymington Rivers. The Freshwater Habitats Trust (FHT) will be carrying out work along the Beaulieu River to improve the water quality. Some of these projects will also be holding workshops and events to help raise awareness of the issues and for people to champion particular areas. The main outcomes will be: • Individual projects will restore the natural environment, resulting in a landscape in better condition. • Over 150 landowners will be engaged in the projects and will become more aware of the value of the places where the projects are being carried out to the natural environment.
• Some 120 hectares of previously unmanaged woodland will be brought back into active sustainable management.
Illustrated talks about the Friends of the New Forest
• More than four kilometres of boundary features will be surveyed and either created, restored or enhanced.
As part of our campaign to spread the word about the Friends and to increase our membership, Peter Roberts and John Ward have prepared a great presentation about our work and a small team of speakers already has ten talks lined up. If you belong to a group that would like an illustrated talk, please contact Sheila Ward at email@example.com or phone her on 01590 671205.
• Visual encroachments on to Crown Lands within the eight target parishes will be reduced by 60%. • Invasive non-native species will be removed from 40 prioritised locations. • Water quality will be improved in 12.2 kilometres of rivers. • 30 Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINCs) will be improved. • 26 hectares of native woodland will replace the coniferous plantation at Foxbury. • Over £1 million will be spent on the practical conservation projects. Various project officers are being funded to coordinate the work, with support from NFLAS, HIWWT, NT and FHT. We are providing sponsorship at £5,000 per year, i.e., £15,000 over three years.
PROTECTING THE FOREST’S PAST FOR THE FUTURE The New Forest faces unprecedented modern pressures, such as climate change, changes in agricultural practices and a growing population. Rachael Gallagher from the New Forest National Park Authority (NFNPA) outlines how a landscape partnership scheme supported by Heritage Lottery Funding (HLF) is providing a unique opportunity to restore lost habitats, develop Forest skills and inspire a new generation to champion and care for the Forest. Led by the NFNPA with 10 key partners, the four-year £4.4 million Our Past, Our Future scheme consists of 21 projects taking place across the Forest. Keep reading to discover more about the projects or visit www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/ landscapepartnership for further details.
Apprentice Rangers start work The New Forest National Park Authority is working together with the Forestry Commission, National Trust, Hampshire County Council and Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust to offer two Environmental Conservation apprenticeships per year over four years. The first Apprentice Rangers are in post and began their placement with the National Trust at the beginning of November. They will receive a variety of land-management qualifications, including chainsaw training, with the taught element being provided by Kingston Maurward College, Dorchester.
Improving habitats The New Forest Land Advice Service (NFLAS) is helping landowners of 30 Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINCs) return their species-rich grasslands to good management to enhance biodiversity and improve habitats. Surveys of sites where new forms of management have been introduced have enabled a variety of species to recolonise, such as common spotted orchids. Invasive non-native plants, such as Himalayan balsam, cause damage to the natural heritage of the Forest. Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust (HIWWT) are working with landowners and volunteers to reduce the impact of invasive nonnative plants from the banks of the Lymington River and its tributaries the Passford Water and the Mill Lawn Brook, the Cadnam River and the Avon Water.
Uncovering secrets of the past Archaeologists and volunteers have begun to uncover and conserve hidden, unknown and decaying heritage sites and archaeological features throughout the Forest. A week-long archaeology dig at Buckler’s Hard as part of the annual Festival of Archaeology, heritage mapping using Lidar (Light Detection and Ranging) laser scanning and churchyard monument surveys at Emery Down, Minstead and Burley have already taken place.
There are 75km of bridleways and byways in the National Park, with some holding significant historical importance. It is important to connect communities with their local open spaces to enhance their value and open up links with nearby wider countryside. Volunteers will help with historical research, collecting items such as maps, historic records and oral histories, and help with fieldwork to identify, promote and interpret these historic routes.
Improving skills The New Forest Land Advice Service have also developed a rural skills training programme with the Commoners Defence Association for farmers, commoners, and other landowners and managers around the New Forest. Courses run so far have included cattle breeding and management, tractor driving and tree safety and surveying.
Pushing the boundaries Boundary features such as hedgerows, ditches and copses are important to local wildlife and contribute to the landscape character of the Forest’s farmland. Last winter almost 350m of hedgerow was restored, with work now underway for the 2016 winter season. The New Forest Land Advice Service is surveying, creating, restoring or enhancing boundary features to increase biodiversity, create better opportunities for wildlife to thrive and visually improve the landscape.
Historic boundaries are valuable in maintaining and protecting the character of the landscape and supporting the grazing animals, but are damaged by unauthorised parking on verges, fly-tipping and misplaced residential fences or constructions. The Forestry Commission (FC) is working with some local parishes and their residents to reduce damage and restore and protect these important boundaries. Informative drop-in sessions will take place and leaflets have been distributed to improve local parishes’ knowledge and understanding of historic boundaries. In selected locations, wooden posts will be installed to prevent existing and further unauthorised parking on verges.
There is a wide range of volunteering opportunities in the Our Past, Our Future scheme. Volunteering roles include practical conservation work, physical or research-based archaeological tasks, surveying, and helping at events. To find out more about the roles on offer, visit www. newforestnpa.gov.uk/ landscapepartnership_volunteer. For further information or to receive the NFNPA volunteer newsletter, please contact Richard Austin on 01590 646661 or email richard.austin@newforestnpa. gov.uk.
Path at Pig Bush
Arts Festival success In June 2016 over 3,800 people discovered more about the National Park through 40 events as part of the first New Forest Arts Festival. Some of the more unusual events included a tree house performance of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, an art exhibition in a castle and drama therapy workshops. The Festival will return in June 2017 to continue to showcase the unique landscape, heritage and culture of the New Forest through a wide variety of art forms and allow residents and visitors to discover new or hidden aspects of the Forest. Rachael Gallagher is the NFNPA’s Our Past, Our Future Delivery Manager.
Cables buried at Buckland Rings Buckland Rings is an Iron Age hillfort and modern-day informal BMX track situated on the National Park’s border with Lymington. To its south and east ran a high-voltage overhead cable which spoilt the fort’s setting from the adjacent open access. The cable has been buried as part of SSE’s (Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks’) £15 million project to underground 90km of overhead lines in AONBs and National Parks in North Scotland and Central Southern England.
A few weeks after the undergrounding, no evidence of the work can be seen on the ground. We are now championing the burying of the cable from Hincheslea west along the old Ringwood railway line via Slap Bottom to Bagnam. If anyone out there has an overhead cable in the New Forest National Park that they particularly dislike, they should should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
PLANNING AND TRANSPORT COMMITTEE UPDATE In the ten years since the creation of the National Park, our Planning and Transport Committee, guided by the eternal truths of the NFA Agenda, has argued, coerced and encouraged the New Forest National Park Authority (NFNPA) to their view; apparently with some effect. The differences between us in policy and practice are at the margins and we are more likely nowadays to be supporting the NFNPA at appeals than opposing them. A part of this camaraderie no doubt stems from the joint realisation that the main danger to the Forest comes from beyond its borders.
Increased recreational pressure Government believes bureaucratic planning rules and recalcitrant local authorities prevent them from building two million homes each year. Rules have changed and all local authorities are now obliged to significantly increase their build rate. The result is that, over the next 20 years, 25,000 homes are planned immediately adjacent to the Natonal Park and 150,000 in South Hampshire and East Dorset. New housing alone will result in an additional one million recreational visits to the Forest each year. At the same time evidence is increasing to show that current recreational pressure is causing damage. Excessive fungi picking has resulted in a ban by the Forestry Commission, National Trust and Wildlife Trust. Evidence collated from several surveys indicates there has been a marked decline in the number
of ground-nesting birds – a key indicator of unsustainable disturbance. These findings add to our Members’ anecdotal evidence and concern. Our planning role is changing to meet these circumstances, with less time spent looking at National Park plans and proposals, and more at the plans of adjacent local authorities: New Forest District, Christchurch/ East Dorset, Salisbury and Test Valley. There is also a need to produce firm evidence if we are to persuade these authorities to modify their plans. Planning Committee volunteers are developing more effective methods to collect, store and present data and we have established a fund to enable other citizen research groups to carry out field work.
Mapping the Forest Android App “Field Trip GB” (http://fieldtripgb.blogs.edina.ac.uk/) is being used to store field data. The app runs on a mobile phone and uses GPS signals to record the time, date and place at which an event occurred. The keypad is used to record event details on a form prepared earlier and loaded into the phone. It is free to use and problem-free and, while this description might suggest otherwise, easy to use. Data will be stored on a multilayer map using the open-source geographical information system QGIS.
The Field Trip GB screen
The system starts with a base-map layer (we are using the standard Ordnance Survey map), onto to which other layers of data may be added, such as conservation designations, species distributions, car park locations, village development boundaries or overhead cable lines. Selective layers can then be used to predict the effect on local wildlife of a new housing development. We are hoping that the map, which will be largely in the public domain, will become the New Forest Map and that both voluntary and statutory bodies will use it or give free access to their data. Initial uses will be to identify areas around the National Park suitable for Sites of Alternative Natural Green Space (SANGS) and Nature
Improvement Areas (NIAs), and to study the effect on the Forest’s undisturbed areas by rearranging car parks. In its development form it may be viewed at http://qgiscloud.com/phil_ag/ NFA_Planning. The left-hand “Map Layers” column on the QGIS screen (illustrated) enables layers to be added or removed. Thanks go to Phil Ashby, who has developed the system. Additional volunteers to enter data would be welcomed. For further information contact email@example.com.
The QGIS Cloud map – as used by NFA Planning
NEW FOREST INCLOSURES FOREST DESIGN PLAN UPDATE Many of you will be aware of the process that the Forestry Commission (FC) has been going through over the past couple of years to review the Forest Design Plan (FDP) for the Inclosures. The Forestry Commission’s John Stride gives an update on progress. Things may appear to have been rather quiet on this front recently, but I can assure you that it is still very much at the top of my “to-do list” while juggling other things like team changes and FDPs for other parts of South England. The roughly 8,500 hectares of Inclosures are subject to a Forest Design Plan, which was previously written in 2006-7. The Plan sets out
a long-term vision for the Inclosures and gives more detailed guidance as to what management will happen over the next 10 years (the lifespan of approval) to move towards this vision. In May this year, we took our draft proposals to stakeholders at an event attended by around 80 people from various organisations. There were representatives from the forestry industry, parish councils, government agencies and nature conservation charities, including the New Forest Association. The event allowed us to explain the background and context to the Plan including some of the wider issues for us to consider such as how climate change may affect the habitats of the Forest in due course. The complexities
of the Forest and the many issues affect not only the Inclosures but the wider New Forest environment and landscape, so it is important to remember this Plan is actually only affecting around a third of the New Forest Crown Lands, the area managed by FC on behalf of the people of the UK. Having gained some feedback on the day of the event, we then held an online consultation for 16 weeks. This attracted a range of responses from a number of stakeholder groups, organisations and individuals. The responses were on a broad spectrum from those heavily influenced by the potential nature conservation value of the Inclosures to those concerned about the level of management and economic ►
sustainability of the woodlands in the longer term. It is our responsibility to ensure we use this feedback to adjust our draft accordingly, prior to applying to the approval bodies which include Natural England and Forest Services, the regulatory agency of the Forestry Commission. The New Forest Association have been incredibly understanding and patient as we have undergone this process so far, offering the time of expert volunteers to make sure the Plan fulfils its potential over the next 10 years. For this I am truly grateful and offer my sincere thanks. The draft FDP proposes to continue and expand the open habitat restoration agreed under previous FDPs, as well as looking to enhance other features for which the New Forest is internationally recognised and important, such as pasture woodland. For the latter, we have identified areas of old native oak plantations that are adjacent to the Ancient and Ornamental Woodlands of the Open Forest (non-Inclosure woodlands) and earmarked them as areas where we will look to develop pasture woodlands, rather than pure timber producing woodlands. We are also proposing to move almost entirely towards the restoration of native woodlands. By using transitional management techniques to reduce the non-native conifer component of the Inclosures over time, this change would be enacted slowly. It will gradually tip
Highland Water and Holmhill Inclosures, Autumn 1999
the balance towards predominantly native woodlands over decades by harnessing native natural regeneration.
has on other stakeholders such as local businesses by steadying the pace of change.
This would allow nature to adapt at its own pace to the changes and local economies that depend on this resource to evolve. Future generations will go on to review this decision in the event of potentially devastating forced change, such as a disease to native trees as a result of climate change or other global influences.
The next steps are to double check that our revised FDP is suitable for submission for approval and then go through that process which is really quite technical. In the end though, I hope that we will have developed a Plan that really benefits this special landscape, helps us and others to learn more about how the features develop and function together and sets the Forestry Commission and the interested stakeholders up for some great collaborative working over the next 10 years.
Within the Inclosures we are also proposing to put in place ways of making better decisions at the time of operation. For example, if habitats beneficial to ground-nesting birds develop through our management of the Inclosures, then these will be identified and managed accordingly throughout this Plan period. Encapsulated in a statement, I guess you could say we are looking to manage the Inclosures to benefit the special features of the New Forest (broadly pasture woodland and open habitats) while balancing these outcomes with the effect it
Finally, I would like to specifically thank members of the NFA who have been timely with their input, nothing but courteous with their involvement and incredibly patient with the time it is taking us â€“ namely, but I am sure not exclusively, Brian Tarnoff, Jonathan Cox, Neil Sanderson, Richard Reeves and Clive Chatters. John Stride is Planning & Environment Manager at the Forestry Commission.
NEW FOREST ASSOCIATION 150th ANNIVERSARY EVENTS
2017 sees us reach a milestone in our history: 150 years. Over those years, the Association has not only rescued the Forest from almost total enclosure; we have also had a lasting and ongoing influence, as we outline below.
Highlights of the past 150 years 1851 : Deer Removal Act threatened unlimited enclosure of the New Forest and destruction of the ancient and ornamental woodlands of the New Forest. 1867 : New Forest Association formed. Initial discussions in London with a formal inauguration at the Crown Hotel in Lyndhurst a month later on 22 July. Implementation of the Act threatened to end the commoning way of life by removing the Forest pasture lands as well as felling the ancient woodlands. 1868 : Government Inquiry forced by the NFA concluded that “The interest of the Crown and the commoners are at variance, and there must be a perpetual struggle of conflicting interests.” 1871 : A Government Bill to dis-afforest the New Forest leaving just 100 acres of the 60,000 for the public successfully opposed. 1875 : Major London Art Exhibition organised by the NFA showed the nation the potential loss of the Forest and helped change hearts and minds. 1875 : Further Government Inquiry obtained and sets the scene for a new way of working. 1877 : New Forest Act provided for a limit on enclosures and for the Verderers to look after the interests of the Commoners. 1891 : A Rifle Range Act of Parliament enabled the War Department to “get around” the 1877 New Forest Act. A Rifle Range was sought near Ipley which could have resulted in the New Forest becoming “Salisbury Plain”. An Inquiry was obtained and the government found an alternative site at Idmiston in Wiltshire.
1927 : The Forestry Commission, after taking over management of the New Forest three years earlier, set about removing ancient beech and oak trees near Burley in contravention of the 1877 Act. Within weeks the New Forest Association had been reformed to address this new threat and forced the Commission to reconsider its policies. 1928 : At the AGM, a motion was carried that the Forest ought to be managed as a National Park. 1927-39 : The Association became a major force again with over 1,000 members and various regional committees addressing points of concern – varying through Sky-writing, Camping, Drainage, Self-seeded firs, Electricity power lines, Roads (including the Lyndhurst Bypass), Litter and “Unsightly bungalows”. 1947-9 : Weakened by the War and lack of members and funds, the Association fought but lost the battle to resist the 1949 Act which provided for an additional 5,000 acres of plantations. 1988 : NFA resisted use of Forest Lands for a Lyndhurst By-pass, insisting, along with the Verderers, that the route should be within existing enclosed Lyndhurst lands. 1990s : The Association recognised that loss of lowlevel heathlands to plantations could be reversed by implementation of European Habitat Regulations – leading to the Forest Design Plan. 1990s : Influence obtained through publication (often with other bodies) of reports detailing New Forest problems and their solutions. 2012 : Concerned at the continuing loss of traditional Forest farms, the Association provided seed funding that helped persuade Hampshire County Council to purchase a Commoners’ holding at Rockford Farm. This is now managed for the benefit of commoning.
150th ANNIVERSARY PROGRAMME Celebrate with us!
Pre-booking required for all events, as places are limited.
Book via our website www.newforestassociation.org or on the paper form enclosed with this magazine. * Members may bring one guest to the starred events. Please bring your friends and family to all other events. Joining details will be provided to all those who book places. Enquiries to Sheila Ward on 01590 671205.
Tuesday 24 January 7.30 pm THE NEW FOREST – A FOOT IN THE PAST, AND AN EYE TO THE FUTURE Linden Hall, Lyndhurst Community Centre FREE with donations box An evening all about where the New Forest is going and the challenges before us today, starting with a thought-provoking talk by Clive Chatters, Chairman of the New Forest Consultative Panel, with responses from Alison Barnes, Chief Executive of the New Forest National Park Authority, and Bruce Rothnie, Deputy Surveyor for the New Forest, Forestry Commission. Then time for audience debate. Friday 17 February 12.00 noon ANNIVERSARY LUNCH At MJ’s Restaurant, Brockenhurst College £16 A splendid leisurely lunch with good menu choices, prepared and served by the talented students on the Hospitality and Catering course at the College. This is fine dining at an amazingly low cost – just £16 per person, drinks extra. To book your places now, book online via our website or phone Sheila Ward on 01590 671205.
Wednesday 8 March 10.00 am * VISIT TO VERDERERS COURT AND LYNDHURST CHURCH Verderers Court, Lyndhurst FREE A visit to the Verderers Court with a talk about the work of the Agisters by Head Agister Jonathan Gerelli, and a tour led by Angela Trend of the Church of St Michael and all Angels, Lyndhurst, which houses a fresco by Frederick Leighton and stained glass windows by William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones and Charles Kempe. Saturday 22 April 10.00 am THE FRIENDS OF THE NEW FOREST – NEW FOREST ASSOCIATION AGM AND MEMBERS’ EVENT Minstead Village Hall On the 150th anniversary of our organisation, this AGM will be a special event celebrating our work then and now, to be followed by a light buffet lunch. The bar will be open. Details nearer the time. Thursday 4 May 6.00 pm * ARCHAEOLOGY IN SLODEN INCLOSURE WALK Sloden Inclosure near Fritham FREE A walk led by Anthony Pasmore, Chairman of the New Forest History and Archaeology Group, and author of “New Forest Notes” in the Advertiser and Times. Walk length about 1½ miles, duration about 1½ hours. Sorry, no dogs.
Friday 12 May 11.00 am * CARING FOR PONDHEAD INCLOSURE WALK Pondhead Inclosure near Lyndhurst FREE A walk led by a member of the Pondhead Conservation Group to explain the history and current clearance and coppicing work going on in Pondhead Inclosure near Lyndhurst. Duration 1 - 1½ hours. Dogs permitted. May – on a Sunday tbc 2.00 pm “SECRET” GARDEN PICNIC Near Beaulieu FREE with donations box The venue is a beautiful large private garden with lakes and much to please any garden-lover. But in addition there is a miniature two-to-three track railway all the way round a former sunken tennis court, with its own people-sized signal box and sound effects. Bring your own picnic and rugs/garden chairs. An afternoon not to be missed for you and your family and friends, whether you like gardens or model trains – or, of course, both! When confirmed, details will come out with the AGM papers by April.
Saturday 10 June 10.00 am * NEEDS ORE WALK Near Beaulieu £3 cash on the day A walk led by Graham Baker at Needs Ore Point, one of the most tranquil locations in the National Park, to enjoy sea air and to visit the several bird hides. Starts near St Leonards, close to Bucklers Hard. Distance about 3 miles, duration 3 hours, stout walking shoes. Bring binoculars, water and lunch. Sorry, no dogs. Access charge of £3 to be paid in cash on the day – please bring correct money. Sunday 18 June ROYDON WOODS WOODFAIR Roydon Woods Nature Reserve, Sandy Down, Brockenhurst We will be there with a stand promoting the Association under our Friends of the New Forest banner. Volunteer to help on the stand if you can. Saturday 24 June 2.30 pm * PROVIDING LAND AND SMALLHOLDINGS FOR COMMONING – A WALK Moyles Court, Rockford Near Ringwood FREE A visit led by William Ziegler, New Forest Trust Chairman, and Jake White, Community Ranger for the National Trust Northern Commons, to the proposed development of a Commoners’ smallholding at Rockford Farm and the adjacent National Trust Common. Distance 2 - 2½ miles, duration 2 - 2½ hours. Dogs on leads at Rockford Farm. Sunday 16 July 11.00 am * FROHAWK WALK Near Brockenhurst FREE Frohawk Walk led by biologist and author Dr June Chatfield on the anniversary of the birth of Frederick Frohawk, English zoological artist and lepidopterist. He spent his first honeymoon in the New Forest.
In 1996, his third daughter Valezina (named after a form of the silverwashed fritillary) inaugurated a commemorative sign marking the “Frohawk Ride” in the New Forest. During a distinguished career, Dr June Chatfield was for 10 years Curator of the Gilbert White Museum at Selborne. Walk duration 2½ hours, distance about 2½ miles. Sorry, no dogs. This walk will be cancelled if bad weather. 25, 26 and 27 July NEW FOREST SHOW The Showground, New Park, Brockenhurst We will be there with a stand promoting the Association under our Friends of the New Forest banner. Volunteer to help on the stand if you can. Thursday 10 August from 6.00 to 8.00 pm RECEPTION AND PRIVATE VIEW OF THE NEW FOREST OPEN ART EXHIBITION New Forest Centre, Lyndhurst FREE with donations box A private view specially for Members of the Friends of the New Forest. The exhibition comprises a display of shortlisted works from the New Forest Open Art Competition run in partnership by the New Forest National Park Authority and the New Forest Centre, with support from ExxonMobil at the Fawley Refinery. Thursday 7 September from 6.00 to 7.30 pm RECEPTION AND PRIVATE VIEW OF EXHIBITION OF PHOTOS BY CHRIS PACKHAM AND SCULPTURES BY GEOFFREY DASHWOOD St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery, New Street, Lymington FREE with donations box Reception and private view at St Barbe’s post-refurbishment re-opening exhibition of photos by TV and radio wildlife presenter Chris Packham and bronze sculptures of birds by Geoffrey Dashwood, whose work is exhibited and collected worldwide.
Wednesday 4 October 10.30 am * FUNGI WALK AT RANS WOOD Rans Wood near Furzey Lane FREE A fungi walk led by Sara Cadbury of the British Mycological Society. Look at and learn all about the fungi of the New Forest from an expert, strolling in an area of mixed, mature pasture woodland and grassy open spaces, with a stream and riverine wooded habitat. Sorry, no dogs. Walk length about 1 mile, duration 2 hours. Sunday 15 October 10.30 am GOLF DAY Brokenhurst Golf Club £50 A morning of golf for Members and their friends at Brokenhurst Golf Club, Sway Road, Brockenhurst, a fine golf course in the heart of the New Forest. This is a 6,220-yard 18-hole course surrounded by wildlife and great landscape. Starts at 10.30 am, followed by a light lunch. Fee only £50 (reduced from the usual green fee of £75!). To book your places now, book online via our website or phone Sheila Ward on 01590 671205. Monday 13 November 7.30 pm AN EVENING OF NEW FOREST FILMS WITH LORD MONTAGU John Montagu Theatre, Beaulieu Motor Museum, Beaulieu FREE with donations box An evening of films to be presented by Lord Montagu. A pre-Christmas treat – book early!
Saving the New Forest: New Forest Association The First 150 Years by Peter Roberts This book does exactly what its title says. It explains how, in the midnineteenth century, a small group of people became seriously worried at the steady increases year on year in the enclosure of land in the Forest for timber production and, in 1867, decided in a very British fashion to set up an association to rescue it. In 1871 the government placed a Bill before Parliament “to dis-afforest the New Forest”, which would have left just 100 acres of the 60,000 for the public to enjoy. The book relates why this happened and how the New Forest Association, only the second conservation society to be set up in Britain, saved the New Forest for the nation. It continues with the numerous campaigns waged to combat threats to the Forest over the Association’s 150 years through to the present day. Copies of the book may be obtained by sending a cheque made payable to the New Forest Association for £12.00 per copy, including postage and packing, to: NFA Book, 13 Brook Avenue, New Milton BH25 5HE.
How you can be a Friend of the New Forest Wherever you live, join us and know you are supporting our work to protect the New Forest now and for future generations. Become a member of the Friends of the New Forest and contribute to the long-term protection of the special character and qualities of the New Forest. Make your voice heard by taking part in or supporting our campaigns to protect this unique place when the Forest needs you. Get involved in activities ranging from pond-dipping for water quality research to assessing planning applications. Share your skills and help us plan our campaigns and run the organisation. As a Friend of the New Forest you will receive: • Our magazine • Invitations to our AGM and other informative or social events giving you the opportunity to meet other members • Details of activities or campaigns in which you can take part • A copy of our Annual Report
Application for membership I wish to become a member of the New Forest Association MEMBERSHIP FEES Ordinary member: £17 p.a. (£15 by standing order) Joint membership: £29 p.a. (£25 by standing order) Life membership: £300 Corporate: £150 Additional donation: £…………………………….. Are you a taxpayer? Boost your subscription by 25p of Gift Aid for every £1 you subscribe or donate. Gift Aid is reclaimed by the charity from the tax you pay for the current tax year. You must be a current UK taxpayer. In order to Gift Aid your donation, please tick the box below: I want to Gift Aid my subscription and any donations I make in the future or have made in the past 4 years to the New Forest Association. I am a UK taxpayer and understand that if I pay less Income Tax and/or Capital Gains Tax than the amount of Gift Aid claimed on all my donations in that tax year it is my responsibility to pay any difference. Please notify us if you want to cancel this declaration, change your name or home address, or no longer pay sufficient tax on your income and/or capital gains.
Surname Address Postcode Telephone number Email Please post your application to: Juliet Lynn, NFA Membership and Accounts 14 Shrubbs Avenue, Lymington SO41 9DJ
By becoming a member you will enable us to continue as the Friend, watchdog and independent voice for the New Forest
Some reflections on New Forest ponies The Forest is well known for its ponies, privatelyowned animals who roam and graze openly on the Park’s acres. In this article, Dionis Macnair, the longest-serving female Verderer and a seasoned breeder of ponies, looks at how the breed developed and has been maintained over the years. After World War II, horse sports became very popular. Television provided enormous coverage of racing, show jumping and three-day eventing, and The Times printed show results, including the Burley Show. Cinema was full of cowboy films and there were endless pony books. As Europe recovered, the public wanted children’s ponies. To the Commoner, ponies fetched more than cattle, despite the costly health checks needed. One Commoner framed his cheque and hung it on the wall; he had never before sold a pony for £400. Exports ran at £10,000 to £20,000 per year. Role models were Gordon Richards, Pat Smyth, the glamorous Denzeo brothers jumping for Italy, Harry Llewellyn and his horse, Foxhunter. Girls were beginning to challenge the boys, but boys wanted to race and be cowboys, and horse sports were still predominantly male. Over-production and disease Gradually exports fell off as other countries bred their own and there was over-production. The National Pony Society introduced competitions, with no age limit on the rider, to promote the nine native pony breeds. This was very successful at first, but in the end it resulted in a significant loss of type in favour of a small sports horse. Dealers tried to keep up their income by selling more for less, which simply led to a price collapse for all ponies.
In an endeavour to cut down on over-production, the Commoners reluctantly agreed to the Stallion Scheme, whereby there would be a drastic reduction from 99 to 35 stallions turned out for only a short period. Unfortunately, large numbers of cheap warmbloods became all the rage and with no enforcement of border health checks they brought diseases to which our ponies had no immunity. Commoners used to object to the pannage rule that pigs had to be kept on the holdings for two weeks before they could go out to pannage; but this meant there was never swine fever in the forest. But the worst own goal is TB. After 1,000 years of this scourge, it was totally eliminated but, alas, with no health checks enforced, it came back with migrants at a time when the irresponsible use of antibiotics meant they were becoming less effective. (Moral: always buy locally.) With no price improvement, the Stallion Scheme was altered to just 10 stallions turned out for one month, but with fewer than one stallion to 30 mares, you lose all genetic variety in five generations, and we are well into the third. If you lose genetic variety, you may have greatly improved individuals (and we have), but if they cannot adapt to changing circumstances, the result is extinction! What is really important is the mother to mother over eight or more generations, as ponies bred in the same place develop a tolerance to local parasites and disease. For example, New Forest ponies are not bothered by crab flies but any animal not bred in or near the Forest goes mad with them. Older stallions usually will only cover mares that have had a foal (nature’s way of stopping in-breeding), while colts up to four years of age will only cover three or four mares for the first two or three years. True wild horses do not breed until they are about six. Old but bigger early-maturing colts will get about 30 foals a year so, unfortunately, these are the ones that have been accepted. They pass on their size and early maturity to their daughters and we get foals from two and three-year-old mares. We have been here before, when Commoners thought that if a mare had not foaled by four years she was infertile and so sold her.
Problems from breeding There have been other disasters, such as breeding ponies with pretty, very dished faces and with muzzles that allowed no room for a big tooth root. Horses’ teeth grow down all their life; if you have a wide muzzle and convex lower jaw and straight or even slightly Roman nose, the teeth are thrown together and get stronger with age. The dish face has a much shorter root and the teeth get loose early. But Commoners had mares, the daughters of their well-adapted old mares, who were 8 to 10 years old and had never foaled. Being desperate to save these lines, they chose to use very early maturing colts, but see these colts in four years’ time and they are likely to have splints, bog spavins or windgalls or not to winter well. With so few well-adapted mares, this is storing up a terrible welfare problem when we get a bad winter. The disastrous revision to the Rural Payments Agency scheme has encouraged the buying in and turning out of unadapted ponies and particularly cattle, as it was assumed that the more animals, the more cash, which has led to a large increase in numbers, but the minimum acreage requirement has eliminated the small man completely.
The worst example is the new buyer who does not want people on his property, so he turns out the Commoner who has occupied the field for years and then does nothing with the field! We can’t afford this appalling waste.
Dionis Macnair MBE is a Verderer and practising Commoner. She is an NFA trustee; a former Honorary Secretary of the New Forest Pony and Cattle Breeding Society; a Member of the Pony Publicity Group; and the New Forest representative of the British Horse Society’s (BHS) Breeds Committee.
In order to exercise Common of Pasture you not only have to live on land with Common rights; you also have to occupy at least an acre of land with Common of Pasture registered in the definitive Register of Common Rights in the mid-19th century. All the big landowners registered but many people were suspicious of authority and averse to paperwork (nothing changes), so they failed to register and lost their rights. Because of this, fields that look as if they should have rights have not. The word “occupy” is often misunderstood. My grandmother did not want to have large animals so she allowed the Commoner next door to graze her field with his cows and ponies, in return for supplying her with milk. This counted as “occupation”. On a large area the ideal is an extended family; up to four generations can occupy these larger areas giving, perhaps, 20 family members a nominal acre each. Business partners or friends can also share, but we are losing this land hand over fist.
Portrait of the author by Toby Wiggins, painted alongside others from the rural community of Wessex for the National Portrait Gallery in 2007, after he won the BP Travel Award in 2006.
Muntjac deer John K Fawcett continues his series on the Forest’s deer population, with a look at how the smallest of the species arrived – and has thrived – in the Forest despite universal hostility to its damaging effects. Among the New Forest’s five deer species, muntjac are unique in several ways, most remarkably in prompting virtual unanimity among biologists, conservationists, foresters, horticulturalists and private garden owners. In this article I shall show how, despite universal hostility, the species gained a foothold within the New Forest. There was no antipathy to this alien species nearly 50 years ago when my family attended a lecture describing how to attract it into one’s garden! Later we helped, in a small way, with the pioneer study of muntjac deer by the late Dr Oliver Dansie. Now wiser from greater knowledge, it is recognised how wrong was Oliver’s publication in 1977 that muntjac “appears to be a harmless introduction”. Even earlier we had experienced muntjac in paddocks where the late Dr Donald and Norma Chapman – who later became the species’ acknowledged experts – enhanced their systematic study which included radio-collaring wild muntjac in the King’s Forest, Suffolk. Earliest introduction Reeves’ muntjac is so-named because the first specimens had been brought to London Zoo in the nineteenth century by John Reeves. It should be distinguished from the Indian muntjac, which didn’t survive here, whereas Reeves’ muntjac now lurk elusively throughout most of England and, with the help of climate change, may spread more widely in Scotland and Wales. A native of southeast China, it was archetypal of the nineteenth century obsession with translocating innumerable species of fauna and flora from one part of the world to others, notably Britain. Also typical of many such introduced aliens, its damaging effects were not recognised until many years after it had established a substantial foothold.
Muntjac were introduced to Woburn Park in 1894 and liberated into neighbouring woods in 1901. Others were released from Whipsnade Zoo, where I photographed them in 1976. However, their spread was not from just those centres but resulted from many foolish translocations before release of the species became illegal under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. New Forest arrival
Muntjac were first seen near the New Forest intermittently forty years ago. There is no evidence to link them with those we watched in a paddock at Denny Lodge several years earlier and indeed there was no photographic proof of presence within the Forest until 1991, then in Frame Heath Inclosure. Early in this millennium they were reported increasingly in areas adjacent to the Forest and occasionally inside the perambulation. But no threat was considered imminent in 2003 when I wrote in New Forest Roe Deer (p. 54) “Muntjac invasion of the ecological niche our indigenous roe must defend against them is more likely when the natural equilibrium of our native species is disturbed by unreasonable shooting generating a vacuum”. My warning was followed by an agreement with Deputy Surveyor Mike Seddon – who understood scientific evidence – which was designed to avoid “unreasonable shooting” of roe. My repeated recommendations, however, that muntjac should be included in the annual deer censuses were disregarded until I confirmed them formally in writing in 2008. The first census recordings were not until 2010 and 2011, both of 28, almost doubling to 49 in 2012 and 50 in 2013.
Harmful activities Research had shown that muntjac compete for food advantageously with roe (especially), fallow and water deer, and even rabbits and hares. It is for their botanical impact (including that on coppice re-growth), however, that muntjac are most condemned, as well as for their horticultural damage in gardens, from which it is difficult to exclude them. They occupy an ecological niche similar to roe’s but have much greater impact on orchids, violets, bluebells, primroses and wood anemones. This also causes secondary harm to dependent butterflies. Of greatest relevance here, however, is their competition with roe for bramble and other diet they share. The first muntjac shot on Crown Land was in 2004/05, followed by five in 2005/06 plus two killed by traffic. No more deaths were recorded until one shot in 2007/08 and two in 2008/09, rising to 12 shot and five other deaths in 2012/13. Even more important than shooting, however, was to avoid creating a vacuum sucking muntjac into the Forest by improperly shooting native roe whose population “self-regulates”, being limited by available resources. While a future article will evaluate deer management, one example is directly relevant. In the inter-specific competitive situation described, one should anticipate that reducing roe density below its natural ceiling would create a vacuum sucking in muntjac. That is just what Forestry Commission data revealed in 2011/12, when – in breach of the 2003 agreement and lacking this intelligent anticipation – 40 roe were shot, two-thirds of them within just three beats. In 2012 the muntjac census almost doubled from 28 to 49, 80% of them (39) in those three beats. Whereas shooting roe in the 1990s had resulted in sucking in roe from outside, not reducing their numbers, the more recent result correlated with sucking in muntjac. So we may find them in our gardens as well as on our walks.
rump appearing higher than its shoulders. Its summer coat is red-brown with pale buff belly, whereas its darker greybrown winter coat is retained sometimes from October to June. The 15 cm tail is white below, conspicuous when held vertical while retreating in alarm. Usually this species is glimpsed only briefly, occasionally confused with roe deer or even fox although unmistakable if viewed clearly. Basically muntjac are solitary but sometimes a doe is accompanied by her fawn and/or a buck. An encounter may be audible instead of visual, but the loud single barks need experience to distinguish from those of roe, fox or even dog.
Unlike other deer, both sexes have upper canine teeth, in males projecting below the lower lip. Males have antlers, often just simple 8 cm spikes but sometimes with a short forward branch just above the brow, not correlated with age. Muntjac antlers are usually cast in May or June and their replacements cleaned of velvet around August or September. Unusual among deer, males are fertile throughout the year, even during antler growth. This species demonstrates how misleading generalisations about “deer” can be. Ignorance of distinct characteristics of the different species deprives one of much fascinating interest and misleads about correct management. Muntjac differ from all other deer in Britain in not being seasonal breeders; they breed in all months without even a seasonal peak. After seven months gestation, usually only a single fawn is born but, as mating occurs almost immediately, another is added every seven months.
Identifying characteristics The smallest of our deer, the muntjac reaches only some 45-50 cm at the shoulder. It skulks in dense vegetation, mostly with its head down and back arched, and with its
John K Fawcett is a Mammal Society expert on deer and author of various publications about New Forest deer.
The Knightwood Oak is probably the best known tree in the Forest. It has been a tourist attraction since Victorian times, when it was named the Queen of the Forest on the Ordnance Survey map of 1870. Some years ago I was transplanting some of its seedlings, to be planted out as memorial trees (these are now growing in protective enclosures on the site of the old Knightwood car park), when I unearthed an 1853 silver shilling. I imagine it slipping from the pocket of a picnicking visitor all those years ago! The Knightwood Oak was one of the trees measured around this time by JR Wise and recorded in his book The New Forest: its History and its Scenery. Time has taken its toll on the Knightwood Oak and the tree is not quite as elegant as it once was, having lost some lower limbs. But it remains a very impressive and healthy tree, full of wildlife.
Living History: The named oak trees of the New Forest Some of the New Forest’s trees are known for their great girth and longevity. A small number of old oak trees in the Forest have even been given names. Although they are not among Britain’s very largest oaks, they are interesting trees that are well worth a visit. Paul Hibberd set off with his OS map and a tape measure to take a closer look at them. Inspired by the previous work of Nicholas Flower and Chris Read, I measured some of these trees in 2005, while working as a Forest Ranger in the New Forest. The results were published as part of an article in the New Forest Magazine at the time. As a personal project, I revisited the trees in autumn 2015. As before, I was ably assisted by Forestry Commission volunteer ranger Clive Perrin. Once again we tried to find the smallest circumference available at around breast height (around 5 feet off the ground) on each tree, doing our best to avoid any lumps, bumps and burrs. Encouragingly, all the trees have grown in size since our previous visits. The results of our visit and previous known studies are recorded in the table below.
A short walk in the opposite direction from Knightwood car park, the Eagle Oak is a fair bit smaller than the others. This tree gained notoriety in 1810, when a New Forest keeper shot the last local white-tailed eagle from its branches. This is the only one of the trees which is a little tricky to find, but it is marked on the New Forest OS map. There are some other nice old trees in the immediate area, remnants of the original woodland before enclosure for forestry.
How the trees have grown Circumference measurements in metres
Grid Ref (SU)
Flower c. 1978
Hibberd & Perrin 2005
Hibberd & Perrin 2015
Moyles Court Oak
You probably know the Moyles Court Oak. It stands very prominently next to the road, and I wonder how many people it has seen travelling past over the years. This tree has grown very little in the last 20 years, and has put on less than 1cm a year since the 1862 measurement. The Rockford Oak is just across the road from the Moyles Court tree. This tree is fatter but is easily overlooked, sitting as it does behind a fence in a private field. Completely hollow, this venerable veteran must be a truly ancient tree.
There is some debate about just how old these trees actually are. The largest tree is not necessarily the oldest. Trees growing on good soil and with plenty of light (like the Adam Oak) should have grown at a far faster rate than trees on poor soil and in competition with other trees (like the Eagle Oak). Some of these trees are pollards, which adds an additional layer of complication; following pollarding the annual growth rate would have been reduced for some time. 400–600 years would seem a reasonable estimate for these trees, but perhaps some are older. If we’re both still around, Clive and I will be re-measuring the oaks in 2025. In the meantime, it’s worth a look at the Ancient Tree Hunt website, which has collated records of many of the larger trees in and around the Forest. This website lists a couple of even larger oaks, which were not recorded by Flower or Read. One of these is on private land at Hale Park, and one near Gritnam Wood. I’ve also been told of a very large oak in Brockenhurst Park. I hope to see these trees on my next visit. If you know of any other named oak trees still standing within the Forest, I’d be pleased to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Rockford Oak in autumn 2015
References: Read (1999): Ancient New Forest Trees, Hampshire Field Club. Flower (1983): The Ancient and Ornamental Woods of the New Forest, Hampshire Magazine. Hibberd (2005): Ancient Oaks of the New Forest, New Forest Magazine. New Forest National Park Authority (2015): Ancient and Veteran Trees of the New Forest – available online.
Garden of Paradise? Adam and Eve are also very close to public roads, this time in Minstead. Eve sits within a private field, and Adam is in the hedge by the road. Adam appears to have grown the most since my last measurement. This is, perhaps, to be expected as it is a large open-grown tree on good soil. However, this tree was the most awkward to measure due to a very challenging combination of brambles and barbed wire. All other trees were subjected to three attempts at measurement; we only measured Adam once! My feeling is that a future visit may find it a little smaller than my current measurement.
This article represents the personal views of the author. With thanks to Clive Perrin, to the landowners who allowed us access and to the New Forest Centre reference library for their valuable assistance. A life member – and one-time committee member – of the NFA, Paul Hibberd was a New Forest Ranger for the Forestry Commission from 1996–2007. He currently works as Interpretation Officer for Forestry Commission Scotland, based in Inverness.
The New Forest Smooth Snake Survey In 2015, the New Forest Smooth Snake Survey (NF-SSS...) project was born. It was created by a collaboration of key stakeholders collectively called the New Forest Amphibian & Reptile Monitoring & Surveillance (NF-ARMS) Partnership. Ben Limburn, from Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (ARC), reports on the findings. The primary aim of the NF-SSS... is to further our knowledge of the smooth snake’s distribution in the New Forest National Park, one of the remaining strongholds for the species, which is Britain’s rarest reptile. It’s also important that we provide protected-species information to land owners and managers in order to inform and support appropriate habitat management decisions. Species research is fundamentally based on gathering data; having a good understanding of a species’ distribution and ecology is crucial in knowing how best to conserve it throughout its range. To look for smooth snakes (and other reptiles) in the New Forest we have recruited and trained a number of volunteers. These reptile surveyors carry out targeted surveys in areas where the species has not previously been recorded or seen for a long time. In 2015, 11 sites in the New Forest were surveyed by 20 reptile surveyors, carrying out visual and artificial refugia inspections in key areas of prime smooth snake heathland habitat. Surveyors use an online environmental recording website – Living Record (www.LivingRecord.net), which allows them to easily enter their field observations in a standardised format. Species data is then accessed for analysis by the ARC Science Department. Within just two months of surveying from September to October 2015, surveyors made a total of 225 checks of artificial refugia and recorded 86 common lizards, 27 slow worms, 7 adders and 6 grass snakes. Unfortunately, no smooth snakes were observed during the 2015 NF-SSS... site visits. Owing to time and resource constraints, we weren’t able to start the surveys until late in the season.
A smooth snake (Coronella austriaca) being shown to trainee volunteers (under licence). It can take time for the smooth snakes to find a refuge in their habitat and the cryptic nature of the species makes them notoriously difficult to find at the best of times. A dozen incidental “smoothie” records were sent to us by members of the public and from organisations carrying out wildlife surveys of other species of fauna and flora. ARC encourages everyone to report casual sightings of reptiles and amphibians; anyone can do this through Living Record or the Record Pool (www.RecordPool.org.uk). Nationally, such records equate to many thousands every year and provide important data for conservation. During 2016, we have built on the valuable knowledge gained in 2015 and trained a further 60 volunteers who have been able to carry out a full season of surveys at sites throughout the Forest and, we’re pleased to say, located smooth snakes at a number of new sites. The results are being collated for reporting at the annual ARC/British Herpetological Society Scientific Meeting, to be held at the Bournemouth Natural Science Society in early December. The NF-SSS... is a fantastic example of a “citizen science” project which brings together many different organisations with common goals. A huge thank you goes out to everyone who has played a part, big or small, in the success of the project so far – incredibly this now totals over 200 people. We’re also delighted to have funding confirmed to continue the project in 2017, thanks to the New Forest Trust and Friends of the New Forest. This will ensure that we can continue to engage volunteers in the New Forest while also exploring obtaining other funding to expand the project across the entire range of the smooth snake in southern England. Find out more about the New Forest Smooth Snake Survey and a list of current partners at http://www.arc-trust.org/new-forest-smooth-snake-survey. Ben Limburn is Project Officer at Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (ARC).
Village Greens : Graham Bathe
pages a visual delight. The front cover shows three seated figures watching a cricket match at Woodgreen under the blue sky of a summer day, the perfect illustration – or should that be cliché – of a rural English idyll. The back cover has a little girl, blissful in the long meadow grass of Thorverton Millennium Green in Devon, elders of her family seated nearby in the background. An invitation to explore These cover pictures are cleverly chosen, because they invite the reader to explore what lies between them. Unless he or she is knowledgeable about village greens, the text is full of interesting surprises. Knowing the very new Thorverton Green, and that it is attached to an ancient Devon village, this reviewer was prepared to concede from the outset that, thanks to the author, he was unlikely ever to look at village greens in quite the same way again.
Keith Howe reviews this profusely-illustrated guide, in which Graham Bathe looks at the origin, history, diversity and wildlife of greens, their role during celebrations and periods of unrest, and their ongoing importance today. For the second time in 2016, the Open Spaces Society and Pitkin Publishing have collaborated to issue a most attractive and informative text by Graham Bathe. The first, entitled Common Land, was reviewed in the New Forest Association Newsletter, Spring 2016, Number 23. This second text, Village Greens, is a complementary companion. The format is identical, 28 pages in two-page sections dealing with various aspects of the main theme: the Saxon play-place; where are greens found; planned and unplanned greens; commons and greens; defensive greens; characteristics of greens; uprisings on the greens; greens as relicts; lawful sports and pastimes; festivities on the green; wildlife on greens; greens and the law; new greens for a new era; getting involved. This brief volume is a mine of information. Moreover, it inspires curiosity to find out more. The copious colour photographs, many the author’s own, make turning the
So, for instance, The Plestor of Gilbert White’s Selborne probably gets its name from the Saxon for play-place. It turns out that the defining characteristic of any green, ancient or modern, large or small, in an urban or rural location, which allows its protection today is that it is used continuously “as of right” for “lawful sports and pastimes”. Just about any area of land may qualify for registration as a green, provided it has been used for recreation for at least 20 years, without force, secrecy or permission. In short, it is people who make a piece of land a green, just by what they spontaneously have used – and continue to use – it for. As to the many and diverse stories that unfold in consequence, read Graham Bathe’s enticing accounts. Do so with a map of England and Wales alongside to plan visits to the places he describes, and more, and delve still more deeply into the social history of our village greens. Village Greens is available from the Open Spaces Society, 25a Bell Street, Henley-on-Thames, RG29 2BA or can be ordered online at http://www.oss. org.uk/what-we-do/publications, price £5.00.
Samuel the Donkey at the New Forest Show : Bryan Pass
Samuel the donkey’s character is wonderfully developed throughout the words and pictures, so that you really get to know his “stubborn” side, his “real show-off ” nature and his love of turning everything into “a game”. He cleverly works out how to get more carrots, too! Having only a 20-month-old myself, I asked my retired mum (once a primary school teacher) which age group she thought would best suit this book. Reading it aloud, in her teacher guise, she at once noticed the natural questions the plot encouraged, such as “Would you have taken Samuel to the show?” and “How would you have stopped Samuel from...?”
Kay Cartledge-Clarke reviews this well-illustrated and fun-packed story for sharing with pre-school or primary-aged children who love farm animals. Set at the New Forest Show, it is written by Farmer Bryan (Bryan Pass) and illustrated by Simon Chadwick. It was always going to be a gamble taking noisy and mischievous Samuel the donkey to the New Forest Show, but for the reader (and the star donkey!) it provides much mirth and merriment. The story opens with a spoken question, excitingly plunging you into the Longdown Activity Farm staff ’s quandary of whether or not to take Samuel to the show! Then, with the help of brilliantly expressive and colourful drawings, plus emotive language and humorous lines, the book takes you through the following key events: smartening Samuel up; getting him into the lorry for the initial journey; his antics at the show-ground – including mayhem with a ladder and a bucket of water; his unfortunate effect on some of the visitors and the parading cows; how Samuel behaves during milking time; and what happens when the other animals are trying to sleep. Great descriptions like “new blue halter” and “dainty feet” are beautifully tempered with “simply refused to move” and “rolled his lips and twitched his ears”.
She was also taken with the engaging comic illustrations in thick bold outline and the opportunities to discuss exciting new vocabulary, such as “stock-people”, “enclosures”, “almighty”, “marquees” and “shooed”. “Oo, definitely 4to 5-year-olds,” she announced. It was at this point that I noticed a little cinnamon head intermittently popping up from his games of buses and bricks to stare at the pictures and then to guffaw at his grandma’s “Hee-haw”. I therefore conclude that this book may be enjoyed on a number of levels, and has my son’s seal of approval, too. What I liked most about the story was that it wasn’t overly didactic like some children’s books, but was more subtly done, and that it made me laugh. There was also a lovely local feel to the book for those of us living by the New Forest and a lovely sense of farming culture for those newly exploring the area. I look forward to the exciting day, maybe in Year 3, when my little boy reads Samuel the Donkey to me. Published by Ceratopia Books, ISBN 9780954279165, RRP £4.99 plus P&P. Available from bookshops or online from http://www.ceratopia. co.uk/shop.
The NFA’s Founding Fathers
Lord Henry Scott
W C D Esdaile
On a largely overcast, not particularly warm Monday in June 1867, there was at last a chance for clouds to part as eight guests of George Eyre and his son Briscoe met at their Chelsea home in Lowndes Square. The purpose was to consider how they might best help the Commoners of the New Forest preserve their rights in the face of the new conifer plantations that had arisen since the “Deer Removal Act” of 1851. William Hans Sloane – of Paultons – took the chair. Among those attending were Lord Henry Scott, better known now as Lord Montagu, and William Clement Drake Esdaile, both of whom were to play a major part in the ensuing decade. On 22 July 1867 an Association was formed for the preservation of the open lands of the New Forest, and for the general protection of the Commoners’ rights over the Forest. W C D Esdaile became the New Forest Association’s first Secretary.