Getting passionate about a load of rubbish
By Gary North, New Forest Recreation Manager at the Forestry Commission
Autumn is a special time of year in the New Forest, not least because of the onset of beautiful seasonal colours, but the gorgeous views are often spoilt by rubbish. Litter is not only unsightly, but potentially dangerous to grazing livestock and wildlife.
Carelessly discarded litter, a tin can here, a crisp packet there – may seem small-scale and just thoughtless, rather than malicious, but it nevertheless causes significant problems for commoner’s stock. All too often we receive reports of rubbish dumped on the forest that can be extremely hazardous to animals. The Verderers Office recently informed us about an incident that was reported to them by commoners who were concerned for the welfare of livestock after plastic bottles were found stuck in the mouths of two cows. The Agister was able to assist and the cows were not seriously harmed, but it highlights the problem rubbish causes for animals.
Sadly every year, a number of livestock have to be put down because they have swallowed discarded plastic or metal left in the forest by visitors or residents. At this time of year, large piles of apples are often thrown out for the animals - unfortunately, apples can cause colic in ponies and donkeys, which occasionally results in a very painful death for livestock.
All sort of things get dumped in the forest; our staff have reported finding fridges and washing machines, pipes, rubble, plastic sheeting, various metal objects and glass, some of which can be extremely hazardous.
Last year the Forestry Commission spent £70,000 on collecting and disposing of litter from the New Forest Crown lands that we manage. This money could be better spent on projects to enhance the area, like re-planting trees, repairing worn out paths or fences.
The Forestry Commission makes sure that bins are regularly emptied in our car parks. However, if you do find that a bin is full, or you visit a site where bins are not available, please take your litter home with you. Leaving it next to the bin, even if it’s carefully bagged up, might seem like a sensible and considerate thing to do, but in reality it poses a real threat for the ponies and cattle that roam freely across the New Forest.
We work closely with other partners in the New Forest and in particular we participate in the joint New Forest Litter Working Group with the New Forest National Park Authority and New Forest District Council. The focus of this group is to raise awareness of the issues around littering and fly-tipping and to coordinate direct action where necessary or educate residents and visitors about litter.
Ultimately, we all have a role to play in making sure the New Forest is kept clean whether we’re a resident, or just visiting, so that we can all enjoy its beauty.