Meet the new volunteers who give up their time to help the New Forest
by Esta Mion, Communications Manager
There are many reasons why people volunteer with the Forestry Commission. For some it’s to meet new people, whilst others want to gain experience. Volunteers can learn new, and develop, existing skills, meet people and help to build confidence. What unites us all though, is caring for the New Forest.
This week we welcomed 14 new volunteers to join our dedicated team of Volunteer Rangers. The Volunteer Ranger Service has been running for 17 years and during that time, many local people have joined us at the Forestry Commission to devote their free time to the New Forest. Whether their interest is in the ecology and landscape of the forest, interacting with visitors or getting their hands dirty carrying out conservation tasks, they each bring with them bundles of energy and a camaraderie that is second to none.
Our new volunteers join us from all walks of life and for many different reasons. The role they play is integral to helping conserve wildlife and habitats while enhancing visitor enjoyment. Their duties will include leading and helping with events, assisting visitors and providing invaluable support to our Keeper and Ranger teams.
We recognise that volunteers require satisfying work and personal development and will seek to help volunteers meet these needs, as well as providing the training to do their work effectively. The Volunteer Coordinators have the enviable role of leading this group, managing their tasks, providing valuable support and even helping to organise their social events – never let it be said that we work them too hard!
Speaking to our new volunteers, they each have a deep love of the Forest and were inspired to join us. They will soon get started, preparing for the busy spring and summer season. It’s time to spruce up our visitor sites and make sure that trails and car parks are in good condition for the coming season. Much of this work has been planned and prepared for during the winter months. Publications, signage and new interpretation has all been designed and produced in advance of the season. The new events programme has been painstakingly put together by Rangers and Volunteers, so look out for lots of Easter activities coming soon. If you are out and about in the Forest during the Easter break, you might meet one of our new volunteers, as they welcome new and returning visitors to the woods.
The new volunteers join our existing team that enjoy the variety of tasks, the contact with our staff and developing their own knowledge, as well as then sharing it with others. We now have 74 people who give up their time to help to care for and protect this special place.
From the Forestry Commission’s point of view, our volunteers enable us to do so much more out in the woods, but also bring to our team a wealth of experiences and interests.
You’ll find more information on volunteering in the New Forest on our website: www.forestry.gov.uk/newforest
International Day of Forests
By The Forest Planning Team, Forestry Commission (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Barely a day goes by when we aren’t encouraged to think about a special topic or cause highlighted by a national awareness event. March invites us to consider the importance of World Book Day, International Women’s Day and No Smoking Day. It’s also National Bed Month – which encourages us all to get a better night’s sleep!
But International Day of Forests (21 March) is the one that flicks our switches here at the Forestry Commission. This global celebration of forests helps raise awareness of the importance of all types of forests -- and of trees outside forests too. The organisers explain that forests cover one third of the Earth's land mass and around 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihood.
Of course, they’re vital ecosystems too and provide a home to more than 80 per cent of the terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects. With the New Forest on our doorstep, we know we’re extremely lucky to have such stunning scenery, a vibrant natural environment for animals and birds and a calm retreat from the stresses of daily life.
One function of this awareness day is to get us all thinking about what we can do to protect our forests from the pressures of the modern world.
Sadly we’re all too familiar with the impact of global warming, which is caused by human activity releasing greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and resulting in increased temperatures. Trees are useful weapons in the fight against this problem. One fully grown tree can absorb up to 48 pounds of carbon dioxide a year. Half a hectare of conifer woodland can store enough carbon to compensate for an entire lifetime’s carbon emissions from an average driver!
We’re working closely with our research agency, Forest Research, at Alice Holt to perfect new methods and find the best solution to this modern problem. Hopefully this plan can be shown to work and we can put in place a solution that will help ensure there are forests around to enjoy on International Days of Forests for generations to come.
Environmental experts from Forest Research have predicted that the climate in the south of England could be similar to the current climate conditions in the south of France in about 50 years. This significant increase in temperature could really harm our trees and in terms of a tree’s lifetime, 50 years isn’t very long, so we need to fight back now to slow down this process.
One of the things being considered in the future is trialling the introduction of trees that are native to our shores, but using variations from warmer climates, which are better suited to higher temperatures. For example oak trees are already prominent in UK forests, so we’d consider planting the seeds from oak trees found in southern France. This would help to boost the resilience of our woodlands but it’s vital that the species are suitable to be introduced into our woodlands and can thrive alongside the existing flora and fauna.
The best way for you to celebrate International Day of Forests is to get out there and give the trees some much needed love. Spring is a beautiful time to visit the New Forest, as it awakens again from its winter slumber and bursts of colour begin to appear again on the forest floor and up in the canopy.
For more information about the New Forest, please visit www.forestry.gov.uk/newforest.
For more information about Forest Research, please visit www.forestry.gov.uk/forestresearch.
Growing and Harvesting the Forest
By Simon J Holloway, South Walk Works Supervisor, New Forest
One of the most satisfying parts of my job, here in the New Forest, is planting young trees. The forestry working cycle begins with the process of planting trees, then planning to thin them after 20 - 30 years and later we return to harvest areas that have reached maturity. All of the timber that we fell carries the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®)certification – in other words our woodlands and the way we manage them meet strict environmental standards.
So what’s my role in all of this? Well, in the south of the New Forest, I am responsible for co-ordinating the harvesting of timber and re-planting young trees.
I am currently working with colleagues at Dibden Inclosure, which is located near the village of Dibden Purlieu. It’s an interesting site which was once a mosaic of open heathland and ancient woodland, consisting mostly of oak, birch and holly copses with some clumps of pine. In the 1960’s, it was fenced and planted with mostly non-native conifer including Douglas Fir, Western Hemlock and Corsican Pine to satisfy the country’s timber demands after the Second World War. It was with the agreement of the Verderers, that the Forestry Commission could fence areas of the Waterside for timber production, so long as it was only for a single cycle of growth, typically 60 years for conifer. Since being planted the area between the forest and Southampton Water has developed into an expanding residential area with a current population of around 20,000 people in the Hythe and Dibden Parish. Around 30 years ago, Dibden Inclosure was thrown open (fences removed) to allow free grazing of Commoners’ livestock, as part of the plan to gradually revert the area back to native pasture woodland and heathland.
We are planning to remove some trees here, in order to allow the conifer trees more room to grow and encourage the wildlife and habitats beneath to thrive. Selectively removing just some of the trees is known as ‘thinning’. From the wooden table we sit at to eat, to the garden fence, the shed, and even the timber frames that form the basis of many of our homes, our woodlands are not just important habitats or a place for recreation and relaxation, they’re also a critical resource and part of our local economy. The timber harvesting is co-ordinated through the Forest Design Plans – these are long term strategies that forecast how much timber is growing, which areas should be felled and what will be planted in the future.
Some of the work we’re carrying out includes widening rides to help with drying out muddy tracks and paths, which will also create sunny spots for plants, such as Dog Violets, Bugle, and Brambles, to grow. These plants will produce nectar for insects such as butterflies and moths and help to increase the numbers of rare species like, the silver-washed fritillary. As new trees and shrubs develop within the thinned conifer crop and alongside the rides and tracks, further habitat for birds and small mammals will attract owls and hawks to visit and hopefully nest too. Our civil engineers teams will be carrying out repairs to the tracks, ditches and culverts prior to the felling work and will return to make good after the timber has been removed.
Recently, you may have noticed the work to cut and burn areas of natural regenerated trees and gorse at Dibden, Fawley and Longdown. All this is part of our ongoing management of the heathland habitat, which has been recreated out of parts of the plantation woodland to improve the area for the specialist heath plants and wildlife that thrive in these areas. These works are tied into the wider open forest management and will complement the felling work that’s happening soon at Dibden.