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Forest Diary - September

Sustainability is at the heart of our timber

 by Forestry Commission South Walk Forester, Grainne Devlin

We are the largest supplier of sustainably produced timber in England, selling around 1.4 million tonnes per year. Some people worry that tree felling is bad, but when sustainably managed, it’s a key part of good woodland management. Harvesting trees provides the wood that we all use in our daily lives and thins forests to promote new growth.

The New Forest produces approximately 50,000 tonnes of timber per year, but only about 1,000 tonnes of that includes quality hardwoods, mainly oak. The harvesting operations move around the forest's timber inclosures on different rotations. There has recently been tree felling activity at Frame Heath Inclosure, which lies to the east of Brockenhurst, near Ladycross Lodge.

Frame Heath Inclosure was first fenced off to grow trees in 1852 from extensive heathlands and part of the nearby Frame Wood. The Inclosure contains large areas of oak and beech planted on clay soils. These trees, which have now begun to reach maturity, were originally planted with the intention that one day they would be felled and their timber used to produce wooden warships.  Whilst there is obviously no longer a high demand for large oak warships, high quality, oak timber remains highly sought after and attracts a high value. 

The majority of the conifer trees in Frame Heath Inclosure date from the Second World War, and grew partly as a result of natural seed regeneration after a large felling operation.  Substantial blocks of conifers were also planted in the 1960s, these include Corsican Pine, Hybrid Larch and Western Hemlock.

Each year the Forestry Commission prepares parcels of high quality hardwood timber for sale at the England Hardwood Auction, held in November at Westonbirt Arboretum.  This year, a number of mature oak trees were felled at Frame Heath Inclosure, producing 120 cubic metres of timber to be included as a lot at the hardwood auction. Through our work with local contractors, much of the wood is sold to local sawmills across the South. In terms of wood products, the logs of the highest quality can be used to create pieces of hardwood furniture.

As part of my job as a Forester here in the New Forest, I am very aware that it’s our future generations that will benefit from our hard work.  Selecting which of these trees are to be felled is a huge privilege and the culmination of years of care and hard work on the part of my predecessors. Of utmost importance is the knowledge that by selectively thinning these areas and increasing the amount of light reaching the forest floor, a new generation of young oak trees will be able to regenerate to the benefit of future generations. 

Diverse woodlands also provide enhanced opportunities for a wide-range of wildlife species to thrive.  Frame Heath Inclosure is home to some rare and important species of butterfly, including the Pearl Bordered Fritillary.  This species requires sunny open areas to survive.  The thinning operations will allow the area to be much more open and ground vegetation will soon begin to grow as light levels increase so the woods will become more diverse in terms of plants and creatures. Many plants and wildlife will benefit, including lichen, fungi and butterflies will all thrive here - making the most of the new links that we are creating between the Inclosure and the open forest.

For more information about how we sustainably manage forests, visit: www.forestry.gov.uk/englandsforests-manage

   

Consider your neighbours

By the Forestry Commission’s, Trainee Estates Officer, Sean Marsh

 (enquiries.new.forest@forestry.gsi.gov.uk)

 Like many of you, I spent last weekend tackling my garden, clearing the weeds and cutting back the hedges now that the main breeding season for nesting birds is over. I pruned my holly and hawthorn to encourage a bushier hedge by cutting about 2 cm off above last year's growth – this helps to keep the hedge full of lush growth. But a word of warning, if you’re planning to undertake hedge trimming, first spare a thought for your neighbour. A boundary hedge may be the joint responsibility of both neighbours, so you must both must agree about the maintenance of the hedge.

As Trainee Estates Officer, I see fencing and boundary encroachments onto the Open Forest almost every week, so it’s an issue I’m all too familiar with.  If you’re planning to plant new hedging on your boundary, you should also consider your neighbours, especially if your property adjoins the New Forest Crown land. We ask that you consider using native hedging plants, such as blackthorn, hawthorn and holly. Please avoid using hedging plants that are poisonous to livestock, for example laurel and yew. 

When you’re cutting back your hedge, cuttings must be taken away promptly and not left on the Forest for the animals to eat. Unfortunately, many people dump their garden waste on the Open Forest, unaware that their actions are causing a problem. Garden waste can smother and destroy the underlying native vegetation and some particularly invasive garden plants can take root in the open forest, spreading rapidly and out-competing the native vegetation.

 Due to the nature of garden waste, many people don't see their actions as 'fly-tipping' in the same way as dumping household waste, like plastics or chemicals. However, their actions can have a serious impact on the delicate balance and overall health of local wildlife. Added to this, some garden plants are actually poisonous to commoners' animals grazing on the open forest. Indeed, even simple grass cuttings can prove fatal as they may cause colic, leading to a slow and painful death.

 As a result, we are encouraging local residents to consider a range of environmentally-friendly alternatives to dumping their garden waste over the garden fence. Consider taking your garden waste to the nearest household waste recycling centre or, best of all, compost the waste within your own gardens. This action alone will help us to retain the natural beauty of the New Forest.

The New Forest is one of the most important areas for wildlife throughout Western Europe. Despite this, we fight an ongoing battle to control the spread of non-native and often very invasive plants from destroying our precious local wildlife.

Over the years, many non-native plants have been introduced here as ornamentals to be grown in gardens or, in the case of New Zealand pygmyweed, as an oxygenator in garden ponds. However, they have managed to effectively ‘jump the garden fence’ and invade the countryside.

Plants such as Himalayan balsam and Japanese knotweed grow vigorously, elbowing-out our native wildflowers, which provide important food and nectar for invertebrates.

As a result, the Forestry Commission works closely with the ‘New Forest Non-Native Plants Project’ - a joint partnership set up in 2009 with the New Forest National Park Authority, Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, the Environment Agency, Natural England and DEFRA.

However, for the project to be successful, we need New Forest residents to be more aware of the need to control these plants and to prevent them spreading into the Forest.

For more information about boundaries and hedging please visit www.forestry.gov.uk/newforest-residents  and to find out how you can help with non-native plants visit www.nonnativespecies.org

Snakes and lizards!

by Forestry Commission Recreation Ranger, Richard Daponte

(enquiries.southern@forestry.gsi.gov.uk)

  My passion for all things small and scaly, damp and slimy is essential to my role as Recreation Ranger, as the New Forest is home to all six cold-blooded UK native reptile species. Over the past 14 years I’ve been involved with the Forestry Commission’s Reptile Centre, were you can see all six reptiles, Smooth Snake, Sand Lizard, Adder, Grass Snake, Slow Worm and Common Lizard.

 As you look around the habitats, or ‘pods’ as we call them, you can try to spot the elusive Smooth snake, adder, or the bright colours of the male sand lizard.

We’ve successfully bred literally hundreds of rare sand lizards and natterjack toads over the years, as part of a national captive breeding and wild release programme organised by ARC (the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust) and have sent them off to top-up colonies in local heathland habitats, or (in the case of the natterjacks) pools in the Cumbrian National Park.

 Each week during the summer, nervous-looking delivery staff carefully carry cardboard boxes full of holes to Queen’s House (FC offices). I willingly collect these, ferry them up to the Reptile Centre and distribute their hopping and scurrying contents amongst the ‘pods’ where the reptiles and amphibians live. These boxes are full of the live crickets and mealworms that will form part of the diet of the animals there.

 Ten years ago, we were joined by partners the RSPB, New Forest National Park Authority and Carnyx Wild at the Reptile Centre, with the launch of the ‘Aren’t Birds Brilliant!’ project and more recently, ‘A Date with Nature in the New Forest’. Both of these projects have enabled the centre to be operated by staff and volunteers every day throughout the spring and summer, and the focus on birds and other wildlife has opened up the site for visitors to explore even more of the rich offerings within the new forest.

 This year, ‘Raptorcam’ returned and focussed on a pair of Buzzards, as they reared their new chicks. Other features of the project include live footage from the ‘Feeder Cam’ which captured the goings on around the bird feeders near the centre.

 ‘A Date with Nature in the New Forest’ has now finished for the season, but the Reptile Centre remains open until 30 September and is free for all, although donations for parking are welcome.

 Do make the most of the last few days that the centre remains open for this year. Signs of autumn are already beginning in the forest, with trees and bracken showing their rich colours, so now is a great time to enjoy the self-guided discovery trail, which starts at the Reptile Centre. This route is easy to walk and takes you in a loop back to the centre. Download the trail map that shows you the best places to stop along the way and look at wildlife as you walk. Visit http://www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/englandhampshirenoforestnewforestnewforestreptilecentre

 So as the warmth of the sun begins to fade during the last days of September and the glorious summer finishes, why not take a trip to visit the creatures at the Reptile Centre… you never know what you might see!

 For more information about activities in the New Forest, visit www.forestry.gov.uk/newforest

 Running Through the New Forest

By Sue Rogers, Receptionist at the Forestry Commission

 After watching this year’s participants at the New Forest Marathon, I’ve been inspired to pull on my trainers and get running again! If like me, you don’t really enjoy working out in a busy gym, or pounding the pavements along noisy roads, then running in the forest is a great option. Also, if you are new to running, you can escape the crowded streets and run at your own pace in the inspiring and peaceful environment of the forest. Whatever your level of fitness is, running in the beautiful scenery throughout the New Forest will motivate you and fresh air will keep your brain happy.

When I’m out in the forest I can set my own pace, stop running and start again in intervals by using the trees as markers. It’s a good opportunity to have a look at the animals which roam the forest and it really is so much better than a dull workout on a treadmill. Also, you’re in complete control and can discover what works best for you without having to worry about what anyone else thinks.

This year, the Forestry Commission has launched a pilot series of off the beaten running routes as part of their on-going partnership with Sport England. These trails have been specifically designed for those who actively seek escapism and are driven by a sense of freedom.  These routes can be viewed at www.forestry.gov.uk/wildrunning. Although we don’t have any of these special trails here in the New Forest, we do provide a stunning backdrop that allows all runners to get outside and enjoy the beautiful landscape, over a challenging and varied terrain.

I find running very rewarding, but I wasn’t always so keen – it took a while to gradually build up my knowledge and love of running. The secret is to start with a short route, only 1km (just over half a mile) is perfect to begin with.  You can run at any of our waymarked trails, from 1km routes in the forest to help you to build up to 5km runs!

Running in the forest can give you the privacy, the stimulus and the raw motivation needed to develop a healthy mind and body, but we know that sometimes finding the motivation and inspiration to get healthy can be hard. So if you want a little extra help you could sign up to our free introductory six week programme to get you running in the forest. Visit http://www.forestry.gov.uk/runforestrun-signup

The New Forest offers many inviting trails that take you winding around mighty trees and through dense forest before finishing across picturesque heathery heathland. The forest has many natural inclines and we all know there’s no better feeling than making it to the top of a hill (because it means you can come back down!). Studies have found that people flex their ankles more when running outside, especially when running down hills, something that’s difficult to replicate on a treadmill. This works the muscles in a different way and is great for increasing your endurance.

So you don’t have to wait for the next New Forest Marathon to run through the forest, just get your trainers on and enjoy the mixture of winding trails and wide open paths through the woods. Whether you take it slow or run fast, the forest’s waymarked routes are the perfect location to start your venture into the world of running

Autumnal feast for your eyes in New Forest Woodlands

By Esta Mion, Communications Manager at the Forestry Commission

 This year we can expect an autumnal feast for our eyes in New Forest woodlands as early as mid-September, with impressive displays of vibrant autumn colours predicted by Forestry Commission experts.

Autumn’s foliage displays are certainly affected by the weather and this year we have our fingers crossed that it should be good for producing a great autumnal colour display. It will depend a little on the weather in September but the ground work has bee n laid for a good show.

Colour change starts to occur as the days become shorter and the evening temperatures are cooler. At this time the green chlorophyll in the leaves starts to disappear, exposing the yellow and orange hues. Sunny weather concentrates the sugar in the leaf which speeds up the appearance of red hues.

The New Forest is one of the most magnificent places look and admire the fantastic display of fungi at this time of year whist walking through our extensive woodlands and lawns. We want to encourage you to enjoy the autumn spectacle of fungi, but we just ask that you don’t pick. For the first time, we feel it’s necessary to take a precautionary approach. Caring for the core of the Forest, known as the Crown Lands, and its unique wildlife is central to the Forestry Commission and that’s why we’re leading a new fungi campaign, which appeals to people to look, but not pick.

Over half of the New Forest National Park is internationally important for wildlife. Fungi play a crucial role in the natural processes here with other species depending on them to complete their life cycle. The New Forest is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) with over two thousand varieties of fungi, many of which are rare and internationally-important species.

We’ve seen a swell in the ‘trend’ of foraging in recent years and this increase in popularity of edible fungi picking puts increased pressures on the New Forest, which if left unregulated may have detrimental impacts on the biodiversity of this special place. 

People may not be aware that eating fungi picked from the New Forest can lead to rare and endangered fungi being collected in error and impacts on the enjoyment of others who wish to study, admire or photograph their many forms.

Due to the growing concern from conservation bodies and very real fears from members of the local community, the Forestry Commission is no longer permitting picking on any scale from the Forestry Commission Crown land in the New Forest, which is covered by the SSSI designation (Site of Special Scientific Interest).

Autumn will soon be arriving in our forests with a rainbow of colours making it a spectacular time of year to visit the New Forest. With just the right mixture of rich autumnal light, dazzling leaf displays and fresh crisp air, it is a fantastic time to get outside and boost your wellbeing before the winter months set in.

For more information about the new no-picking code in the New Forest, please visit our website www.forestry.gov.uk/newforestfungi .

 

Last updated: 20th October 2016

England's Woods and Forests are cared for by Forest Enterprise England, an agency of the Forestry Commission.