Forestry Commission logo

Forest Diary - October



Things that go bTAWNY OWL (Strix aluco).ump in the forest

By Zoe Cox, Community Manager at the New Forest

 Beware! For there are strange things lurking in the woods this Halloween.  You’ve probably all heard rumours about the ghosts that call the New Forest home - from the haunted Beaulieu Abbey to the witchcraft of Burley. Let’s be honest, while the forest is a beautiful, inspiring and welcoming place to visit during the day, a moonlit walk through the towering trees could send shivers down the spine of even the bravest ghost hunter.

It’s no surprise that forests and woods have been the backdrop to many a spine-chilling horror story over the years. The creepy shadows cast from hanging branches, the rustling of leaves, the vast darkness, the low fog and the strange echoes all combine to create a unique atmosphere that’s the perfect recipe for getting the heart racing.

We all know there’s really nothing to be afraid of though. The haunting sounds you sometimes hear in the forest are usually nothing more than the innocent communications of our nocturnal residents. Perhaps if we tell you a bit more about some of them you’ll realise they’re a friendly bunch really.

Sika deer are found in the forest around Beaulieu and they have a distinctive shriek which can sound a little too human if you let your imagination run away with you. It’s much like the bark of the muntjac or the wail of the fox.  But fear not; the Sikas, muntjacs and foxes are perfectly harmless.

Similarly, Tawny Owls (the wise old birds that are ever present in our woods) also add to the creepy feeling with their eerie cry. Their spooky hooting has unsettled locals for hundreds of years and some folk still now consider the Tawny Owl an omen of bad luck.  

Again, in the cold light of day we know their famous call is nothing to fear and, in fact, it actually has a rather cute story behind it. What you’re hearing is really a duet from a breeding pair. The lustful male performs the first half, “toowit” and the female responds with her coy “toowoo”.  

 And we can’t talk about the forest at night without mentioning bats. These most famous creatures of the night have endured a macabre - but completely unfounded - reputation since the publication of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Admittedly, they do flit about the New Forest at night but these bats won’t drink your blood like the vampire bats native to the forests of Central and South America. In fact, all of the 13 species of bat present in the New Forest feed only on insects. Those of you with an aversion to creepy crawlies should probably thank them.

 So, don’t be afraid of the New Forest at night because the animals pose no threat to you. Watch out for the New Forest ghosts though; there have been plenty of spooky sightings over the years and you never know what could be lurking in those shadows…

For more information about the New Forest, visit


Things to spot in the spectacular New Forest this autumn


By Linda Laker, Recreation Ranger, New Forest (

Autumn is perhaps the best time of year to visit your local forest. The colours are beautiful; the trees bountiful with nuts,Sika deer hinds. Location: Poole Basin, Dorset, England. fruits, berries and seeds, and fungi are abundant across the forest floor. Visitors to the New Forest may even get to spot wildlife foraging for food, as our forests’ birds and animals prepare for winter.

 The popularity of TV programmes like Autumnwatch show that we’re a nation that loves wildlife. But nothing beats getting off the sofa and into the great outdoors and seeing it for yourself.

 The New Forest is home to some of the most compelling wildlife you could hope to see, from the common Fallow deer to the unique Sika. The New Forest also offers a variety of rich habitats that wildlife need to thrive and together with the management activities that sustains the forest, it is a real haven for wildlife. We’ve compiled a list of some of our favourite wild things to look out for this autumn in the New Forest.

 Deer – It’s the time of year that has made deer famous. The mating season, or rut, starts in late September and peaks in mid-October. During this time the males develop spectacular antlers to attract the females and to fight off other males. The New Forest is home to many species of deer; you’re most likely to see lots of Fallow deer or solitary Roe deer. You may also catch glimpses of Red deer, the largest land animal in the UK, or Sika, which are originally from eastern Asia.

 Fungi – The fungi kingdom boasts some of the largest and longest-living organisms on Earth. There are at least 70,000 species world-wide and approximately 2,700 can be found in the New Forest. Autumn is usually the time to see the fruiting bodies, when a mixture of wet but mild weather provides ideal conditions.

 Birds – The New Forest calls itself home to many different types of birds during this time of year, such as Fieldfares, Redwings and other types of winter thrushes, which travel from northern Europe to the UK to take advantage of the feast of sumptuous berries – including hawthorn and holly – that thrive in the cold weather. Autumn however is a time of change for birds and some change their diet in order to prepare for the harsh winter ahead; for example the Blue Tit eats caterpillars in the summer but changes to small seeds come autumn. When you’re next walking through the New Forest, you might also notice that most birds tend to sing less in the autumn months.

 Seeds – The seed is the one way a tree reproduces and autumn is the best time of year to collect them. Seeds come in many varieties and you can find them in berries, fruits or cones. To help you identify fruits and seeds this autumn, the Forestry Commission has produced a spotter’s guide, which is available via

 For more information about events and exploring the New Forest this autumn, visit


Amazing autumnal activities


Richard Daponte, North Walk Ranger – New Forest (

The forest is slowly transforming into a blaze of fiery red, yellow, gold and orange now that autumn has officially arrived. The forest canvas is illuminated with the spotlights of sun that break through the gaps in the leafy canopy and cascade across the ground. From the forest floor to the tops of the trees, the autumn colours create a magical woodland setting that’s perfect for exploring with friends and family.

As you cycle along the paths or enjoy a brisk stroll with your dog, there are plenty of beautiful autumnal sights to spot at this time of year. And I can Iet you into a secret – we’re expecting to see an extra vibrant autumnal display this year, thanks to the wet but warm summer. This has led to an excellent growing season, which has meant the trees have built up plenty of the sugars they use to produce the rich autumnal colours we know and love. The famous colours are then absorbed back into the tree, which helps them to survive the winter. We’re anticipating some seasonal mild and damp conditions over the next couple of months but this is good news for visitors too, as it means the autumn scenes will stay with us well into November.

However, nature is notoriously hard to predict and you can never be certain what the weather has in store for us. Sadly, a harsh storm or severe frost can easily put an end to many a great autumn show – so best to get in there and enjoy it as soon as possible! Each year our team enjoys trying to work out the timings and colouring of trees using the latest scientific knowledge on tree and leaf senescene (the scientific term for falling leaves). The leaves are starting to turn golden now, so don’t miss the start of this spectacular autumn show – pull on your wellies and grab your coat to explore the New Forest at its most beautiful!

A perfect destination for a stroll through the New Forest is the Radnor way marked trail at Bolderwood. This delightful three mile trail takes you through a mix of ancient and modern woodland, steering through the fabulous oak, chestnut and beech trees dating from 1860, with the chance to spot plenty of grazing fallow deer and other wildlife.

As we mentioned in our last Forest Diary, there are plenty of fun autumn activities and challenges throughout the season that visitors can take part in, in addition to the New Forest Walking Festival. Visit to find out more and book your place.

While you’re exploring the trails, you can help us to monitor the leaf progression by using our interactive map at and tell us the colour rating of the leaves, so other visitors can also learn what colours they can see – from green to golden.

As you’re walking through the woods, we’d also love to see your favourite photos that best capture the autumn display. We’re running an online competition throughout October to find the best autumn colours photo – all you have to do is share your photo on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter and add the hashtag #autumnleafwatch. We’ll share some of the best ones across our social media channels. The lucky winner’s photo will be used on the Forestry Commission website for autumn 2016, and they’ll receive a year Forest Discovery Pass and GoApe vouchers. Good luck!

For more information about the New Forest, visit

Education: At the heart of protecting the New Forest

By Sarah Wood, Learning Manager (

The forest is a fascinating classroom without walls. It provides a playground that’s carpeted in leaves, an art class with the most varied colour palette you’ve ever seen and it is the home to a diverse collection of plants and wildlife that would make any science laboratory proud. In short, it’s the perfect backdrop to inspire a desire to learn more about trees and forests.

A large part of our job is about looking after the Public Forest Estate – including the wildlife that call it home and the people who visit it every day. But we also need to help people understand the importance of our woods and forests; educating them about how together we can protect the forest for the future.

I joined the Forestry Commission and its Learning team in August and so far I’ve been busy getting up to speed on the various activities that take place in our visitor centres, events programmes, cafes, play areas and on our trails for cyclists and walkers. I’ve previously worked for the RSPB and Wildlife Trusts, so my outdoor learning background has been really helpful as I’ve been getting to grips with all the activities the Forestry Commission has created for its forest visitors.

We think it’s really important that we give people a variety of different educational materials to use while they’re exploring the New Forest. From downloadable activities, such as tick lists of things to spot, to free curriculum-linked lesson plans for teachers or youth groups, we’ve created lots of fun and educational things to do that can help you discover more about our forests during self-led, interactive learning trails.

My favourite activity is ‘forest challenges for autumn’ - which can be downloaded from our website at You can challenge your friends and family in a number of fun activities, including bark rubbings, building a den to keep warm in the chilly autumn air and making the biggest pile of leaves – before kicking them into the air! Blackwater Arboretum and the Tall Trees Trail are ideal locations for this challenge, which can be found next to Blackwater car park. Once you’ve done them all, you can email us your results and receive a certificate as a ‘well done’ for completing our autumn challenge. If you like the sound of that, come and give it a go – and keep an eye out for our winter challenge which will be coming along later this year!

We also run a number of ranger led activities and events throughout the year, including a programme of guided walks. Don’t miss the New Forest Walking Festival, which runs until December and gives visitors the chance to discover more about the New Forest along a number of themed walks. One of our favourites is the six mile ‘Autumn Amble’ at Eyeworth Pond on Saturday 24 October, where you can savour the colours, sights and sounds of the forest during this beautiful time of year. Booking is essential for the Walking Festival, so please visit our website for more details.

There is always something new to see and learn about our forests, which continue to change as the seasons and years roll by, making it a fascinating outdoor classroom to explore. By learning more about our beautiful forest, we can all help to protect it for many years to come.


The Forest Diary: reflections on my time as deputy surveyor

by Forestry Commission Deputy Surveyor for South England,  Mike Seddon


 After eleven years of working as Deputy Surveyor for the Forestry Commission in the South of England, I’ll soon be moving on to a new role as Director of Operations for England. A lot has changed over the last decade, and it seems a good time to reflect on a side of the Forestry Commission that, day to day, many local people may not be familiar with.

We’re lucky enough in Southern England to enjoy some really spectacular woodlands – from the New Forest to Moors Valley Country Park, we have five per cent more woodland coverage than the national average and are home to forty per cent of England’s ancient woodland. But whilst many of us enjoy spending time in our local forests, whether it’s walking, cycling or spotting wildlife, few of us realise the depth of strategy and planning that goes into protecting, expanding, and safeguarding them for future generations.

Each woodland that forms part of the Public Forest Estate (PFE) has a Forest Design and Management Plan attached to it – in brief, a document that sets out the shape and nature of that woodland over the next 50 to 100 years. We really do plan that far ahead!

As deputy surveyor for the region, I’ve been directly involved in developing and reviewing these plans, working closely with organisations such as the National Park Authorities for the New Forest and South Downs, the Wildlife Trusts, sawmills, and tourism associations. With 46,000 hectares and seven local authority areas making up the Public Forest Estate in our region, there’s a lot to consider.

Deliberate choices about tree planting or regeneration help to manage the delicate balance between different broadleaf, and conifer species, and protect our woodlands against pests, diseases and climate change. Similar deliberate choices to remove trees to restore heathland ensure that wonderful local wildlife such as Nightjar and Dartford warbler can continue to flourish. And then of course there’s our investment strategies – how should money best be spent, and what leisure and recreation facilities are most needed?

It’s a delicate balance to manage the social, environmental and economic demands on our woodlands, and it’s critical that this is achieved, not just in partnership with local stakeholders, but by really engaging with local communities. What’s important to local people is what’s important to us. It’s all about protecting and improving our woodlands and associated habitats, and celebrating them. You can get directly involved in this by joining our ever growing network of volunteers or by commenting as we renew our plans.

Since I started my role in April 2003, so much has been achieved locally. By thinning out conifers, we’ve been able to restore large areas of ancient woodland, and heathland for people to enjoy and wildlife to flourish. The wood economy has grown substantially, now contributing over £1billion to the local economy, and there’s been a real growth in third party leisure businesses operating on the estate – from the icecreams you buy at Moors Valley, to fees for camping in the New Forest, your money goes back into caring for the woodlands.

Our Forest Design Plans are critical in helping us deliver the right mix of benefits for people, nature and the economy, including generating income from the Public Forest Estate – something that is increasingly important in safeguarding its long-term future. So next time you visit your much loved local woodland, remember that behind the scenes, there’s a very diverse enterprise at work.


The Forest Diary, A Living Landscape

by Forestry Commission Volunteer Ranger, Alastair Duncan

The New Forest is not ‘new’ and not all wooded – a familiar phrase to many of us who live and work here. But how much deeper do we delve when describing this special place to visitors and friends?
I live in the New Forest and am privileged to have spent the last 9 years working as a Volunteer Ranger for the Forestry Commission. I’ve been involved in a huge variety of tasks and events across the Forest, and have been able to explore an area of personal interest through this work – the history of man’s activities here.
The New Forest is a living landscape, with evidence of inhabitants over thousands of years - if you know where to look. From Stone Age boiling pits and Bronze Age burial mounds to signs of Roman and Norman occupation. World War II remains are perhaps the most visible today, but the human race has left its mark in some surprising places.
Decades ago, the branches of trees were trained to create special shapes which provide strength in the wooden connections used in ship building.  Large areas of the New Forest were planted with oak to provide timber for ship building, many of which are the broadleaf woodlands we enjoy today.
Man’s use of the Forest has changed over time, and tales documented from the relatively recent past are captivating – from the hunting grounds of William the Conqueror and the well-known story of the death of Rufus, to personal memories of the gypsy community, or those who were involved in war efforts which saw some areas of the forest transformed into potato fields.
Next month, I’ll be leading a guided walk in my capacity as a Volunteer Ranger, exploring some of this history that surrounds us. From the discovery of a mammoth tusk in the Forest to investigating the age of ancient trees, the walk will take us on a loop in the north of the New Forest where astonishingly, we’ll be able to capture glimpses of points in history from the Stone Age to the present day.
‘A Walk Through Time’ takes place on Sunday 3 November, 10am-1pm – booking is essential, call 023 8028 6840 (tickets are priced at £5 per adult and £2 per child. Dogs are welcome on this event). The walk is 4 miles in length with hills in places.
For more details about the New Forest or events and activities, visit:


The Forest Diary, Grown in Britain

by Forestry Commission Communications Manager, Libby Burke

This week is ‘Grown in Britain’ week – a week of events and activities designed to raise awareness of the national movement which is increasing demand for British wood products from overstocked forests and woodlands. The initiative aims to connect everyone who values our forests, woods and trees and the products made from the wood they produce. The Forestry Commission is not only proud to support this campaign, but also to be a huge part of it.

In England around half of the home grown timber supply comes from the Public Forest Estate managed by the Forestry Commission, all of which is certified as having been grown sustainably. Last year the Forestry Commission planted more than 125,000 trees in the New Forest, Wareham and Ringwood area. 83,200 of these were conifers and a further 42,750 broadleaf trees. Orders are now being placed for this years planting programme, which will be planted between November and March.

Soffe’s Sawmill in the New Forest uses timber grown not only in Britain, but quite literally just around the corner. We harvest around 100,000 tonnes of timber in the New Forest annually.

The latest consignment was collected from Denny Inclosure, a total of 70 tonnes of Douglas fir. Michael Soffe will mill the timber back at the yard and it is destined to be returned to the New Forest – the Forestry Commission will use it to replace bridges across the Open Forest. Next time you walk across a bridge in Broomy, Buskets or Sloden Inclosure, it may well be that you’re walking over Douglas fir trees that were grown just a few miles away. Our own civil engineers will construct the bridges on-site, beginning this November.

Oak from Pignal and North Oakley was won by Soffes in the November Timber Auction last year (a grand event held annually in Gloucestershire, where bidders compete to win parcels of hand-felled hardwood from woodlands across Britain). Michael has begun collecting the oak from the woods and some has already been supplied to build an impressive oak-framed house in the New Forest. A home doesn’t get much more local than that!

Oak has also been ordered by the Verderer’s of the New Forest, to replace the pony pounds, used when rounding up the stock to check on their condition. Local contractors are employed to build the pounds – commoners themselves, who will use the pens to keep an eye on their own animals. 

Grown in Britain is about creating a stronger, healthier society that is involved in protecting and improving our woodlands. To find out more, visit:

To find out more about the Forestry Commission in the New Forest visit:

Images of the Forest

by Forestry Commission Communications Manager, Libby Burke

Last week, we gave our predictions of an autumn of vivid colour, perfect for photographers. We fully expect to see entries into both national and local photography competitions featuring the ‘New Forest Autumn of 2013’ in coming months and years…
On that note, the New Forest is a fantastic resource for photographers all year round and whether you’re an amateur or a professional, the wealth of material and opportunities for special shots is endless.
David Baker’s shot of the New Forest won the ‘Your View’ category in the sixth national Landscape Photographer of the Year Awards. The Awards, and associated touring exhibition celebrate each photographer’s talent and their individual love of the great British landscape.
David’s seascape and forest photography has featured in national and international magazines as well as appearing on book covers and he was named as Outdoor Photographer of the Year 2012. His iconic New Forest shot is part of a current project restricted to three specific forest locations and featuring images taken only at dawn, in mist and in late autumn and winter. 
At heart, David confesses to being a coastal photographer, but access to his local coast is via the New Forest and the stunning light streaming into the chaos of the trees and bracken forced him to stop. The mist sitting in a plantation of beautifully straight pines is extraordinary and surely provides motivation for us all to engage with the Forest in our own personal way.
With many of us now carrying mobile phones capable of taking photographs and even videos, it is easier than ever to capture a special moment in the forest.
David Baker will be presenting an illustrated talk about his work following a special exhibition preview evening at Moors Valley on Friday 11 October. Describing his photographic passions as “sand, sea, stone and the odd cow” it’s a great opportunity to find out more about the thought processes of an award-wining photographer at first-hand. Tickets for the evening are strictly limited and cost £5.  There’s more information online or call 01425 470721 to reserve a place.

The Take a View Landscape Photographer of the Year exhibition opens on 12 October and can be seen until 24 November from 9am to 5pm. Admission is free although parking charges do apply.
For more information visit:
If you’re keen to get out and about in the Forest this autumn, or learn more about the forest at this time of year check out our events at:

Autumn Colour

by Forestry Commission Communications Manager, Libby Burke


 Earlier this month, the Forest Diary looked at this years bumperMark Ash Wood. New Forest FD forest fruits clearly visible across the Forest. This week, we’re looking ahead to what promises to be a spectacular show of autumn colour.

Experts here at the Forestry Commission are predicting a riot of leaf colour alongside the spectacular show of forest fruits this autumn.

A year with an ideal mix of sunshine and rain has meant a great growing season for our trees, providing perfect conditions for the sugars to build up in the leaves that help them change colour and develop their vibrant autumn hues.

Because it was such a wet summer last year, trees began this summer with plenty of water and have not dried out too much despite the summer heat. This recipe of sunshine and rain in equal measure means we can expect a magnificent array of colour, developing slowly and then fading as the winds and frosts remove the last leaves.

At the beginning of October, you’ll be able to see the early waves of colour emerging and we’re predicting that it’ll reach its peak by the third week in October, through to the first week of November.

This is only a short window to see these beautiful changes occurring, so we’re encouraging people to get out and see the Forest in a new light – while it lasts! Pack your camera and you’re promised some stunning results.

Leaves starting to change colour first include some of Britain’s native species such as common spindle, dog wood and wild cherry. Stars of the autumn show include beech, oak and field maples.

The ancient and ornamental woodlands of the New Forest are some of the best places to experience autumn colour, with beeches and oaks often showing vibrant displays. Bolderwood Ornamental Drive offers a great view from the window, but venture further into the Forest and you’ll find fantastic spots for great camera shots.

If you’re keen to get out and about in the Forest this autumn, or learn more about the forest at this time of year check out our events at: which include opportunities to learn more about the fascinating world of fungi with TVs foraging expert, John Wright (bookable event) or our ‘Breeze into Autumn’ activities at Bolderwood.

Our website also includes a spotter’s guide to trees, as well as links to autumnal family activities and craft ideas. You can follow how quickly our woodlands are changing colour across the country and help us to keep this up to date by using our interactive online autumn colour map. It’s easy to find the best colours near you, as each wood is rated from green to golden


Last updated: 26th May 2016

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