Celebrate the wonderful wooded legends
By Michael Pittock, Operations Manager – Forest Management, Forestry Commission (email@example.com)
There’s something deeply selfless about planting trees. Planting a seed or a young tree is a small act in itself. It’s not hard and it doesn’t take long. But that tree you plant could still be standing there 500 years from now. You’ll never see that tree fully grown yourself – but you know future generations will thank you for it.
Tree planting is one of our favourite jobs in the New Forest and we have such a privileged opportunity to see trees as they grow from seed to sapling and through to young-adulthood, creating new areas of woodland or expanding the existing tree canopy.
But of course, you don’t have to work for the Forestry Commission to plant trees – you don’t even have to own woodland. It’s something that everyone can get involved with. National Tree Week (28 November – 4 December) is a great reason to celebrate trees in all their glory and this year marks its 40th anniversary. The Tree Council leads this annual event which celebrates the UK’s proud heritage of tree planting, so why not become part of that story by planting your own tree? Many schools, businesses and community groups organise tree planting activities to improve their local area and plant new trees for people to enjoy now and in the future.
November is the perfect time to plant a tree, when they are dormant, and because the cool temperatures and regular rainfall create the ideal conditions for roots to grow before winter arrives. Selecting the right species is important, as you will need to consider how much space the tree will need and whether it prefers more light or shade. You can speak to your local Forestry Commission woodland officer for advice on how to plant a tree and how to care for it in its infancy. Alternatively, you can take part in an organised community tree planting event.
One easy way to celebrate the magnificent tree without getting your hands dirty is simply to explore your local forest and enjoy a woodland walk with friends, family or a four-legged friend.
The New Forest is home to thousands of trees of all ages, shapes and sizes. Don’t miss our very own Queen of the Forest, the spectacular Knightwood Oak which is located near the start of the picturesque Bolderwood Ornamental Drive. This impressive giant is over 500 years old (meaning it could have been planted when Henry VIII was the King of England) and has a girth of 7.4 metres (or 24 feet in old money). This makes it the largest oak in the New Forest.
Or you could head down to Rhinefield Drive’s Tall Trees Trail to appreciate the towering Douglas fir trees or look for the colossal Giant Redwoods. These spectacular species are the New Forest’s tallest trees and stand at a remarkable 56 metres tall. That’s taller than the tower at Winchester Cathedral!
National Tree Week is a reminder about how we shouldn’t take trees for granted and that they should be celebrated for the long-term contributions they make to our lives. Why not plant a tree and pass a legacy to future generations or head out the woods and visit one that was planted by some selfless person hundreds of years ago, so you could enjoy it today.
Find out more about National Tree Week here, http://www.treecouncil.org.uk/Take-Part/National-Tree-Week.
Volunteers: The eyes and ears of the New Forest
By Gemma Stride, Volunteer Coordinator in the New Forest, Forestry Commission, (firstname.lastname@example.org)
For the past 16 years, there has been a growing movement in the New Forest. It involves spending lots of time in the fresh air, getting muddy and keeping fit – all while looking after the beautiful . This group is otherwise known as our fantastic team of volunteers.
We’re lucky to have the support of a network of 60 volunteer rangers and many more Two Trees conversation rangers in the New Forest who help us to look after the forest, creating a thriving habitat that’s home to an abundance of wildlife. Our volunteers come from a range of backgrounds, including retired or semi-retired professionals, students and parents, who live in and around the New Forest area and sometimes even further afield.
Maintaining and protecting this stunning environment takes lots of hard work, so our volunteers are an integral cog in the Forestry Commission machine. They help us with such a broad range of tasks, including manning the Bolderwood information hub, litter picking, leading conservation events, clearing verges and collecting important data. Recently they’ve been sampling the water quality of several New Forest water courses that are planned to be, or have recently been, restored under the Verderer’s Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) Scheme. By identifying key insects this gives us a good indication of the quality of the water. The volunteers are guided by Forestry Commission experts and the Riverfly Initiative. This is a fascinating and important piece of work that aims to support the work to return wetlands to their natural state.
The volunteers are already incredibly passionate about the New Forest but they gain even more forest management knowledge from their work with us, such as coppicing and tree thinning techniques. They also build friendships with people who have similar interests and meet members of the public who visit the forest throughout the year. In return, they bring a range of diverse skills and experience into our team, which boosts the numbers of boots on the ground.
They really are ambassadors for the New Forest and play an invaluable role in our team. They share the public’s feedback with us, so we can learn more about what the local community and visitors love about our sites and what they’d like to see in the future. Our volunteers also provide additional eyes and ears to alert us to any fallen trees or paths that need clearing.
To say thank you for their commitment and support, we make sure we get together at various times throughout the year to talk about the activities they’ve been involved with and prepare for the busy season ahead. There is never a quiet time in the Forest. This also gives them the chance to meet other volunteers and have a good catch up.
You might spot our volunteers while they’re driving through the forest in one of their dedicated patrol vans, looking for anything that needs repairing and making sure the way marked trails are clear and safe for visitors and wildlife alike. Say hello to them if you see them out and about. They’ll be very happy to tell you more about the fascinating world that is the New Forest.
If you’re passionate about the New Forest, enjoy spending time outdoors and want to help look after our forest, then consider becoming one of our volunteers and sign up for the Two Trees team; visit www.forestry.gov.uk/england-volunteer for more details. We’ll be recruiting for volunteer rangers in 2016, so keep an eye out on the Forestry Commission website in the New Year: www.forestry.gov.uk/newforest.
From trees to toasty toes
By Matthew Woodcock, Partnership and Expertise Manager, Forestry Commission (email@example.com)
November has finally arrived and conjures up sights, sounds and smells of all things cosy. Dickensian mists, thick woollen wear and steaming hot chocolate are some of my favourite images from this time of year. The clocks have gone back and the long nights are taking us ever closer to the festive period, so what better way to enjoy the winter weather than gathering around a roaring fire with friends and family?
Before the widespread use of fossil fuels, most woods were actively managed to provide fuel, building materials, tools and specialist products such as oak bark for tanning leather. Over the last century markets have declined, woodland skills have been lost and our appreciation of the range of products and benefits woods deliver has waned. Thankfully this is slowly changing.
Woodfuel has become increasingly popular over the past few years, particularly with the support of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). This scheme offers financial incentives for those homes and businesses who want to switch to a more sustainable way of heating their properties. Not only that, but the market supports the management of our local woodlands, which helps to prevent them from becoming overgrown, unwelcoming and less resilient to cope with storms, disease and a changing climate. If you’re interested to learn more about how we manage our woodlands, you can watch our YouTube video: http://bit.ly/1PoSYyE.
So what do you need to know about using wood as fuel?
While different species of tree grow at varying rates, a typical woodland has the potential to produce the equivalent of more than 1,000 litres of heating oil per hectare each year. To put it simply, that’s enough heating oil to fill 13 baths, which is harvested from woodland the size of a rugby pitch!
Did you know that about half of a felled tree’s weight is water? If unseasoned (wet) wood is burnt, much of its energy is used to evaporate the water, which doesn’t make great firewood as water doesn’t burn! Using well seasoned (dry) wood or buying freshly cut wood and seasoning it yourself for one to two years is the essential ingredient to creating the perfect fire.
But how can we best use woodfuel? Traditional open fires look great but a large proportion of the energy produced literally ‘goes up the chimney’, as the water evaporates from wet wood. Alternatively, modern wood burning stoves can achieve efficiencies of around 80 per cent (i.e. you can use fewer logs to generate more heat) and log boilers or wood pellet boilers can heat your whole house, while also being supported by the Domestic RHI. Similarly, modern woodchip boilers can heat whole communities and receive support from the non-Domestic RHI.
If you’re planning to buy some firewood this winter to keep your family’s toes nice and toasty, here’s a quick checklist of things to consider:
- Are the logs seasoned? If not, then they won’t burn as efficiently.
- Are they hardwood or softwood? In general hardwoods make better firewood as they are denser and burn more steadily, whereas softwoods burn more quickly.
- What size are the logs? They should be around 25-30cm long for open fires or log burners.
- Are the logs sourced sustainably? Also keep an eye out for the Grown in Britain logo and support the UK timber industry.
Planning the forest and a career
By William Stafford, Planning Forester for the South District, Forestry Commission (firstname.lastname@example.org)
One of life’s great journeys is the twisting path that our careers take over the years. Our hopes and aspirations change so often and the plans we make during our student years will usually end up being quite different from the jobs we end up doing. The luckiest among us have a very clear idea about what we want to specialise in from an early age and spend our formative years hoping we can find a career that will turn our passion into reality. I’m pleased to say that I fall into the latter camp.
From studying Archaeology and Landscape Studies at university, it’s safe to say I’ve always had an ambition to work outdoors and I’m proud to have developed a well-established career in the forestry sector. My first professional job was as a recreational ranger with the Forestry Commission at Wendover Woods in, Buckinghamshire. I was in charge of managing the site inspections and maintenance works to ensure the trails were clear so the public could enjoy the forest all-year round. It was a busy role that gave me a great opportunity to learn about general forest management and understand how the landscapes differ across each area.
After 18 months, I transferred to the South District’s head office in Lyndhurst Hampshire, which gave me the chance to manage the recreational activities across the whole New Forest. I loved this job, as it gave me opportunities to meet so many members of the public across our sites and help them to enjoy a fantastic day out in the forest with their family. My role ‘on-the-ground’ was invaluable when I took on my current position as a Planning Forester as I had gained so much experience in developing recreational plans to enhance the various activities we offer in our forest. It also helped me improve my communications skills as I regularly spoke to the public about all the great work the Forestry Commission does.
So, what do I do now? As a Planning Forester I play a key role in creating the forest’s design plans that shape how we will manage our woodlands over the next decade. They also analyse how our proposals will affect the current landscape. This involves a lot of extensive research and using specialist digital mapping systems to create a graphical overview of the woodland areas. I’m actively involved in the public consultation process, where we present our proposals to local people and key stakeholders. This is so important, as the community has the chance to feed back on our proposals and we can then shape the final design plan accordingly.
Luckily I still have the chance to work outdoors occasionally, even though my job is more desk-based – it means I can take my dog Nelson out into the forest with me, who helps to ensure the woods are dog friendly!
It’s an exciting and varied role which gives me the chance to work alongside a fantastic team who are incredibly passionate about helping to protect and improve the diverse nature of our forests. The Forestry Commission has provided me with a wealth of knowledge, particularly as I’ve been lucky enough to work with a number of different teams in the organisation and gained many transferable skills as a result. It also demonstrates the variety of career opportunities the Forestry Commission can offer, from frontline ground staff through to working at a strategic and planning level.
So my career path has been perfect for me and I couldn’t ask for a more interesting and varied job today. My roles with Forestry Commission have all been variations on a theme that I love and I hope I can continue protecting and enhancing forests for future generations.
For more information about jobs with the Forestry Commission, visit www.forestry.gov.uk/jobs.
Harvesting: regenerating our woodlands for future generations
by Forestry Commission South Walk Forester, Mike Pittock
Visitors to Parkhill Inclosure near Lyndhurst will notice a lot of new activity over the next few months. Forest operations are underway which will improve the diversity of the woodland and make it a more welcoming environment for wildlife over the long term.
As our trees and woods are threatened by an increasing number of tree diseases and the extreme weather potentially caused by climate change, it is more important than ever that our woodlands are diverse environments both in terms of tree ages and species.
Much of Parkhill Inclosure was planted with conifer trees following large scale felling carried out throughout the Second World War. Our forest operations over the autumn and winter will begin a gradual process of reducing the overall percentage of non-native conifer trees, allowing a new generation of trees of mixed species and ages to become established.
Parkhill Inclosue also contains some older areas of broadleaved trees including oak that was planted in 1850. 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.
Each year the Forestry Commission prepares parcels of high quality hardwood timber for sale at the England Hardwood Auction held annually at Westonbirt Arboretum. This year, 62 of these mature oak trees have been felled at Parkhill Inclosure and will be included as a lot at the 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.
In my job being a good Forester requires you to plan for the long term. I am very aware that it is 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 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. Parkhill Inclosure is home to some rare and important species of butterfly including the Pearl Bordered Fritillary. This species requires sunny open areas to survive. As part of the thinning operations some of the dark and overgrown rides and paths will be made wider, creating better conditions for butterfly numbers to increase and allowing them to move to new areas within the Inclosure.
For more information about the New Forest, visit: www.forestry.gov.uk/newforest
The Forest Diary, Five things you didn’t know about the Forestry Commission
by Nick Tucker, Head of Recreation and Public Affairs at the Forestry Commission
Our role at the Forestry Commission is to protect, improve and expand the UK’s woodland cover, but that’s a huge task and means we do an awful lot of things people don’t always realise we’re doing. In the South of England alone we look after more than 48,000 hectares of land– equivalent to some 48,000 football pitches or 389,000 Olympic sized swimming pools– and that means our work can be very diverse.
So here are some things you might not know about what we do in Southern England...
- We’re the largest single source of harvested timber in Southern England – harvesting over one hundred thousand tonnes of wood each year. The wood we harvest is saw milled and finds its way into everything from firewood you can buy at local garden centres right through to furniture and construction. Harvesting wood is a core part of our role to keep woodlands healthy and well-managed, and supports the local economy and job market.
- It’s not just about timber though. Each year, we need to keep heather and bracken growth under control in the New Forest and other open habitats. The heather we harvest we bale and provide to London Zoo as bedding and foraging areas for the Zoo’s resident gorilla family amongst other uses. The bracken we harvest is stored and composted down to produce a low-nutrient peat alternative for use in horticulture – most famously by RHS Kew Gardens and Wisley. You can pick up our compost up in Macpenny’s Garden Centre based in Bransgore. It’s also been used as compost for flower beds for the newly developed Ringwood Town Council Gateway building.
- We maintain over 47km of public footpaths and 225km of cycle paths across our sites to welcome more than 20 million leisure visits to the countryside and woodland in Southern England each year. These visits are very important and annually contribute towards the £220 million tourism economy of the New Forest area. The money that’s spent at our local visitor sites – like Alice Holt and Moors Valley - goes straight back into managing the woodlands and visitor facilities.
- We have the UK’s longest wireless linked Goshawk Nestcam at our New Forest Reptile Centre near Lyndhurst and have even used satellite bouncing technology to monitor Hobby’s. Over the past seven years we’ve been following the entire breeding season of these rare and beautiful birds – which were once hunted to near extinction in the UK. As well as working with the RSPB to monitor nest sites, we’re also working to protect their habitats and understand more about their nesting and breeding habits. Visit the Reptile Centre from April to October to find out more...
- We manage and protect 155 Scheduled Ancient Monuments and eight listed buildings on our land in the New Forest. The sites are listed as sites of national archaeological important and cover everything from ruins to ancient battlegrounds. We’ve also granted permission for four very important war memorials at Bolton’s Bench, Lyndhurst, Sway, and Burley and Nomansland in the New Forest. It’s our job to protect these monuments for future generations.
People love their woodlands, but there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes to keep them healthy and well-managed so we can all enjoy them. Each woodland tells a different story, so next time you’re out walking in one of the Forestry Commission’s sites take a look around you and see if you can work out what we’ve been doing to make the woodland better.