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Forest Diary - April

Ticked off!

by Esta Mion, Communications Manager at the Forestry Commission

 As the weather warms up and spring really starts to bring the forest ali ve again it’s worth a reminder of the small things we can do and be aware of to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe and sound.

 We all need to be mindful of the risks that Mother Nature can sometimes pose. One such (albeit small) risk is contracting Lyme Disease from ticks.

 Ticks are tiny blood-sucking insects found across the UK, in city parks, as well as in rural areas and heathland. They can attach themselves to passing animals and humans and a small proportion of ticks carry infections, the most serious of which is Lyme disease, although it is very rare.

 Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by the Borrelia bacteria, and also known as Lyme Borreliosis for this reason. Borrelia bacteria is carried by small mammals, such as hedgehogs, squirrels, deer and rodents, as well as ground-nesting birds.

 Ticks feed on these creatures, and become carriers for Lyme disease. It can be transmitted to us if we are bitten by an infected tick. Current research suggests Lyme disease isn’t transmitted between people. Lyme disease isn’t the only tick-borne infection, but it is the most prevalent. Reported cases have risen by 1,500 percent in recent years; but many cases aren’t reported, so the percentage is likely much higher.

 Caught early, Lyme disease can be successfully treated with antibiotics. If left untreated, however, it can lead to problems affecting the joints, nervous system, and the heart. Lyme disease can therefore be a serious illness, but there are plenty of things we can do to avoid contracting it. The first step is tick avoidance – reducing the chance of getting a tick bite reduces your risk of Lyme disease.

 Although the chances of contracting Lyme Disease is very small, we still encourage visitors to the New Forest to protect themselves and their families with insect repellent. Also, avoid walking in long grass and bracken, and stick to the footpaths as much as possible. Try and wear light-coloured clothing, so ticks are easier to spot and brush down, and check your skin for ticks before leaving the forest. If a tick is found, it should be removed with a tick tool (which are readily available at chemists, vets and other outlets) as soon as possible. If you are at all concerned that any part of it may be left in the skin a doctor or vet (if found on dogs) should be consulted.

 Diseases from ticks are not immediately contracted, they need to be attached to the body for at least 24-36 hours to transmit the disease and when coming into contact with them, it should be possible to detect, and remove them before any harm is done.

 The highest risk is in late spring and during summer when ticks are most active so with the warm weather experienced recently, we expect them to be active now. Please don’t be fearful – it’s more a case of being aware; knowing how to reduce the chances of being bitten, how to remove a tick and knowing what to look out for. For further information and guidance about ticks, preventing bites and what to do if you are bitten visit NHS Direct or the Public Health England website.

 The New Forest has a lot to offer over the next few months so come and enjoy its splendours. We’ve put together a great programme of events for 2018 and ideas for different ways to explore the forest, whether you fancy a change of view or have friends and family staying for their holidays. So make the most of these brighter days by getting out in the forest - enjoy nature and stay safe.

 The end of the track for off-road drivers

 by Alex Howells Beat Forester at the Forestry Commission

On my beat in the north of the New Forest, I see all kinds of things happening when I’m out and about. As a Forester I have a varied role – and like so many of us, I feel lucky to live and work in a place as unique as the New Forest! So when I see people riding trail bikes or taking four by fours across the forest I get very upset. 

It’s an issue that we want to put a stop to. It’s dangerous and spoils other people’s enjoyment of the forest and can destroy sensitive habitat for wildlife. Recklessly driven vehicles can spook ponies and other Forest stock, and has been known to cause ponies to run out onto public roads and get injured.

It’s antisocial behaviour and we intend to make full use of the law to get the message across that it will not be tolerated here. My colleagues and I are working closely with Hampshire Police to deal with the issue of off-roaders causing damage to this special place.

Our local Country Watch and Wildlife Crime Officer recently assisted in helping me deal with an off-roader.

We had to recover a vehicle from the forest and impounded it until the owner paid for it to be released. The owner of the vehicle was also fined and issued with a section 59 for anti-social driving offences, and if he’s caught driving carelessly or off-road again during the next 12 months, the vehicle will be seized.

It’s vital that people understand the consequences of their actions, not only do trespassing vehicles disturb the tranquility of the forest, but they also pose a danger to others and themselves, damage trees and paths, and disturb plants and animals.

As a driving enthusiasts myself, I understand the thrill of driving off-road, but people should join local organised and official club events, that are away from sensitive areas.

I’ve been a fan of motorsports for as long as I can remember, I’ve had a go at racing at amateur level and I’ve always enjoyed watching rallying in the forests, after all it’s a sport at which Britain has historically excelled. We have produced a succession of international champions, some of whom have become household names.

 The Forestry Commission permits many motoring events on gravel tracks in other forest locations, such as in the north of England in June this year, they are hosting the Roger Albert Clark Rally in Kershope Forest, near Kielder.

Other land managed by the Forestry Commission has provided the space and forest roads required for many rally stages. However, these rallying events are managed in accordance with the strict rules and guidelines defined by the Motor Sports Association (MSA) – the national governing body of four wheel motor sport – in which public safety and environmental protection is of the upmost priority.

 Here in the New Forest, motorbike riders and four by four drivers who illegally access New Forest Crown lands will face prosecution as we’re prepared to clamp down on anti-social behaviour. Members of the public who witness vehicles illegally trespassing on the Forest are encouraged to report this through the Police’s non-emergency line – 101. We need people to report crime to the Police, not just on social media - otherwise it won’t be dealt with appropriately.

I’d like to thank Hampshire Police for their support in dealing with this recent incident, it was a great team effort and together we are determined to tackle this type of extreme anti-social behaviour. Not only is it illegal for unauthorised motor vehicles to access the Crown lands of the New Forest, but some of the people who do so are driving recklessly at speed across terrain that is not appropriate for this type of activity.

The forest is a great place for people to relax and quietly enjoy nature and we want to make sure they can do so in peace.

Be Tree Alert!

by Esta Mion, Communications Manager at Forestry Commission

 Spring has finally sprung in the New Forest, a little later than we had perhaps hoped, but there have even been glimpses of summer just around t he corner.

However, the fresh green leaves and shoots which bring such hope can sometimes harbour the first signs of distress in our trees. Britain’s trees are under continued threat from pests and diseases. Over the past few years in the New Forest, our foresters and planners have been dealing with emerging issues such as Dothistroma Needle Blight (DNB): Dothistroma septosporum (Dothistroma Needle Blight) which is a non-native pathogen.


It’s found in many forests, including the New Forest, affecting key pine species, including Corsican pine, lodgepole pine and more recently Scots pine. The presence of the disease in some Caledonian pine forests in Scotland could pose a significant risk to this iconic resource, which has an important landscape, biodiversity and heritage value.


As the disease is now widely established in Great Britain, an extensive programme of government-funded research is underway to help protect pine species and reduce impacts of the disease.

 

Ash trees have also become a great cause for concern for many woodland managers in recent years with the challenges of dealing with a disease called Chalara dieback of ash (Chalara fraxinea). This disease causes leaf loss, crown dieback and bark lesions in affected trees. Once a tree is infected the disease is usually fatal, either directly, or indirectly by weakening the tree to the point where it succumbs more readily to attacks by other pests or pathogens, especially Armillaria fungi, or honey fungus.

Since Ash Dieback arrived in 2012, our teams locally have been on the ground surveying the South Forest District’s ash trees for further signs of the disease. Fortunately, here in the New Forest, ash trees make up a very small proportion of trees found here, 0.2%.  Spring is not the easiest time to recognise symptoms of Chalara dieback, and it might be some time before it is obvious on the leaves.

You can help by looking out for the symptoms on local ash trees and reporting suspected cases to us with the ‘Tree Alert’ reporting tool on our website. We especially want reports of cases in areas where it has not already been found, and people can find out whether the disease is already in their local area from the maps on our website at www.forestry.gov.uk.chalara.

 

People can also keep an eye on specific ash trees in their areas, and if any appear to remain healthy while others nearby get the disease, let The Living Ash Project know. The project is monitoring apparently tolerant trees across the UK so that they can be used for breeding tolerant ash trees for the future. www.livingashproject.org.uk


There’s lots of information on our website, which explains how to look for and recognise signs of the disease on new growth and older branches. Ash trees come into leaf later than most other trees, and the timing can vary according to where they are and the particular species of ash. So if an ash tree does not have any leaves on it right now, it does not necessarily mean that it is diseased or dying. However, all healthy ash should be in full leaf by mid-June. 

Some shoots on ash trees won’t produce leaves at all, while others will behave normally before showing signs of ill-health or dieback. These signs might mean that the trees are damaged in some way, but shoot death and dieback in ash trees can have a number of causes. 

August and September are the best months to look for symptoms in the leaves, because by autumn infected leaves can be confused with leaves that are naturally changing colour.

Our extensive UK surveillance programme involves government, industry, conservation groups and the public. It includes aerial photography; the ‘Observatree’ network of volunteer tree health surveyors trained by Forest Research and the Woodland Trust; and inspections at nurseries and retail sites to detect any issues at an early stage.

When you’re out and about, visiting woodlands, parks and gardens, you can help limit the spread of plant diseases between places by washing mud and leaves off your bikes, buggies and boots between visits.

Further information about ash dieback including a map of confirmed locations, and access to Tree Alert are available at www.forestry.gov.uk/treealert

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

 

Last updated: 5th May 2018

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