Forestry Commission logo

Forest Diary - April

 Forest fires

by Forestry Commission Work Supervisor, Simon Holloway

There are almost 27,000 hectares of woodland in the New Forest, and I’m part of the team behind the scenes that make sure these woodlands flourish, because they’re a critical resource socially, environmentally and economically. The core part of my job is about planting trees, caring for them, and safeguarding our woodlands for the future.

Right now our woods and heathland are very dry, and I’m concerned about the anticipated increase in fires that could result at this time, especially when barbecues get lit and many people get out to enjoy the good weather.

Did you know that one carelessly discarded cigarette could cause a massive and dangerous fire which would destroy a large area of natural habitat, kill countless animals and endanger nearby properties?

Wildfires – the term used for uncontrolled, unwanted or unplanned fire - can develop very quickly and rapidly spread across very large areas. Their behaviour is unpredictable and can change direction very quickly jumping across roads and rivers. Virtually all wildfires are started by people, either accidentally or deliberately.

With periods of warmer weather likely over the coming weeks, it is important that people are aware of the dangers of wildfires here in the New Forest, especially in the open areas of bracken, long grass and heather. Please be careful and remember that even the smallest ember or spark could cause a dangerous fire which would destroy wildlife habitats and endanger people’s homes.

So, if you’re planning to enjoy a barbecue in the forest over the coming weeks how can you do so safely? We simply ask that you follow the Forest’s Safe barbecue code:

Disposable barbecues are welcome in the picnic areas at Bolderwood, Blackwater and Wilverley – please place them on the metal barbecue stands provided, either on, or beside the picnic tables. These barbecues pose a particular fire risk – please do not use them anywhere else in the forest.

 Raised non disposable charcoal and gas barbecues are allowed on hard-standing areas of car parks, providing adequate water is available to extinguish a fire.

When fire risk is ‘extreme’ the use of barbecues anywhere in the New Forest is prohibited – look for posters, call us, or check our website  if you are unsure. Static barbecues at designated sites will still be allowed.

Make sure you have enough water to ensure your barbecue can be extinguished fully after use, and make sure you take the barbecue waste home with you.
Static barbecue hearths are available for hire at Anderwood and Wilverley. If you are planning a barbecue for over 20 people then please book one of these sites. For more information please call 023 8028 9108 or visit To book a barbecue at Lepe Country Park call 023 8089 9108 in advance, or visit

If you do happen to spot a wildfire then please call 999 immediately, try to give your exact location, including any landmarks and if possible meet the fire engine to give directions. At all times, keep the safety of yourself and your other forest visitors as a priority.

Please note that during winter and early spring, Forestry Commission staff deliberately burn substantial areas of the open forest to stop the heather and gorse getting too tall and old. These fires are well controlled and there are always trained fire-fighters on hand.

 For a day-to-day update of the fire risk in the New Forest and to find other information, visit: 

 The Gruffalo is brought to life in the forest

By Esta Mion, Communications Manager at the Forestry Commission

As we shed the shackles of winter, the evenings are drawing out again and flowers are creating a sunny glow across the country - spring has most definitely sprung! For many of us, now is the time of year that we start thinking about getting out and about into the beautiful forest with our friends and family.

Bolderwood, in the New Forest, is one of only 26 locations across England where visitors can join a new Gruffalo Spotter adventure through the deep dark wood. Families can follow clues on an interactive trail and track signs of their favourite characters based on The Gruffalo, the best-selling picture book written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler.

The self-led trail is packed with fun facts about forest animals with fantastic activities to do along the way. There are five different characters for you to spot, starting with mouse. The iconic characters are brought to life in the forest through the magic of Augmented Reality using the newly develop app, you just have to scan the marker on the trail and take photos alongside the characters. The images are automatically added to your device’s gallery, from where it can be shared via social media with the hashtag #GruffaloSpotters.

This new technology takes family forest walks to new heights - our app mixes technology with the real world, encouraging children to get exploring, firing their imaginations and enabling them to have an all-new forest experience.

The Gruffalo Spotter’s app has been developed and animated by Nexus Studios and is available for free with no in-app purchases from the App Store and Google Play. But before you set off from home you need to make sure it’s downloaded, as we don’t have wifi in our deep dark woods. Most importantly, the app is completely free, which means that it’s there for everyone to enjoy.

A Gruffalo Spotters kit will be available to buy on site and includes animal facts, tips for tracking wildlife, an evidence collection bag, a magnifying glass and a pencil to make a note of your forest finds!

This is such an exciting development and will deliver a completely different forest experience for our visitors. The Gruffalo is a world renowned story and to be able to bring the characters to life in their natural setting is fantastic. It’s great we’ve had the opportunity to join the two worlds of technology and nature together in a sensitive way!

The teams here are massive fans of The Gruffalo and we’re really excited by this new trail for visitors and we can’t wait to see children (and their grown-ups!) playing it in the woods.

Studies show that time outdoors can dramatically lower stress levels and improve our health, so what better place to spend it than here in the New Forest. Starting from Bolderwood car park the Gruffalo Spotters trail takes you past the deer sanctuary and beautiful majestic trees, the oldest of which date back to 1860. The route takes visitors along a meandering mile-long path that has a moderately smooth gravelled surface with two short, but fairly steep slopes and frequent resting places. The Gruffalo Spotters trail opened at Bolderwood on 8 April continues until 23 April and re-starts on 27 May until 4 June, and 29 Jul until 3 September, from 11am- 4pm.

The Gruffalo Spotters app is free from the App Store, Google Play and Amazon and requires downloading before your visit. A useful preview of the app is also available by visiting

For further details please visit


Bolderwood set to be fit for a King

 By Amy Howells, Recreation Ranger at the Forestry Commission.

We’ve welcomed tens of thousands of visitors to our information cabin at Bolderwood car park since it was first installed in 2006. Lo cated near the site of King Edward III’s hunting lodge, built in 1358, today this area is a well-known picnic spot where visitors enjoy seeing the Fallow deer.

As a New Forest Ranger, I’m often located at the Bolderwood information unit during the spring and summer. The cabin is made from an old shipping container that’s been clad and transformed into a small, but functional base for Forestry Commission staff and volunteers, to engage with people who want to find out more about the importance of deer in the New Forest.

Four different species of deer live here side by side – Fallow, Roe, Sika and Red. You might have seen the occasional fifth, the Muntjac; who have escaped from private estates. The Red and Roe deer are the only species that are native to Britain. The New Forest has always been renowned for deer. With the largest areas of wild heathlands and ancient woodland in lowland Britain, the Forest here is an ideal place to support populations of deer.

At this time of year, the New Forest Keeper will begin to feed this particular herd of Fallow deer at the Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary to encourage them to the viewing platform area. Here, you can often see these normally secretive animals, just a short walk from our Bolderwood information cabin.

Unfortunately, the information panels in the cabin and the nearby deer viewing platform have become worn out and broken. Fresh designs, along with information about the history of the site and its connection to the Royal Hunting Forest were desperately needed to provide opportunities for visitors and local residents to find out more about the wider New Forest Story.

We worked alongside the New Forest National Park Authority to secure funding through the ‘Our Past, Our Future’ project. We were successful in securing funds through the Landscape Partnership Scheme, which is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The improvements made at Bolderwood are one of many projects that have benefited from this five-year scheme.

Thanks to this funding, Bolderwood now provides an ideal setting for visitors to find out more about the famous herd of Fallow deer, which live in and around the area and explore the historical connection to the Crown.

To celebrate the completion of the project and the information cabin’s makeover, I’ve been helping to organise a range of events over the Easter break. Why not join me and my colleagues on Tuesday 11 April between 11am - 3pm to explore the newly refurbished information unit and take part in our Easter Trail. It’s only £1 per trail and if you get the clues correct you’ll win a prize, as long as we have enough chocolate eggs!

For more information please visit our ‘What’s On’ listing:


The Forest Awakens

 By Robin Mair, Works Supervisor at the Forestry Commission

Spring is starting to stir here in the New Forest, as nature gets ready to bring an explosion of colour to the landscape. I’m part of the team of local Forestry Commission staff that help care for the Forest, removing trees that have blown down, mending fences, and helping to coordinate felling p rogrammes. A hugely rewarding part of my job is working outside in the local woods and I can’t help but notice how quickly the Forest is beginning to awaken now.

Many trees are bursting with buds, in spring, sap rises from the roots to the branches; the buds swell and burst open; and the tree’s leaves, stems, and flowers unfurl and grow.

You might be interested to know that later in the summer some trees begin to develop new buds for the following year. By the time a deciduous tree’s leaves drop in the autumn, its leaves for the next spring are already formed.

Following a rather mild winter, spring is certainly stirring –

 I’ve already seen some of the early cherries flowering and carpets of wildflowers across the Forest floor. Unless the crazy British weather brings in an unexpected hard frost we can expect to have colourful blooms and buds as spring arrives.

A vast array of woodland plants and buds on trees will emerge over the coming months, including many of my favourites. I’ve chosen a few to highlight the breath-taking beauty of spring among the trees that we are lucky enough to have here in the New Forest:
1.English Oak is a tree that I’ve always held in high esteem, its Latin name, Quercus robur, means 'strength'. Look out for its rounded, brown buds that occur most frequently at the end of their branches.

 2. You should also seek out the Common Lime tree, with its brightly coloured buds and new leaves that are vivid green. The wood is very strong and does not warp; it’s still used today to make sounding boards and piano keys. They were often planted along village streets as a holy tree to protect against evil spirits. Over time, these trees have become commonplace, including here in the New Forest, where they contribute to a stunning spring show.

3. During March the Hornbeam tree displays its delicate, white catkins that emerge from the tips of the growing shoots. You may find fallen male and female catkins on the forest floor as they’re shed.

  4. The newly flushed bright pink buds of the Cherry tree are another reminder of spring, their pale pink flowers with a soft scent welcome in the new season.
5. It is then the turn of the Blackthorn, or Sloe, which is a small tree that has beautiful white flowers in March and early April, in advance of its small pointed leaves beginning to show.

This spring, celebrate the coming of the season by looking out for these distinctive signs of spring, and enjoy witnessing the unfolding of the new season in its full glory.

As people everywhere get more in touch with where things come from – whether it’s the food they eat, or the table they eat it at, it’s important to know more about our native tree species and I’m really proud to be part of a sector that supports this, and safeguards places where family and friends can come together, relax and have fun.


Last updated: 6th May 2017


General Enquiries

0300 067 4601

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