Trainee Forester Making Her MarkBy Billie-Jo Blackett, Trainee Forester with the Forestry Commission
From next week harvesting will begin in Kings Hat, Crabhat and Fox Hunting Inclosures, near the Waterside area, where cutting down of conifers will take place in order to provide more growing space for remaining trees. The removal of some trees will encourage the wildlife and habitats beneath the tree canopies to thrive. This method of selectively removing just some trees is known as ‘thinning’.
Scots pine, Norway spruce and Corsican pine will be harvested from the three Inclosures, as well as some broadleaved trees and will be used in a variety of ways – from woodfuel to construction. The work will take approximately four weeks and a range of specialist staff will be used, from chainsaw and harvester operators to engineers and supervisory staff.
Although the sites will remain open during the felling, we ask that visitors to these areas of the forest pay attention to safety signs and information regarding diversions to the main tracks that may be temporarily closed to allow machinery to operate safely. Timber operations can be extremely dangerous and visitor safety is crucially important to us. Warning signs will be in place around the work and it’s vital that walkers with or without dogs and horse riders comply with the signs for their own safety, that of others.
One of my roles, as a Trainee Forester is to help with harvesting operation planning and preparation. Every forest operation is carefully thought out with each Inclosure usually being worked once in a five-year cycle.
Before harvesting takes place, work on the ground includes marking sample areas in the tree crops that will be thinned. This involves selecting which trees are to be removed. If you’re a regular visitor to the forest you may have come across pink spray-painted marks on tree trunks and wondered why they were there. When marking the trees, I look for tree health, growth and strength. We highlight trees for felling by spraying a pink mark on the tree to indicate to the contractors the number of trees we want to be removed based on specific mathematical calculations. The aim is to create a healthy woodland area with good structure that will improve the amenity value, and increase the value of the woods in the long-term. Creating a better habitat for the wildlife in the area is another key goal as we want to make our forests as diverse as possible in terms of composition and structure.
As well as these goals, timber harvesting is an important source of income for the Forestry Commission, with the income from harvesting at these sites being reinvested to help protect and improve the woodland for people, wildlife and future timber production. The average person consumes 12 trees a year in their everyday life – from paper, packaging, toilet tissue, furniture and many other products so the UK forestry sector and the 14,000 jobs it creates is an important one.
Some people worry that tree felling is bad, but when sustainably managed, it’s a key part of good woodland management. By thinning it encourages the development of better trees and the opening up of the canopy. Directly after felling the area may look messy, but forest rides will be reinstated when the weather permits and natural regeneration from surrounding native trees will soon take root on the woodland floor.
I joined the Forestry Commission last year as a part of the Forestry Commission’s Forester Development Programme, which brings on newly qualified Foresters to help support the future management of England’s Public Forest Estate. My post involves a two year training position in the South Forest District, based in Lyndhurst, to attain a broad-range of forester experience – gaining and developing the skills, competencies and knowledge needed to take on a full Forester role in the near future and I am proud to be a part of such a thriving industry.
Many people don’t realise that the New Forest Inclosures are a part of a working forest and that timber harvesting plays an important role in the economy. When woodlands are well managed, they are incredibly important to the local economy, society and the environment.
Source: The Royal Forestry Society website: http://www.rfs.org.uk/forestry-career-portal/
Feel healthier and happier on your bike
By Richard Burke, New Forest Recreation and Public Affairs Manager, Forestry Commission
We all know that exercise is good for us and at this time of year you don’t have to be stuck indoors working out. Cycling in the forest i s a terrific form of exercise and can make exercising great fun! Getting outdoors and keeping fit in the natural environment can be a real adventure, and an excellent way to boost your body and brain.
Over the past 12 months my team have been making significant improvements to Forestry Commission’s cycle trails across the New Forest. Working in partnership with the National Park Authority, we provide a range of cycle trails for different abilities, which are all maintained to a high standard and offer a safe place to cycle off-road.
Exploring the New Forest by bike is the ideal way to discover the magnificent beauty and fascinating wildlife that can easily be missed by car. To help protect this unique environment and improve visitor enjoyment an off-road and road-based cycle network has been created. The network covers over 100 miles and links the main New Forest villages and the railway stations at Brockenhurst and Sway, by the safest and most attractive routes.
The designated cycling routes are great for all ability adventures and the National Park Authority’s scheme, PEDALL, aims to engage any person in cycling, regardless of their physical or intellectual ability, age or confidence level. The project makes use of a range of adapted cycles including tricycles, recumbent cycles, wheelchair cycles, hand cycles and tandems as well as two-wheeled bicycles.
This is a fantastic opportunity for people with a physical or intellectual disability, a visible or unseen condition to benefit from the mental and physical wellbeing that cycling provides. Family members and carers are encouraged to join the sessions and share the experience of cycling in the forest. There is a varied fleet of cycles; these are specialist cycles built to cater for people with a wide range of needs. The adapted cycles are available to hire anytime from Cyclexperience, Brockenhurst, prices start from £4 per cycle, per hour.
There are plenty of cycle hire providers locally, so don’t worry if you don’t have a bike of your own. The National Park Authority has also teamed up with Garmin and local bike hire companies to provide cyclists with free hire of GPS devices to help you find your way around and make the most of the forest on your doorstep. You can find out more about this service by visiting www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/cyclenav.
Don’t forget, the New Forest is a working forest, with forestry, farming and equestrian activity on its narrow roads and tracks. Ponies, cattle and other animals are free to roam the forest and most of its roads. So, a cycling code of conduct aims to ensure that cyclists and other users can enjoy this special place in harmony. Find the code on our website, where you’ll also find information on any route closures to make sure your day goes to plan. It may seem obvious, but make sure you have the correct bicycle safety equipment to keep out of danger while you’re out cycling.
With over 1100km of Forestry Commission cycle trails nationally, from the easy family routes of the New Forest to bike skills areas and adrenaline fuelled downhill routes elsewhere, there's a trail for all bike adventures. If you are a more adventurous cyclist, then head to Moors Valley Country Park and Forest, which has a network of purpose built bike trails that are suitable for a range of abilities, providing the perfect location for families, as well as experienced off-road riders.
So happy cycling, we hope you enjoy the tracks we provide, whether you’re tackling an exciting woodland trail or enjoying a gentle route with the family.
For more information about cycling at Forestry Commission sites across the country and in the New Forest, visit www.forestry.gov.uk/england-cycling also check out www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/routes for all the best local trails.
New Forest Fritillaries Project
By Jay Doyle, Ecologist for the Forestry Commission
The Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary is one of the fastest declining butterflies in southern England. There are only three locations i n the South East where you might catch a rare glimpse of these delicate creatures and these sites are right here in the New Forest.
A new project is being launched to help this threatened butterfly and to better understand the causes of its decline. Wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation, the Forestry Commission and Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust will improve existing habitat and create new areas for the threatened Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary in bid to fend off regional extinction and understand more about the impacts of our changing environment. The butterfly population and habitats will then continue to be monitored long-term as part of the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme.
Steve Wheatley, Butterfly Conservation’s Senior Regional Officer, said: “This could be the last chance to save the Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary in the South East. I live in Lewes in Sussex and it used to be a short bike ride to see this beautiful butterfly flying in local woodland. Now it’s a two hour drive and could soon it could be even further away – too far for my children to experience, other than on special trips.”
One of the reasons thought to lie behind the butterfly’s decline is the drying out of woodlands, likely to be a result of climate change in the south east. Whilst sudden and unseasonable downpours can result in the caterpillars drowning.
This new, two-year project, funded by Biffa Award and the Dulverton Trust and others, will undertake specific research to explore these impacts, and further protect the New Forest fritillaries by restoring essential breeding habitat.
John Durnell, from the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, said: “We are very happy to be part of this project. We see this delivering important biodiversity benefits for Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary and other wildlife dependent on these habitats.”
It’s thought that changes in post-war woodland management might also have had an impact, with small-scale habitat niche’s being lost as some woodland management has become more mechanised by larger machinery. However, this butterfly species has managed to survive in New Forest Inclosures, where small-scale sensitive management by the Forestry Commission has a long history.
As I’m sure you know, here in the New Forest we have some of England’s rarest and highest quality habitats and we hope to further enhance these qualities through our active and management. For example, one of the aims is to reconnect old woodland by creating new links that bring together native woodlands. By subtly changing the way we manage the old broadleaved plantations and gradually removing some conifers we can link ancient habitats. By linking these rare and old woodlands and making them bigger, we aim to make them more robust and resilient. Many plants and wildlife will benefit, including butterflies that will thrive here. The planned new planting will allow light to pour in so that areas of the woodland floor will quickly become home to plants and vegetation, such as Dog Violets, Bugle, and Brambles. These plants are a good source of food for insects, especially butterflies, which will be able to use these areas to lay their eggs and provide food for caterpillars.
From now until early July, Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary are in flight and it’s one of the most beautiful sights to be found along the ride edges in summer. I’m certainly very hopeful that we’ll be able to see more butterflies flying along our wooded paths, when we work with Butterfly Conservation to help save this butterfly and jointly deliver valuable targeted work, including utilising the enthusiasm and passion of our Two Trees Conservation Volunteer team.
Butterfly Conservation also welcomes new volunteers, so if you want to get involved in searches for the butterfly, surveying habitats and helping to create new habitat please contact Butterfly Conservation’s Steve Wheatley via email firstname.lastname@example.org
Removing Rhododendron from the New Forest
By Lucy Andrews, Works Supervisor for the Higher Level Stewardship Scheme
The big, bold and beautiful blooms of Rhododendron bus hes are admired by many gardeners throughout the UK, but these plants are extremely invasive and are not native to this country. If they are left to spread in a natural setting, such as the New Forest, they can have a drastic impact on our native plant life.
This is why the Forestry Commission is working to rid the forest of this beautiful bully, by cutting and burning bushes, as part of the Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) scheme. We anticipate that our concerted efforts will mean that by 2020 invasive rhododendron will have been all but eliminated, protecting the New Forest’s internationally important habitats for the future.
Although famous for its spectacular spring flowers, rhododendron can grow to a grand scale, reaching many metres tall, allowing very little light to penetrate through its thick canopy. This has been shown to reduce the numbers of earthworms, birds and plants in a site, leading to a reduction in the biodiversity of the area.
Here in the New Forest, we’re helping to stop the spread of rhododendron, where they can have a terrible impact on our natural habitat. I work as part of the HLS team of staff at the Forestry Commission who identifies areas that need to be targeted using our knowledge and experience of the New Forest.
The work I do on this project is varied and rewarding, although the wet and cold weather can sometimes make it difficult during the winter months when we’re cutting down and removing the bushes. One of my roles is to adapt the work programmes to cope with bad weather and wet ground conditions. However, I consider myself very lucky to get outdoors regularly and see the ever-changing face of the forest throughout the seasons. It’s sometimes dramatic too – not least when I see an area flourish only a few months after we’ve removed the rhododendron.
I’m happy to report that we are making significant inroads with this project to remove this attractive invader from the Open Forest. In the last year, rhododendron has been cleared from 56 hectares, that’s equivalent to 73 football pitches, at sites near Ashurst, Dibden, Godshill and others. This brings the total area of non-native scrub removed since 2013 to over 100 hectares, which is an impressive 130 football pitches worth! We hope that by 2020 the Open Forest should be clear of all significant areas of rhododendron, which will create favourable conditions for our wildlife to thrive.
Removal of non-native shrubs, including rhododendron, is part of the New Forest HLS Scheme, a 10-year agreement with Natural England worth £19m that is held by the Verderers of the New Forest. The scheme is managed by them in partnership with the Forestry Commission and the New Forest National Park Authority.
To find out more about the benefits of rhododendron clearance in the New Forest visit www.hlsnewforest.org.uk/rhododendron