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Archive | November, 2017

100th anniversary of the Portuguese Fireplace in the New Forest

Bernard Hornung and Anglo-Portuguese Society group

Bernard Hornung and Anglo-Portuguese Society group

On 18th November 2017, eight members of the Anglo-Portuguese community came to the New Forest from London for a little ceremony to commemorate the arrival of a Portuguese contingent in the New Forest on 23rd November 1917 to help in the production of timber for the war effort. Some members of the Friends of the New Forest met the Portuguese party at the New Forest Inn at Emery Down for lunch and then accompanied them to the Portuguese Fireplace at Millyford Green, which had been decorated with Portuguese flags for the occasion. They were joined there by other members of the Friends of the New Forest, and their leader Bernard Hornung explained:

“There is currently no war memorial in this country to the Portuguese who died in WW1. The Portuguese Fireplace is the only memorial that exists and that is to non-combatants. This visit marks the start of the final phase of a fund-raising campaign for two Memorial Windows at the Roman Catholic Church of St James at Twickenham, which will be dedicated to the sacrifices of the Portuguese during the First World War and to the memory of the last King of Portugal.”

Richard Reeves, local historian and Friends of the New Forest council member, explaining the history of Portuguese workers
Then local historian and Friends of the New Forest Council member, Richard Reeves talked about the history behind the Fireplace and the difficulties that faced the Portuguese workers:

“From the start of the First World War, the war itself created an increased demand for timber while at the same time reducing those available to take on such work as they enlisted in the armed forces. The resultant shortage of labour was met to a certain degree by the formation of the Women’s Timber Service and Empire forestry units such as the Canadian Forestry Corps, formed in 1916. However, the need for labour was greater still and the Canadian Forestry Corps based at Millyford were joined by a Portuguese contingent of 100 men on the 23rd of November 1917.

The New Forest lumber camp became a significant settlement, covering around 4 to 5 acres. It was supported by a number of saw-mills and even a narrow gauge railway to transport the timber out of the Forest.

The Portuguese Fireplace is all that remains of this part of the war effort. The Fireplace was originally the fireplace of the camp’s cookhouse.”

Bernard Hornung presenting book to John Ward, Chairman of Friends of the New Forest

Bernard Hornung presenting book to John Ward, Chairman of Friends of the New Forest

Finally a toast was raised to the memory of the Portuguese workers and to the Anglo-Portuguese co-operation that they represented, Portugal being Britain’s oldest international ally. Some of the party then enjoyed a short walk in Holidays Hill Inclosure before they returned to London.

The Friends of the New Forest have just finished celebrating their own 150th anniversary with a year of events. Set up in 1867 to fight off serious threats to the Forest as we know it, the Friends (until recently known as the New Forest Association) are the only membership-based association in the New Forest that gives its members an effective voice on a wide range of New Forest issues. For 150 years their guiding purpose has been to protect, conserve and enhance the flora, fauna and heritage of the New Forest.
Portuguese fireplace, New Forest decorated with Portuguese flags


Presentment: Recreation Events at Night

Last month the Commoners Defence Association noted problems with the planned 2nd December, Hampshire Maverick Silva Dark Series trail running event.  It is in early evening, but in hours of full darkness (starts an hour after sundown, and a quarter hour after end of twilight). It is sponsored by a headlamp manufacturer promoting a range of LED headlamps that emit 250 lumens over 65 metres [1] (The top of their current range outputs 1500-2000 lumens over 175 metres! [2]).

The nocturnal disturbance of both livestock (as noted by the CDA) and wildlife by a mass event on the Forest, alone, is of concern, but use of high powered LEDs will greatly compound that disturbance. The NFA object to the event as an inappropriate precedent for both reasons. This is, as well, a fundamental conflict with all aspirations to maintain tranquility within the Forest and night-time dark skies above it.

Research on light disturbance has shown bats, amphibians and plants affected by relatively low levels of light. The route comes as close to the A337 as 1500 metres, which could prove fatal to motorists if easily spooked deer bolt towards the road.

This event, if held in daytime, or more appropriately off the SSSI, would be relatively benign [3]. The Forestry Commission have clearly worked hard to mitigate a bad situation created by the event’s organizers, and their permission [4] explicitly states that this is a one-off and that “any future night time events would need to be run at other venues off the New Forest” suggesting Moors Valley as an alternative. Head torches are restricted to Max 250 lumens, max beam length 50m, and must be angled downwards.

A FC spokesperson informed me that the permission would not have been granted if the event were a later time in the evening, or if it was outside the short window of hibernation for many local species. Unfortunately, nature isn’t that simple. At least 11 bat species have been recorded in the route area, including some of the most light-averse. All these bats move in and out of hibernation November to March, rousing to feed when the weather is mild, with early evening as their peak time in winter [5].

The media have lost all the nuances: the route restricted to the gravel tracks in Inclosures (from original plan on open forest), limitations on lighting, and that the FC regard this as a one-off.  The reporting has oversimplified the FC assessment to suggest it “poses no negative impact on the SSSI”. A hard to support statement, which without the context of the prescribed restrictions, sends an erroneous, dangerous message.

This official FC permission will beget the expectation for more large scale after dark events, from the public unaware of even minimal limitations which should be observed, and encourage greater after dark usage both organized and unorganized, at even more damaging times of the year. Creating new unprecedented levels of disturbance on protected habitat at a time where there would be little or none is simply unacceptable.

The NFA hope the Verderers will join us in asking the Forestry Commission, and those who would sensibly enjoy the Forest, to let it, in the name of tranquillity, the livestock, and the wildlife, have a well deserved rest.

Annotations below refer to the bracketed numbers in bold above [n]….

[1] The event offers participants free test use of their previous slightly weaker range (170 lumens over 50 metres), which they no longer produce. The route starts and ends at Foxlease, goes through Clayhill and deep into Denny Wood, Parkhill and Standing Hat inclosures.
[2] That’s roughly the same as a single standard H1 Car head lamp on main beam. 12 Runners with the highest permitted beams will emit approximately as much light as a single car.
[3] …presuming it is well run, safe and considerate to other Forest users, and tidies up after itself.
[4] The Permission includes the following non-boiler plate requirements:

  • “Competitors will be restricted to using head torches with Led bulbs, Max lumens 250, max beam length 50m. All torches must be angled down. Marshals must keep lighting to a minimum as well as per runners.”
  •  “The permit is for this event only please note any future night time events would need to be run at other venues off the New Forest – we will look to offer Moors Valley as an alternative.”
  • “The route as agreed…. It is vital to keep to the tracks and paths as details on the maps provided.”
  • “All gates must be manned to prevent ponies and cattle going through and to ensure that there is no access by vehicles. Gate must be closed after use.”
  • “All litter must be cleared up and signs removed by the following day at the latest.”

[5] from nearby Busketts Lawn there have been records of at least 5 species in late December.