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Saving the New Forest – 150 Years

President Oliver Crosthwaite Eyre and Henry Fawcett MP

On July 22nd this year a very special meeting was held at the Crown Hotel in Lyndhurst. Attended by Lord Montagu, the Hon. Mary Montagu Scott, Lord Manners and Mr Oliver Crosthwaite Eyre among others, it was to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the founding of the New Forest Association, now known as the Friends of the New Forest. And the special guests were there because their ancestors were in at the start.

Why was the Association established in the first place? In 1867 the New Forest was under a very real threat to enclose all usable parts of the Crown lands for timber production and sell off the remainder. This had happened in many other Royal Forests in the preceding 60 years. Adjacent landowners were concerned about their tenants, who were smallholders relying on common rights for their animals to graze the New Forest to supplement their income. The leading lights were W.C.D. (Clement) Esdaile, George Briscoe-Eyre and Lord Henry Scott (later to become Lord Montagu).

Ten of these landowners met in London in June 1867 at the Chelsea home of George Eyre and his son Briscoe to discuss the problem and agreed that something must be done. In very British fashion they agreed to set up an association. At a meeting in Lyndhurst in the heart of the New Forest on July 22nd 1867, probably at the Crown Hotel, it was resolved: “That this meeting approves of an Association being formed for the preservation of the open lands of the New Forest, and for the general protection of the Commoners rights over the Forest.” The name of the New Forest Association was swiftly adopted.

The purpose of the Association was to find a way of protecting the rights of the commoners and to prevent the break-up of the Forest into timber plantations. The founding secretary, W.C.D. Esdaile, along with George Briscoe Eyre and Lord Henry Scott, worked hard to alert the public to the losses that would occur to the nation if this land was enclosed and lost forever. Two parliamentary reviews, a major London Art Exhibition, scores of letters in the national press and ten years were to pass before the 1877 New Forest Act was made law and the future of the New Forest made certain.

The Association was the second environmental body to be set up in Britain, just two years after the Open Spaces Society in 1865. Every time there was a threat to the New Forest, the organisation swung into action and helped to save the day. In its 150th anniversary year, it rebranded itself as the Friends of the New Forest in order to explain its role and attract new members. Now as the Forest faces increasing pressures from development and over-use for recreation, it needs its Friends more than ever.

The present day Association chairman, John Ward, talked about the contrast between the nineteenth century threats of destruction and harmful change to the New Forest and the pressures that beset it today, saying: “When the Association was founded it was to save the Forest from the destructive intentions of those government bodies responsible for its management.”

“Today the largest threat and greatest management challenge comes not from ‘those in charge’ but from the sheer scale of those meaning no harm, but coming to the Forest in ever greater numbers wishing to enjoy the Forest as a recreation destination. Fragile habitats, tranquillity and a sense of remoteness are essential but illusive special New Forest qualities that require protection.”

He said that we could learn from the pioneering campaign efforts made 150 years ago: “Our founding fathers were innovative in their campaigning, organising an art exhibition in London to raise awareness of the Forest’s natural beauty, in addition to the expected letters in the Times and Questions in Parliament.”

“We must be equally creative in campaigning to protect the New Forest, adapting to a new digital age, social media and sound-bites if we are to persuade people of the need to cherish and protect those special qualities that make this a unique landscape.”

Oliver Crosthwaite Eyre, President of the Association, said: ” Only a handful of charities can say that they have existed for 150 years and been so successful and active throughout that time. I think the Founding Fathers of our Association would be enormously proud of what has been achieved by its members over so many generations to protect and conserve the New Forest since 1867. One thing will never change, and that is the shared love of this unique and beautiful place that the Association’s members have always had: that is our strength and it will serve the Association and Forest well for the next 150 years.” He then invited those present to raise a glass to the memory of the Founders and to the Association’s future.

The present day meeting was then entertained by actor Desmond Longfield of the Redlynch Players in period costume purporting to be MP Henry Fawcett and reading a speech based loosely on one he made in 1871, albeit with allusions to the current threats facing the Forest.

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Members Event and AGM – 22nd April 2017

The 2017 Members Event and Association AGM will be held:
Saturday 22nd April
Minstead Hall, Minstead SO43 7FX,
Starting at 10.00am


PROGRAMME

10.00 am: Coffee and tea available
10.30 am: ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
DOWNLOAD ANNUAL REPORT and AGM AGENDA 

11.00 am: MEMBERS EVENT
Peter Roberts: The lighter side of our history
John Ward: Our Agenda: What have we been doing and how are we getting on?
Panel Discussion: Raise questions and issues for the Friends to address, with Graham Baker, Clive Chatters, Gale Gould, Brian Tarnoff and John Ward. (Please notify us of your questions/issues in advance on booking form below if possible to allow time for research where needed, or hand them in at the start of the meeting.)

12.30 pm: BUFFET LUNCH – @£7 per person. Bar open. please pre-book on form below

Afternoon Activities please pre-book on form below:

  • Self-guided visit to nearby Furzey Gardens, where the azaleas and rhododendrons should be in flower. We have negotiated a reduced entry fee of £6.50 (usually £8), and cream tea for £6.95 if you wish
  • 2.30 pm Guided visit (I hour) to Minstead Study Centre, run by Hampshire County Council, which aims to advance lifelong learning for sustainability. A chance to learn about their innovative educational work here in the Forest with primary school children and adults.Recommended minimum donation to the Friends of Minstead Study Centre £5 per person please.(Max. group size 30 people)

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Maldwin Drummond OBE 1932-2017

It is with sadness that we record the death of Maldwin Drummond on Saturday 18th February.

The official notice of his death reads:
Maldwin Andrew Cyril died peacefully on 18th February 2017, aged 84. Much loved husband of Gilly, father of Frederica, Annabella and Aldred, step-father to Sophie, Ariane and Laura. Service at Fawley Church, Hampshire 11am Thursday, 16th March. Family flowers only. Leading protagonist for the conservation of historic ships including SS Great Britain, HMS Warrior and Cutty Sark, environmentalist and author. Recently reprinted, with illustrations by Martyn Mackrill, The Riddle, the background to The Riddle of the Sands first published in 1985.
Donations, if desired, to:
The UK Associates of Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences: Ocean Science Scholarships for UK Students https://secure.thebiggive.org.uk/charity/view/64489.
HMS INVINCIBLE Maritime Archaeology Sea Trust: http://www.thisismast.org/hms-invincible.html – Contact: Claire House-Norman, Fundraising Director chousenorman@bournemouth.ac.uk.
FRIENDS of the NEW FOREST http://newforestassociation.org/


In addition to his many other accomplishments and public service ranging from the RNLI to the Cutty Sark, Maldwin has been a stalwart friend and champion of the New Forest for many years.

He became an elected verderer in the early 1960s and served until 1990, but it was not long before he was once again in the court as the appointed Official Verderer from 1999 to 2002. During his time as a verderer Maldwin was deeply involved in the 1964 New Forest Act together with the radical measures brought in to save the Forest from being overwhelmed by visitors – controlled camping and car parking on designated sites and elsewhere a car-free Forest with ditches and dragons teeth to curb the free-for-all.

At a time in the late 1980s when the fragmented governance of the New Forest was increasingly seen to be to the Forest’s detriment, but there was no appetite for yet another official body, he became the chair of a newly formed New Forest Committee, which brought together the different Forest bodies into a more co-ordinated forum. With only a small staff, but guided by Maldwin’s great enthusiasm from 1990 to 1998, a great deal was achieved to set out principles for the long-term protection of the Forest and in winning funding bids to support environmental and nature conservation improvement projects, notably from the EU LIFE programme.

As one might expect, Maldwin Drummond was also directly engaged with and a supporter of the New Forest Association. He served as our President from 1973 to 1983 and again from 2003 to 2009.

1997 was the 900th anniversary of the establishment of the New Forest as a royal hunting preserve. Maldwin, as President of the New Forest Association, thought that this occasion should be marked by something more durable than just a firework display or television documentary (although it got that too) and came up with the idea of tapestry. The Association agreed and we set up a tapestry sub-committee. With Maldwin in charge this was not to be just a ‘talking shop’. The tapestry morphed into an embroidery and Belinda Lady Montagu was commissioned to design the work and then transform it into reality. Sketches turned into a design. Experts were consulted to ensure the historical accuracy of depicted scenes and the 25ft long project was begun. Many many helpers were recruited and like a giant jigsaw puzzle it was completed. The embroidery is now on permanent loan from the Association to the New Forest Centre in Lyndhurst.

“It is a vision of a countryside managed with care and concern for future generations.
We all have a role in conserving the Forest and must take opportunity to turn words in into actions”

Maldwin Drummond, 1996 – from his foreword to the Strategy for the New Forest prepared by the New Forest Committee under his chairmanship.

DONATIONS to the FRIENDS OF THE NEW FOREST in MEMORY of MALDWIN DRUMMOND may be made on our website: http://newforestassociation.org/donate/

 

 

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What Future for the New Forest?

2017 will be a year of celebration for the New Forest Association marking our 150th anniversary, but is also a time for reflection on the present day state of the New Forest, its future prospects and the main issues on which our Association should focus our campaigns.

We need to ask ourselves:
Do we accept that we might be able to slow the process, but the fate of the Forest is to suffer a steady decline of its unique special qualities as the National Park is inexorably reduced to being a Suburban Park hemmed in on all sides by development and just too small not to be overwhelmed by too many people with too much activity and too many vehicles?   Or, can the New Forest be saved from a multiplicity of cumulatively harmful impacts so that our vision of the New Forest might yet be sustained?

The Association’s 150th anniversary launch event on 24th January was an evening all about these questions, where the New Forest is going and the challenges before us today.

Clive Chatters, who is Council member of the Association, gave the keynote address

Followed by responses from:

  • Alison Barnes, Chief Executive of the New Forest National Park Authority
  • Bruce Rothney, Deputy Surveyor for the New Forest
  • Dominic May, Official Verderer

and participants from the audience of 200 people.

The launch event turned into a must-be-at New Forest occasion, with all seats ‘sold out’. With his provocative keynote address “The New Forest: a foot in the past and an eye to the future”, Clive Chatter’s spoke of a landscape derived from pastoralism now set in a suburban matrix, of unparalleled natural wealth being overwhelmed by affluence. He identified the management of recreation in the Forest being a key issue, and concluded that ‘this generation’s responsibility to secure the future of the Forest now lies with us’.

Clive’s inspiring talk was followed by responses from Alison Barnes, Chief Executive of the New Forest National Park Authority, and Bruce Rothnie, Deputy Surveyor of the New Forest. Before comments and questions from the floor, Dominic May, Official Verderer, challenged the public authorities to control creeping damage from recreation overuse to avoid conflict with the unique qualities of the Forest. Concluding the evening, Oliver Crosthwaite Eyre, President of the Friends of the New Forest and Chairman of the New Forest National Park Authority, alluded to the many challenges facing the Forest, paid tribute to the work of the Association since its inception, and commented that ‘the Forest needs all the Friends it can get.

While it was not an evening to solve all of the issues threatening or supporting the Forest’s future, they were well examined and many challenges (and some achievements) were identified in the course of the evening. There seemed to be an emerging concensus that particularly with respect to recreation management, it feels like ‘one of those moments for bold decision making’.

If you were not able to be there, read the text of the presentations and a transcript of audience contributions below:

Download a PDF
DOWNLOAD

Or read it on screen below:

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Schools Project Competition – £1,000 PRIZE

It is today’s young people who will need to solve many problems if the New Forest is to survive and prosper for the benefit and enjoyment of their own and later generations. But to solve problems, first it is necessary to know and understand the context. To help achieve that objective we are commemorating our 150th Anniversary Year in 2017 by sponsoring a Schools’ Project Competition with a £1000 prize. The main objectives of the competition are:

  • To encourage the interest, education and enjoyment of secondary school students in matters concerning the New Forest.
  • To foster students’ understanding that the New Forest is a unique, precious and irreplaceable resource, and encourage a wish to conserve and sustain it for the benefit of their own and future generations.
  • To support teachers in helping students acquire transferable skills for investigation and research individually and in groups
  • To stimulate students’ interests in ways that may contribute to their career aspirations, and to help students clarify their immediate ambitions particularly with regard to potential pathways through further or higher education.

Entry Guidelines for Schools and Colleges

Subjects:
Any that has the New Forest explicitly as the focus for study, e.g. relating to its natural history, ecology, environment, conservation, society, commoning, history, archaeology, economy, forestry, farming, tourism, sport, recreation etc.

Eligibility:
The competition is intended to complement GCSE level geography, especially its field study components, both human and physical. However, any project work undertaken by students in Years 10 and 11 is eligible, irrespective of subject area, with the New Forest as its explicit focus.

The competition requires a minimum of 10 schools entering.

Format:
Competition entries normally will comprise group work. Entries may take the form of :
a) written reports of not more than 2000 words for each individual student submitted, or
b) an outline explanation of not more than 500 words accompanying other media, e.g. posters, photographs, maps, ‘Powerpoint’, etc. Teachers will be required to provide a brief written statement confirming the nature and scope of the guidance they have given.

Assessment:
Our assessment of a school’s submission will be based on:
a) relevance to the New Forest,
b) clear definition and justification for the study context,
c) ability to structure and explain the approach taken,
d) demonstrated literacy and numeracy, and
e) clarity of summary and conclusions.

The panel of assessors with relevant expertise will be drawn from the Council of the Association and chaired by Dr Keith Howe.

Incentives:
Award of a £1000 prize to the school/college submitting the best entry.
Individual students will receive certificates of attainment (distinction, merit, pass), and the best overall designated NFA Geographer of the Year.

Key dates:
•  Applicationsclosing date 5 June 2017

ENTER  enter online
pdf FORM  or download form
•  NFA receipt of project materialsclosing date, 25 July 2017
•  Result announced,
September 2017

Any questions:
Please contact Dr Keith Howe using the form below:


3d printing download

 

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Latest Improvements to NFA Map

The multi layered NFA map of the New Forest has been improved and now includes the 400 metre zone around the Special Protection Areas, Forest access points and heat maps around those points. Information tags have been associated with the new layers. Comments on the map to Graham Baker at nfaplanning@gmail.com would be welcomed. View the map here.

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“Look, Don’t Pick” – The Arguments

Over the months since the Forestry Commission announced their “Look, Don’t Pick” Policy for Fungi on The New Forest SSSI on the Crown Lands under their stewardship, we’ve heard a number of arguments against this move.  The NFA support the Forestry Commission’s policy as an important step to honouring the protections the habitat of the New Forest has, and ought to have in practice.  In that spirit we offer our rebuttals below:

Foraging is wonderful and magically connects people to nature.

Fine, just not fungi + here, please.

The New Forest is amongst the most highly protected habitat we have.  Would you challenge the existing prohibitions on fungi foraging on Wildlife Trust or National Trust land? The New Forest SSSI has the status of a National Nature Reserve.  

We could quibble that you shouldn’t need to ingest nature to enjoy and appreciate it, but then again Chris Packham once said he started his journey eating tadpoles he’d found.  No accounting for tastes. Foraging can foster a relationship for many with nature, but this is a protected habitat, we’re just asking those who actually care about nature, to respect its protection and find their fungi elsewhere. 

We’ve done this for thousands of years (Entitlement vs loss of habitat)

You speak of what’s been done for “thousands of years”, that includes loads of behaviours that are no longer appropriate in the face of unprecedented population growth, habitat loss and climate change.  Butterfly collectors once showed their appreciation of Lepidoptera by popping them in killing jars then mounting them on pins.

More than one in ten UK species is now threatened with extinction.  The house is burning, and you’re concerned with raiding the larder.

Where is your proof of the so-called gangs? (Denial)

They and their effects have been seen  by the Forestry Commission Keepers and Ecologists, the National Trust Rangers, the Hampshire Fungi Recording Group, other local surveyors, and many of our members.  Last Autumn the Forestry Commission intercepted 140 groups and/or individuals as part of their “disruption” campaign, seizing and destroying amounts over the then “personal” limit.

You’ll forgive us if those of us out walking don’t whip out our cameras and ask strangers engaged in illegal activities to pose nicely to satisfy your curiosity.  Or that we haven’t photographed every square fungi populated inch of the Forest ahead of time so that when it is subsequently stripped of fungi we could provide a before and after (hopefully recorded at exactly the same angle for the before and after).  The experiences and observations of many individuals, seem to count for nothing to those in denial.  

If you are that sceptical would a photo of a group of people holding bags in a wood convince you of anything? Or before and after pictures? If the FC put wildlife monitoring cameras by some patches of rare fungi, that would be rightly deemed too big brother (although police have said a private land owner doing this to catch similar acts would be perfectly legal).

You are criminalising ordinary people.

Similar bans already exist, the inclusive language of the Epping Forest byelaws have allowed the Keepers employed by the Corporation of the City of London to enforce its policy against fungi forage.  Meanwhile the CROW Act which opened up larger areas of countryside to Ramblers has an overarching ban on foraging on the nationwide network of Rights of Way, and the Right to Roam areas.

This is a SSSI, the FC already had the right to authorise picking of fungi under the consents they have from Natural England.  Their byelaws ban removal of a range of things that are not currently enforced, and it is only a trick of taxonomy that fungi are excluded (FC byelaws prohibit: dig up, remove, cut or injure any tree, shrub or plant, whether living or not, or remove the seeds therefrom, or dig up or remove any soil, turf, leafmould, moss, peat, gravel, slag, sands or minerals of any kind).  It is as much a policy decision to choose not to enforce all the elements of the byelaws as to restrict fungi foraging under their SSSI consents and the precautionary principle to protect the entire habitat.

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 is the legislative instrument that defines the protections for wild animals and plants and defines Sites of Special Scientific Interest along with their extra protections and the statutory obligations of their landowners.  Rare species found on the Schedule 8 list, often referred to as the Red Band or Red List Species, are protected from being picked, uprooted or destroyed (section 13 subsection 1), and further from being sold, transported for sale, or even advertised for sale (subsection 2).  These are arrestable offences, the CPS guidance for prosecutions :

Most offences are punishable on summary conviction by six month’s imprisonment and/or by a maximum fine of £5,000 (level 5). Where an offence is committed in respect of more than one bird, nest, egg etc the maximum fine shall be determined as if the person had been convicted of a separate offence in respect of each such item.

In addition to offences being multiplied by number of items taken, the law also gives power of forfeiture: 

Under s.21 (6) b a court may in the same circumstances order the forfeiture of any vehicle, animal, weapon or other thing used to commit the offence found in the offender’s possession. Forfeiture of a vehicle is often likely to be an effective means of deterring repeat offences relating, for example, to rare birds and eggs as well as of incapacitating an offender’s future ability to conduct such activities. ….

The section 13 protections apply ANYWHERE in the Wild, not just SSSI.  The Red List includes fungi species such as the tasty, targeted and allegedly medicinal Hericium erinaceus (bearded tooth).

Hericium erinaceus in the New Forest

On SSSI’s intentionally or recklessly destroying or damaging flora or fauna by reason of which land is of special interest is an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 Section 28 (P).   The New Forest is one of the few SSSI which have fungi as one of these notified features of special interest. Whether or not the fungi harvested is one of the notified species, the ancillary consequences of the activity of foraging, including trampling and disturbance may be covered by this as well. Hefty penalties invoked here may give prosecutions considerable bite.  Damage to SSSI could be prosecuted, and yield realistically punitive fines (£10k-20k).  Of course the burden of proof is less straightforward than the section 13 offences, but I’m describing this to show the extent to which some fungi foraging activities were already criminal, and the legal basis which obligates the Forestry Commission to protect the notified features of the SSSI it manages.

This is Common Land – don’t we have the right to forage from it as part of rights of Common?

The Crown Lands are not actually registered commons as applies under the Commons Registrations Act, and so would not implicitly include any rights that may be extended to registered commons either under that act or in common law.

The modern legal framework for the Forest rights as applied to the New Forest are in the New Forest Acts which clearly defines rights of Common for the Crown Lands, these 1) don’t include Foraging 2) can only can be claimed by those occupying land with registered rights attached.

The ban is not scientific, because we have studies that show that harvesting fruiting bodies doesn’t have a detrimental effect.  (Selective research)

Compared to botany, mycology is positively medieval.  Not enough is known. We’re only just now coming to appreciate the complexity of the relationship between mycorrhizal fungi and the trees they service symbiotically.

There are only have a handful of studies on a few species, some not in comparable locations/habitats, that show negligible effect on individual fungi organisms of picking fruiting bodies, but not much on the long term viability of a given species and genetic diversity over time given the disruption to dispersal mechanisms.  

These studies do not consider the knock on effects on the rest of the ecosystem, putting aside the fruiting bodies as a food source, at least 600 (likely over 1000) species of invertebrate are reliant on them for their life-cycle (many are species specific).  Committed eggs don’t have the luxury of jumping to unpicked neighbours.  There are no studies showing ancillary effects on the rest of the ecosystem, therefore no substantial body of evidence for sustainability.  

Furthermore, the “sustainability” argument shouldn’t even apply on a SSSI with fungi as one of its notified features.  An attitude that recognises only supporting science in isolation, claims an absent weight of evidence, and ignores the bigger picture, is utterly self-serving.

Europe is a free for all.

This is simply not true.  France and Spain have no go areas.  There are licensing schemes in Italy and Poland and other eastern European Countries.  It is unlikely you would be allowed to pick fungi at all in Poland’s National Parks which include Strict Protection Zones, no go areas for any human interaction — reasons given include fungi conservation along with other habitat considerations, some parks even have buffer zones excluding people from an area outside the park.  Other European countries have similarly strict regimes if they have signed up to the level of habitat protection promoted by the IUCN and the Biosphere initiative.

Just because European cultures supposedly favour a tradition of fungi forage doesn’t mean they are blind to the need for conservation.  The Crown Lands of the New Forest have the highest levels of habitat and landscape protections and designations available in UK law.

And Finally, that old, ahem, chestnut: It’s just like picking Blackberries!

NO IT ISN’T (sorry for shouting):

  • Blackberry population is much greater and currently sustainable.
  • Blackberry pickers take only the fruit, not the entire visible portion of the plant.  In the protected landscape of a National Park the autumn display of fungi should be left for all to see.
  • Blackberry fruits are only harvested by pickers when they are ripe, they may be eaten by wildlife before this, and when pickers miss the optimal ripeness opportunity, after. Fungi are being removed when they are seen, not left for an optimal ripening.  If picked when still at “button” stage, they have not released spores.
  • The seeds in blackberry fruit are part of its distribution mechanism, the amount left unpicked, and fed upon by wildlife sustainably spreads the next generation.  Fungi fruiting bodies contain spores that go unreleased if they are picked, and may contain insect eggs, interrupting both distribution mechanisms, depleting the next generation of invertebrates.
  • Blackberries tend to conveniently, for pickers, grow on the sunny side of rides and paths, much blackberry picking is done from here, an inherently more robust location, without, or with much less disturbance to undergrowth.  Fungi are spread throughout the woodland floor. The trampling damage by harvesters alone is of grave concern, and contributes to potentially damaging operations which are restricted on SSSI.
  • The fruiting mechanism in plants is much better understood.  While there are studies that allege sustainability of picking based on individual mycellium continuing to produce the fruiting bodies, there is no body of work to show the extent to which this may stress the mycellium, or degree to which the organisms other ecosystem functions are altered by the energy and nutrient that must be expended in that process.

So again, NO IT ISN’T!!! (sorry for shouting, again).  To be glib (but no less right): no one is worried about the decline of the blackberry, get back to us if this changes.
 
If you are using the blackberry analogy, you are either willfully ignorant, or presume your audience is gullible. You should drop that line of argument, it makes you sound like an idiot or a con man.

Limited apologies if you feel we’ve oversimplified the case against (done for style, and attempted brevity).  We’ll welcome nuanced discussion, and well founded arguments, should they arise.

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