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Fungi Forage Ban on New Forest SSSI and Code of Conduct

NFA Presentment to September 2015 Verderers Court — The NFA reveal the source of the 1.5kg limit, and the flawed logic that allowed the FC to incorrectly apply this as a daily allowance on the protected habitat of the SSSI. This followed up the July 2015 Presentment calling for an Epping Forest style ban on culinary fungi foraging on the New Forest SSSI. [Annotations have been added below as here in square brackets]
500g punnet of mushrooms,
1/3rd of the daily amount suggested in erroneous advice.

Fungi Forage –clarification and update

The NFA are seeking a very specific Epping Forest style ban on fungi foraging on the Crown Lands of the New Forest, the Site of Special Scientific Interest which is in the stewardship of the Forestry Commission.  Epping Forest Keepers are empowered to seize harvests from fungi foragers and in 2013 brought twenty successful prosecutions.  The NFA believe a similar regime would make it easier to deter commercial foragers who would no longer have recourse to pretend they are picking for personal use.

Wild Mushroom Picker’s Code of Conduct

We are also concerned about out-dated and erroneous advice which the Forestry Commission continues to distribute about personal foraging on the New Forest.  Their leaflets and website suggest that everyone may collect up to 1.5 kg of fungi per person / per day.  This has absolutely no basis in law.  It is derived from a misreading of The Wild Mushroom Picker’s Code of Conduct Published 3rd September 1998 by English Nature developed in conjunction with Forestry Commission, the National Trust, the Woodland Trust, the Association of British Fungus Groups and the British Mycological Society.

In the section on Collecting for the pot:

Only collect from plentiful populations and take no more than you want for your personal consumption. In line with codes in most other European countries. we recommend that you pick no more than 1.5 kg per visit or no more than half of the fruit bodies of any single species present. whichever is the lower amount.

On some SSSIs. most nature reserves and other protected areas it is unlikely that culinary collecting is allowed. Always consult the site owner or manager before collecting.

[This is the source of the 1.5kg “limit”, note a lower amount may be taken, but requires an almost super human ability to scan the unspecified area and instantly calculate half, also leading to the you take half the next person takes half of what’s left and so on until little remains.  However the subsequent advice suggests that culinary collecting is not allowed on SSSI or Nature Reserves, this advice is ignored in the Forestry Commission’s version.]

In the section on Advice for Landowners & Managers:

If the land is a National Nature Reserve. other nature reserve or protected area. or an [sic] SSSI. it will probably be appropriate to limit picking to scientific collecting.

On SSSIs. picking fungi may require consent in writing from the statutory nature conservation body. [Natural England]

Keep taking half,
quickly approach zero

Ignoring the tentative language and the Zeno’s paradox baiting “take half” suggestion.  The 1.5kg limit is “per visit” which in context seems to cover a foray, but has been misapplied to mean “per person per day”.  This ignores the guidelines for SSSI which deems personal culinary use inappropriate and requiring consent from Natural England.  The 1.5kg “allowance” applicable to unprotected habitats is irrelevant.

[The code provides no lower alternative amount for culinary collecting on protected areas, because the default is none.  This provides a loophole for those who selectively read the code.]

Natural England have admitted the code “could [be] expressed more clearly and emphatically to avoid any misinterpretation.”  Both of the Fungi specialist organizations originally consulted for the code have withdrawn support.  The ABFG (now the Fungus Conservation Trust) characterise it as “ill conceived and unhelpful”.  The BMS have dropped it from their website, and now state that “a complete ban on [culinary] collection (except for scientific and educational purposes, which would require permission) should exist in the New Forest.”  All of the original consultees acknowledge that the rise in popularity of personal foraging and the uncontrolled growth of commercial picking require a clearer, stricter code.  This is in the process of being developed, in the meantime, the Forestry Commission need to stop promoting their erroneous interpretation.

Enforcement

The Deputy Surveyor has said it’s unrealistic to enforce a total ban.  Traffic enforcement doesn’t catch every motorist who speeds, but that doesn’t stop us having speed limits.  The NFA accept the limitations on enforcement, but suggest a blanket ban will assist enforcement by removing the need to prove commercial intent and weigh amounts against the discredited allowance.  Whether the FC would target everyone is up to them.  In practical terms this may only affect foragers who are overdoing it to the extent that they come to the notice of the Keepers regardless of commercial or personal use.  Having a ban in place will allow enforcement to evolve.

[To be fair Epping Forest have 9 Keepers who cover less than a tenth of the area.]

The NFA ask for the Verderer’s support in continuing to call for the blanket ban on culinary fungi forage on the Crown Lands.  We also ask for your support for our request that the Forestry Commission remove inappropriate advice including the erroneous daily allowance from all literature and websites pertaining to fungi collection from the New Forest SSSI.

We need to send the message that the Crown Lands of the New Forest are a protected habitat and landscape.  Foragers who claim to be environmentalists should respect that the Forest is different.  The rules here should favour this habitat, not commercial greed or personal entitlement.

Brian Tarnoff, New Forest Association (Chair, Habitat and Landscape Committee)

NFA Call to Ban Fungi Picking on the Crown Lands of the New Forest

Commercial picking on the New Forest is an unacceptable theft from the amenity of the autumn display, and damaging to the habitat. Commercial pickers harvest indiscriminately, taking every bit of fungi they find, and trampling everything in their way, leaving none for others or for nature. It has taken foraging to an unsustainable level.

The NFA demand an Epping Forest style ban on the Crown Lands of the New Forest, a habitat protected by law, with special designations including SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest). Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981′ Section 13 any unauthorised removal of Fungi from SSSI is an offence and any removal of rare species is an offence. All commercial foraging of mushrooms / fungi, from the wild on any land, may be viewed as theft under The Theft Act 1968 Section 4 (3). which allows the activity for personal not any commercial use.

The Epping Forest byelaws do not specifically mention fungi, yet their policy and enforcement target its removal derived from an all inclusive prohibition. Their keepers are empowered to challenge pickers, seize and destroy harvests, and in some instances prosecutions are brought. A total ban would be much easier for the Forestry Commission keepers to enforce. They wouldn’t have to prove commercial intent, or weigh amounts to an arbitrary allowance, they could challenge anyone engaged in the activity. Whether, in practice, the FC targets everyone, is up to them. The message it sends is that the commercial pickers will not have recourse to pretend they’re just harmless gatherers for personal use.

We have asked the Forestry Commission for a policy of enforcement of a ban based on the model of Epping Forest. We have asked the National Park Authority and the Verderers of the New Forest to work with Natural England and rural Policing initiatives to help the FC devise ways to implement the ban suited to the management of the New Forest.

Foraging for fungi is no more acceptable on a SSSI and a National Park than carting away bushels of bluebells, or collecting butterflies or bird’s eggs. With an increasing population, and trends in cooking shows encouraging foraging, it is unclear how sustainable this activity would be in the future. It’s up to us to be responsible now and say that it’s inappropriate on the New Forest. We’re not entitled to simply take from nature in perpetuity and not be mindful of the consequences.

The display of fungi in the New Forest is as essential a part of the experience of Autumn in this protected habitat as the pannage pigs, and should remain for all to see and enjoy.

 
All images courtesy of Brian Tarnoff.

NFA lead five walks as part of the New Forest National Park Authority’s 2015 Walking Festival

The NFA will lead the following walks as part of the NPA’s third walking festival:

Monday 19th October – Rights of Common
Tuesday 20th October – Boats, Trains and Buses
Friday 23rd October – Solent 50 birds
Wednesday 28th October – Pylewell Estate
Friday 30th October – Avon Valley Villages

Details will appear on http://www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/info/20175/walking_festival and on this site shortly.

We Won! We Won!

At the New Forest National Park Authority Development Control meeting this morning the application for old peoples’ flats on the Redmayne site at Brockenhurst was unanimously refused. Also unanimously refused was the well meaning but dangerous proposal for mixed housing and a car park in the small gap between the Ashurst Village and West Totton against which the NFA has rigorously campaigned.

It may seem odd to crow “We Won!” over a car park and old peoples flats.  The car park however would have wiped out Ashurst allotments, grazing land, and other green space, it is significantly distant from the village centre, it’s sole remaining purpose would be to alleviate the twice daily school run congestion on a residential road with its own adequate parking.

The old peoples flat opposition is somewhat more complex.  It relates to developers seeking to score money out of retirees from outside the area whilst not creating enough housing stock for starting local families, and young commoners.  This seems slightly mean until you realize how few new properties may be developed within the appropriately tightly controlled confines of the National Park.

For the NFA Planning Committee’s responses to the Planning Authority see the links below:

30 March 2015 Application: 15/00138 Redmayne Engg Co., Station Approach, Brockenhurst, SO42 7TW 24 retirement apartments; car parking; air source heat pumps and sub station; landscaping     NFA Response

Objection

2nd May 2015 Application 15/00179 LAND AT FOXHILLS, ASHURST 11 NEW DWELLINGS (6 AFFORDABLE), Outbuildings; Associated Access, Landscaping and Drainage; Park and Stride facility    

19th April 2015 Application 15/00179 LAND AT FOXHILLS, ASHURST 11 NEW DWELLINGS (6 AFFORDABLE), Outbuildings; Associated Access, Landscaping and Drainage; Park and Stride facility

NFA Planning committee – Minerals & Waste Pound Bottom – Latest Position

The site is heading towards closure and the NFNPA would be unlikely to receive favourably any application to extend operations in any way. Further it is believed the operating company, SCS, have determined to exit from this type of work. Closure involves filling the remaining holes with waste and capping with top soil to restore the original contours and restoring land to original condition – heathland or grassland. There is no planning date for completion and the recent downturn in the construction industry and recycling improvements have reduced the demand for landfill. Both NFNPA and NFA would prefer to see the site closed sooner rather than later to end HGV movements in the north of the Forest. NFA would consider compromises to contour and vegetation cover to achieve earlier closure.
At a 2013 appeal hearing to an activity on the site, (NB not the full closure of the site), the Inspector stated:

“Because I have allowed the appeal to facilitate the final cessation of landfill operations in this location a time-limited permission is both necessary and reasonable. ……. The appellant confirmed at the Hearing that the end to landfill operations and restoration is anticipated by 2018-2020. The NPA sought an end date of 2016, but this appears unrealistic given the EA permit and current progress on the landfill operations. Accordingly, I have imposed a condition requiring the use of the land for stockpiling to cease by 31 December 2019 with restoration completed by 31 December 2020, because this provides for a balance between the environmental harm and the needs of the business.”

NFNPA Enforcement, who undertake regular site visits, have informed NFA in April 2015 that they do not have any different information other than the potential end date of 2020.

The information contained in this summary is believed to be accurate but no guarantee can be given.

— Graham Baker, Chair, Planning Committee

2015 Annual General Meeting: Saturday 18 April 2015

Attentive NFA members listen to Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre

Chaired by President, Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre, The 148 year old New Forest Association held its 2015 Annual General Meeting at Minstead Hall on Saturday 18 April.

Coffee was dished up by Sarah Ziegler and Val Thorpe, and members arrived from across the Forest, with the largest contingents coming from Ringwood, Lymington and Brockenhurst. Attendees included New Forest National Park Authority CEO Alison Barnes, who has shown consistent support for the work of the NFA.

There being no PA system available, the meeting was a rather intimate affair, with people having to speak up, and attendees having to cuddle a bit closer to listen. The business of the AGM was swiftly and deftly managed by the President, with accounts and minutes adopted and Council members elected. Recommendations for restructuring of NFA management to be better adapted to meeting the challenges of change and pressures currently facing the New Forest were also approved by a show of hands.

The report from the NFA Council to the Association membership highlighted some of the issues dealt with during the past year, including commercial fungi gathering, tranquillity, aircraft noise, undergrounding power cables and national planning policy changes for affordable housing and wider permitted development rights. And monitoring, supporting or opposing the never-ending flow of planning applications made for development throughout the New Forest.

Catherine Pascoe’s talk on
Autumn Ladies’ Tresses and
Field Gentian captures the audience

Directly following the AGM, fascinating talks were given by Reading University graduate, Catherine Pascoe on the distribution of the declining Autumn Ladies’ Tresses and Field Gentian Violets in an area heavily used by walkers, and by former Chairman, Peter Roberts, on NFA Campaigns of the past, with ideas for future action.

Central to Peter’s message was the need for education for both visitors and residents alike, as to the special and fragile qualities of the New Forest – something the NFA is working on delivering not just within the Forest, but nationwide. The Association’s Education Group is working with the National Park Authority on plans for a Secondary Schools New Forest Conference to be held in Brockenhurst later this year. Peter advocated collaboration as opposed to confrontation with other national and Forest organisations, suggesting that continual dialogue would achieve the best results.
During the open session following the talks, Alison Barnes advised that a close relationship with the other National Parks was important. Officers replied that the NFA had been closely involved with the work of the Council for National Parks since before the New Forest was designated and this would continue.

Member Barry Olorenshaw offered to help take the NFA message to local businesses to garner more support, and Acting Chairman John Ward said he had been impressed on a recent trip to the Yorkshire Dales with the close relationship between all those working for the good of that National Park. Council Member, Emma Blake, who has recently taken over administration of social media for the NFA asked all members to register support for the NFA Facebook page, and went on to say that she had introduced a new feature, entitled “We are Watching” to highlight current Forest issues and encourage members to start discussion on the page.

Alison Barnes, Chief Exec
    of the New Forest National Park
fields questions from
the NFA Membership

John Ward concluded the meeting by saying that the Forest did not face a single major issue such as Dibden Bay, but its qualities were being continuously eroded by a multitude of activities primarily stemming from recreation. The problem was complex and the solutions difficult – but solutions had to be found and bravely implemented.

Following the meeting a demonstration was given by member Max Hadley of a system of field survey using mobile phones. It was intended for use on NFA’s ongoing campaigns concerning low flying aircraft, overhead cables and surplus road signs.

Further enquiries John Ward: Tel: 01590 671205
Photos and Text — Emma Blake

Peter Roberts rebuts Anthony Pasmore’s Article Concerning Our Submission to the Independent Panel on Forestry

In the his 5th August 2011 “New Forest Notes” column in the Lymington Times, Anthony Pasmore took exception to the New Forest Association’s submission to the Independent Panel on Forestry. His interpretation patently ignores our defence of the New Forest Acts, our praise for the good side of the Forestry Commission, and insinuates a non-existent “bias in favour of replacing state control” (both a repurposed state control and suitably endowed charity options are discussed). He does seem to concur with, and illustrates our criticism of the bad commercial forestry driven management of the Forestry Commission. To read the full Article click here (the NFA are not responsible for content on other sites).

Our Chairman Peter Roberts has written a letter to the Lymington Times in rebuttal. The full text of which is included below:

9th August 2011

Dear Sir

It is good to see that Anthony Pasmore has taken up the challenge to open a debate on the New Forest Association’s views to the Forestry Panel (NF Notes 6th August). Whilst the headline of our Press Release captured the attention of the media it is the detail of what we are actually looking for that is important.

The aims of the Association are simple:- to protect, conserve and enhance the unique mix of flora, fauna and heritage that make up the New Forest, for present and future generations to enjoy. Clearly over a long history (we are more than fifty years older than the Forestry Commission) we have had many dealings with management policy. Our response to the Independent Panel on Forestry recognises the good work done by excellent staff of the Forestry Commission. Our aim is to obtain the best possible management for this unique area, we are far more interested in how the Forest is managed than who manages it.

Five years ago we published The New Forest Design Plan – Recovering Lost Landscapes to influence management thinking and correct some of the damage done by inappropriate planting. Inappropriate because softwood species are not native and can be grown more successfully elsewhere and inappropriate because of the loss of part of the largest lowland heathland in Europe – an internationally recognised and protected area. Few people now remember the damage done by conversion of many of the old inclosures from broad-leaved trees to conifer from the instigation of the Forestry Commission in 1924 until the outcry of 1970. Your columnist should remember, for he, alongside David Stagg and John Lavender, produced an excellent survey of the hardwoods at that time on behalf of the New Forest Association.

We have linked our response to the work of Sir John Lawton, whose committee produced a report Making Space for Nature last autumn. This fundamental rethink on how we can best use land for nature conservation (not for its own sake alone but because our own future is closely linked with wildlife) is an opportunity to seize.

As for Anthony’s concerns for the New Forest Acts none know their value better than the New Forest Association for our founding fathers’ decade of work led to the 1877 Act. We explicitly quote the New Forest Acts in our response stating that they and the Verderers activities should continue ‘regardless of who in future is responsible for managing the New Forest.’

Anthony’s comments on current ownership explain why we used the phrasing we did. Our submission talks of the Crown Estate of the New Forest to remind the Forestry Panel that it consists not just of the lands open to the public but also vital back-up grazing as well as considerable housing stock. The latter has provided a core of commoners housing for a considerable time to the benefit of the New Forest. We believe it is essential that all this should remain as a unit and not be sold off.

Our views to the Forestry Panel stated that the New Forest should be treated as a special case. We also believe in a balance between conservation, recreation and a working environment and that this view is shared by other bodies including the Commoners Defence Association and the National Park Authority. Removing national forestry policy from the Forestry Commission in the New Forest may provide the best possible way forward for management of this unique area. Whatever system of management is put in place it will need to take account of nature designations and public access as well as commoners usage for the benefit of the nation. It seems likely that this balance will only be achieved at a considerable cost to the public purse.

Our full submission may be found at newforestassociation.org



Yours sincerely

Peter Roberts

Chairman, New Forest Association

Note: the version published in the Lymington Times, may have been edited for space or content.

Join NFA in Summer Fun

Want to find out more about the New Forest? If so then you’re invited to some free events organised by conservation and campaign body the New Forest Association this summer and autumn. All are welcome, including non-members.

  • On Wednesday August 17 Ann Biffin will lead a walk and talk on Eric Ashby’s Bench and Sumner’s finds. This walk will take in the wooden memorial bench dedicated to New Forest film maker and conservationist Eric Ashby and will also cover some of the topography, history, traditions and scenery narrated in Heywood Sumner’s famous Guide to the New Forest, published by Charles Brown and son of Ringwood over 80 years ago. The guide, published in 1923, is considered by some to be the best guide to the woods of the New Forest.

Anyone wishing to take part should meet at Fritham car park at 6pm.

  • On Tuesday September 6 you can join NFA Chairman Peter Roberts and his colleague Phil Marshall, Countryside Manager for the National Trust, for a walk and talk on Pylons and Plantations. This event explores the impact of plantations and pylons in the north of the Forest and the management of Forest heathland.

Meet at Turf Hill car park at 6pm.

The NFA will also be attending several Forest events this year for anyone who wants to find out more about Forest issues or the work of the association. These include the Frogham Fair on August 27, the Romsey Show on September 10, and the New Forest Festival on September 25.

“We’ve been around for 144 years but we’re not a bunch of old fuddy duddies,” said Peter Roberts, who took over as Chairman in May.

“We are very keen to reach out to people of all ages and to tell them more about our work and about the New Forest’s important ecology, biodiversity and heritage. There are some fascinating stories to tell. We want to help generate people’s excitement about the Forest and their enthusiasm for the special environment around them.

“We attracted a lot of interest from local people at the New Forest Show and it was our best Show yet. We hope as many people as possible will join us on some of these events both to enjoy the New Forest and to find out more about it.”

Further details about all these events, including locations, duration and what to wear can be found on the NFA website at http://www.newforestassociation.org/events.html.

Presentment to The Verderers: NFA Response to the Independent Panel on Forestry

Presentment to The Court of Verderers.

Wednesday 20th July 2011
Peter Roberts. Chairman. New Forest Association.

The New Forest Association asks that the Verderers consider supporting the response of this Association when they respond to the Independent Panel on Forestry. Our submission is detailed so I will just highlight six points.

1 The New Forest Crown Estate should be kept intact because the back-up land and cottages are vital to commoning.

2 Remove intensive commercial forestry because the plantations sterilise bio-diversity. A return to broad leaved woodlands in some areas would reverse this. It would probably take 50-60 years to harvest existing plantations thereby allowing the timber extraction industry to adapt to the changes.

3 Replace Forestry Commission with landscape managers. It is difficult for the Commission to adhere to national policy whilst attempting to manage a unique area in an appropriate manner.

4 Retention of local expertise in any new body is vital because many Commission staff have great local knowledge.

5 The New Forest could be the basis of an Ecological Restoration Zone thereby fulfilling needs recognised in the Lawton report ‘Making Space for Nature’ and the recent Government White Paper.

6 Last but not least the retention of the New Forest Acts is of fundamental importance.

How the Forest is cared for matters more than who cares for it.

The full submission may be found on our website.

http://www.newforestassociation.org/NFA%20Response_to_the_Independent_Panel_on_Forestry.pdf.