The trustees, members and supporters of the Friends of the New Forest (New Forest Association) are celebrating the purchase of a nature reserve, near Nomansland in Wiltshire, which is being hailed as a significant opportunity to create a nature rich bridge between two already internationally important areas.
Franchises Lodge, is a 386 hectare (almost 1,000 acres) woodland of deciduous and conifer trees. National wildlife charity RSPB, which has been the lead organisation for the project, describes it as a “secret forest” that – because it has largely been inaccessible to the public for many years – is home to a wide range of birds, invertebrates and plant life. The acquisition has been facilitated through a gift in respect of a settlement between the previous owners and HMRC, a generous legacy, and support from the New Forest National Park Authority and the Friends of the New Forest.
Mike Clarke, the RSPB’s Chief Executive said: “This is one of the most significant purchases in our 129 year history. It is also our first nature reserve in the New Forest. We are delighted to take on the land from its previous owners who we know are passionate about the site, its woodlands and wildlife and we hope to build on their work over the years, safeguarding it for future generations.”
In its vision for the near 1000-acre site the RSPB will be focusing on maintaining the existing broadleaf woodland, enhancing areas of wood pasture and recreating open heath.
To date, the site has been under the careful stewardship of the previous owners. Initial surveys confirm the site has a good woodland bird community, including wood warbler, hawfinch, spotted flycatcher, firecrest and redstart. These woods are also known to be fascinating botanically, with an internationally important lichen community. It’s also good for a range of invertebrates, from beetles to butterflies.
John Ward, Chairman of the Friends of the New Forest said:
“I am delighted to see the successful outcome to a process which we helped inaugurate.
The Friends of the New Forest were a primary influence in initiating and motivating the project. Some of our Council members were able to provide expertise and guidance to the partnership group that was set up under the leadership of the RSPB. The team at the RSPB has put in a tremendous amount of work over the past five years. We are inordinately grateful to them for managing the project and achieving the significant result we are celebrating today.
The Friends of the New Forest could immediately see the benefit from an extended ‘New Forest’ on several grounds, including heathland habitat restoration, potential to reduce pressure on existing lands, and an opportunity for links with other areas through wildlife corridors and were able to contribute £25,000 towards the purchase of the site.
I would like to thank our members and pay tribute to those who have given donations and gifts in their wills that have enabled us to support this worthy project. We feel this justifies their faith in our work of protecting and restoring the unique character of the New Forest. This is a great day for the New Forest and I am exceedingly proud of what has been achieved by collaborative working.”
The RSPB is now working with partners on an ambitious 25 year vision for Franchises Lodge. To realise the site’s full potential for people and wildlife the RSPB will be launching a major public appeal in May.
Although there are public rights of way through the site, there is no car parking or facilities on the reserve and these are limited nearby. The RSPB is therefore not encouraging visitors at this time.