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Byelaws Watch Survey – Preliminary Findings

Friends of the New Forest made a presentment to the Court of Verderers at their meeting on 21st February in order to provide some feedback on findings from this 2022 survey, which ran until the end of August 2022

Presentment to the Court of Verderers – 21st September 2022

The Verderers may be aware that the Friends of the New Forest recently undertook a ‘Byelaws Watch’ survey. This was separated into two elements. The first was a free-ranging survey, which ran between the 25th July until the 31st August 2022; and the second was a fixed-site survey at specific “honey-pot” locations across the Forest, conducted on the August Bank Holiday.

The results of both studies will be published shortly but, in the meantime, I wanted to share a snapshot of some of the breaches reported to us from the initial, free-ranging survey. These demonstrate not only the activities that threaten the special qualities of the New Forest but also reveal some harmful attitudes towards its landscape, commonable livestock, and wildlife.

Around 100 volunteers submitted records to us, and between them they recorded over 5,000 individual incidents that were either breaches of the byelaws or were other activities likely to be harmful to the Forest. The most frequently reported incidents were:

  • Ubiquitous dog waste and litter (with over 1,000 individual items recorded for each)
  • Widespread cycling off the cycle network (over 700 instances)
  • Prevalent petting or feeding of ponies and donkeys
  • Uncontrolled verge parking.

Of significant interest, are reports of technologically assisted activities that are now widespread and were either not envisaged when the current Forestry Commission Byelaws became a Statutory Instrument in 1982 or have increased considerably since then not withstanding their prohibition . These include the use of e-bikes, drones, metal detectors, and paragliders.  Indeed, the advance of bicycle headlamps in recent years, for instance, has meant that night-time cycling is now much easier than it was back in the 1980s, and consequently night-time cyclists were recorded during our Byelaw Breach Survey.

Other worrying observations were of the use of disposable BBQs and discovery of campfires, which occurred during a period of prolonged and severe drought. High profile media campaigns about the dangers of wildfires are either not cutting through or are simply being ignored. Although not as widespread as other bylaw breaches, every instance that involves a disposable BBQ or campfire on the open Forest represents a potential catastrophe of unimaginable proportions to the landscape, commonable livestock, and wildlife.

Our volunteer recorders also provided a worrying description of activities, behaviours, and attitudes, occurring across the Forest, which included instances of aggression, such as:

  • birds, deer, and livestock being chased by out-of-control dogs; and,
  • a pony being physically struck because it was stood in the road

It was also worrying to discover that some volunteers who attempted to engage with cyclists they met off the cycle network were, at best, simply ignored, while others experienced hostile responses such as,

  • ‘the forest is big enough for everyone’
  • ‘I’ve lived here all my life’
  • ‘I won’t get caught’

One unfortunate volunteer even reported to being verbally abused.

(Similar aggressive responses from the owners of dogs that were out-of-control were also recorded.)

Of course, the problem is that most people committing breaches in the byelaws do not accept that they are doing any harm; and because of this they accept no responsibility – particularly if they’ve always done it or seen other people do it.

If we want to change the attitudes of these people, we have to change their behaviours. The Friends of the New Forest would, therefore, encourage that the statutory bodies take further steps to educate the public on the importance of preserving this precious landscape and, importantly, to follow this up with rigorous enforcement of breaches in the byelaws.

While one of the off-track cyclists asserted that the “Forest is big enough for everyone”, we would argue that it is actually an important ecological habitat and heritage landscape under ever increasing pressure, and any steps to safeguard it, including enforcing the byelaws as part of the overall management strategy, are long over-due.

Dr Gale Pettifer – Vice Chair: Friends of the New Forest

 

 

 

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Campsites in the New Forest – Presentment

Over recent months, a national tender process has been underway to find a new operator for Forestry England campsites across England, including those here in the New Forest. For the New Forest campsites specifically, The New Forest Agricultural Show Society – through their trading company Camping in the New Forest Ltd – have been selected to move forward to the next stage and enter formal contract negotiations. Forestry England hope to be in a position to formally appoint them during October.

This information was included in the Official Verderer’s announcements at the meeting of the Verderers Court on 21st September; and Friends of the New Forest made the following Presentment during the meeting.

Presentment to the Court of Verderers – 21st September 2022

For some time our Association has been engaged in an ongoing correspondence with Forestry England head Office about various legal issues relating to the creation and management of Forestry England New Forest campsites; and the current process of re-tendering for their future management.

In addition and separate to these concerns, I am able to say that we fully support the views just expressed by Official Verderer in his announcement on this subject at the beginning of this meeting. (I might add that I should also say that I was pleased to hear what the Deputy Surveyor said about the future of New Forest campsites).

We hope that entering a new period of campsite management with a local organisation – The New Forest Agricultural Show Society – through their trading company Camping in the New Forest Ltd – will be an opportunity for a much needed a fresh start without any legacy legal problems from the present arrangements.

And that this will allow the creation of a new strategy for the location and management of Forestry England campsites, so that visitors may enjoy a rewarding New Forest holiday experience, while at the same time ensuring that the habitats and landscapes of the Forest and commoning are fully protected.

We look forward to participating with the New Forest Show Society and Forestry England to achieve this.

John Ward – Chairman: Friends of the New Forest

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Update On Byelaw Watch 2022

With just under one week to go of the August Free Range Byelaw Watch here is a quick update of the outcome up to 15th August 2022. We have received 180 responses by 65 or so volunteers reporting multiple breaches of the byelaws. Some of the themes emerging include:

Off road cycling on the Open Forest is widespread even with reports of cycling at night!
Verge parking is common in particular locations
Litter – some of a really worrying nature – and dog faeces are everywhere. 100 instances of dog waste were recorded by one observer within 300 metres of one car park.
Other notable instances include fishing and swimming, a burnt out car and evidence of campfires, and a pony being hit to move it off the road

Full results will be available when we have had time to look at and assess the data after the end of the Watch, but in the meantime do keep an eye out for Byelaw Breaches until the end of the watch on 31st August.

We have a simple online form to use with details of the Byelaws causing the most concern. The form can be accessed and completed online using your smart phone, tablet or computer using this link:
BYELAWS WATCH FORM

The Static Byelaw Watch is ready to go at popular locations around the Forest on Bank Holiday Monday thanks to our volunteers – no doubt they would welcome back up if you are free!
To volunteer to help with this please contact:
secretary.fonf@gmail.com

The raw data from these surveys will only be accessible to Council Members of the Friends of the New Forest and will be compliant with GDPR requirements, and only appropriately anonymised and aggregated data and photos will be provided to the New Forest authorities and released to the public.

Thank you in advance for taking part in the Byelaw Watch 2022. Your participation is vitally important to inform the future protection of the New Forest.

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Byelaws Watch Survey 2022

CALL FOR VOLUNTEERS

The New Forest is in theory protected by byelaws that aim to conserve the Forest, preserve its tranquillity, and regulate recreational use – the Forestry Commission, the National Trust and the Verderers all issue and can enforce byelaws. Yet with an increase in those visiting the Forest, it is clear that few know what they say and unfortunately, they are often overlooked or ignored.

In October 2021 the Friends of the New Forest conducted a pilot survey that recorded almost 3,000 breaches of the Byelaws – and we know that is an under-recording!

This pilot has already provided useful independent evidence to highlight the importance of byelaws and has attracted both local and national press attention, but more independent evidence is needed to raise awareness of the byelaws and support effective measures to protect the Forest against those activities causing most concern.

WE NEED YOUR HELP to repeat the Byelaw Watch this summer

Concentrating on the Forestry Commission byelaws, we need volunteers willing to record the byelaw breaches they observe in two ways.

You can participate by:

Free-Range Recording – when you are about and about in the Forest – perhaps walking, bird watching, or horse riding – record the breaches you observe.

We have a simple online form to use with details of the Byelaws causing the most concern. The form can be accessed and completed online using your smart phone, tablet or computer using this link:
BYELAWS WATCH FORM

The survey may be completed on any date between 26th July and 31st August 2022. You may submit as many forms as you wish.
If you find it easier, you can print out this short PAPER BYELAWS WATCH FORM form to record what you see and then either send this to us or submit the results using the online form when you get home. All you need to do is record what you have seen and submit it to us, we will do the rest.

AND/OR by:

Fixed Site Recording – sit for an hour or so at popular sites in the Forest over the Bank Holiday weekend and record the breaches you observe. The number of sites we survey will depend on the number of volunteers but will include places like Boltons Bench and Bolderwood.

This survey will run in increments of one hour between 9.00am and 5.00pm
To take part in this survey please email your name to: secretary.fonf@gmail.com
and we will send you more information

The raw data from these surveys will only be accessible to Council Members of the Friends of the New Forest and will be compliant with GDPR requirements, and only appropriately anonymised and aggregated data and photos will be provided to the New Forest authorities and released to the public.

Thank you in advance for taking part in the Byelaw Watch 2022. Your participation is vitally important to inform the future protection of the New Forest.

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Campsites on the Crown Lands : Our Statement to the New Forest National Park Authority

We highlight our concerns with Forestry England’s tender for their campsites on the protected habitat of the New Forest to the July 2022 meeting of the New Forest National Park Authority.  We also ask the National Park to reaffirm its commitment to working with their partners in Forestry England to deliver existing agreements and to insist that future alterations to the campsites be subject to planning under its control.

The New Forest is the only National Park in the United Kingdom with camping facilities built directly on the protected habitats their designations are meant to conserve.  Only one other Park in England allows camping on SSSI: Dartmoor’s very limited backpack camping (two nights and only small tents that may be carried to site on foot).

The campsites on the Crown Lands were established at a time when the then Forestry Commission were presumed to be exempt from planning (although it is unclear as to whether these exemptions are permitted under the New Forest Acts), when the New Forest SSSI had only recently been notified (1959 the same year that the FC and NCC signed a joint minute of intent recognising the importance of the New Forest as an area of National Nature Reserve Status), and did not yet have the stronger protections of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and subsequent SAC(2005), SPA (1993) and Ramsar (1993) designations.

These campsites would not be permitted if proposed today;  if the Verderers had consented to these campsites, it is unlikely that they would now allow them.

We welcome Forestry England’s (and Land Scotland) move to change management of their campsites as an opportunity to review the provision in the New Forest.  However, we have concerns about the tender which we have raised with FE. The Heads of Terms make no reference to the role of the Verderers or the rights of Commoners, nor do they set out obligations to deliver the statutory and policy commitments arising from designations.

Other inappropriate elements include :

  • ‘year-round’ camping
  • annual allowance for tree removal
  • on-site shops
  • pre-pitched “glamping” (both in conflict with agreements previously made with the Verderers);
  • no reference to the liabilities posed by free roaming semi-feral livestock.

Natural England’s SAC Management Plan for the New Forest 2001 prescribed the closure or relocation of Hollands Wood, Denny Wood, and Longbeech; part of a legally agreed SSSI management scheme.  In February 2010, this National Park adopted the Recreation Management Strategy 2010 – 2030 to which the Forestry Commission agreed as partners.  This included actions to audit campsite provision, and phased removal of the damaging sites [i]. Nevertheless, these sites are included in the current FE tender.

This National Park should encourage Forestry England to honour their agreements before engaging in new arrangements for the campsites.  You must also make the case to government and the nation that the protection of this designated National Park should not be reliant on revenue from an activity unquestionably damaging to its habitat.

When we had completed our 2010 Baseline Survey of the campsites [ii], we received verbal assurances that any future alterations would be subject to planning permission from this Authority.  We would like this Authority to reaffirm your own agreements and produce an unambiguous policy consistent with delivery of your first purpose and the Sandford Principle.

ENDNOTES and Attachments provided to the members of the National Park Authority.

Also please find attached 1) our letter to Forestry England of 22 June 2022, 2) our Presentment to the Verderers Court of 15 June 2022

Tender for the operator of New Forest campsites: Our Letter to Forestry England

Campsites on the Crown Lands: Presentment to Verderers Court June 2022

[i] New Forest National Park Recreation Management Strategy 2010 -2030, February 2010, pg.57

Priority actions for the next five years

6.4 Camping and caravanning

  • 6.4.1 Audit the provision of camping in the National Park and maintain the unique experience the New Forest offers; sustain the significant contribution it makes to the local economy whilst ensuring that campsite management does not adversely damage the Park’s special qualities.
  • 6.4.2 Work with partners to identify potential alternative sites to which the phased relocation of the more damaging campsites (e.g. Hollands Wood, Longbeech and Denny Wood) might be achieved whilst providing a similar quality of camping experience. It must be recognised the difficulties in finding alternative sites; many issues will have to be taken into consideration, including the local economy, transport links, access to facilities (e.g. villages, shops) and the camping experience.
  • 6.4.3 Work with campsite operators to reduce the environmental footprint and impact of camping and caravanning on sensitive areas to enhance landscape and visitor satisfaction by:
    • preventing the extension of existing and development of new camping and caravan sites.
    • restricting the spread of new supporting built facilities.
    • ensuring that any built facilities that are provided reflect their surroundings.
    • securing more sympathetic conservation management of existing camp sites.
    • monitoring the condition and operation of the sites on designated areas.
  • 6.4.4 Explore opportunities to develop campsites as substitutes to those displaced from the commonable lands as a valuable form of farm and business diversification in robust locations.
  • 6.4.5 Provide further guidance on the future management of campsites to reduce the dependency on car use, for example, by encouraging campers to leave their cars on site whilst visiting the National Park and continuing to promote alternatives to the private car for travel around the Forest.

[ii] New Forest Camp site Baseline Survey: Final Report, Jonathan Cox with Mosaic Mapping, July 2010. (https://newforestassociation.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Campsite_Survey.pdf)

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Tender for the operator of New Forest campsites: Our Letter to Forestry England

We were greatly heartened by the news that Forestry England and Forestry and Land Scotland had purchased Camping in the Forest (CiTF) from The Camping and Caravanning Club, because this seemed to present a great opportunity to review campsites in the New Forest with a fresh start in their management.

However, with the publication of tender documents for campsite management the Friends of the New Forest are now gravely concerned that the process of appointment of an operator of campsites on the Crown Land is failing to have proper regard to the particular circumstances of the Forest. We have made our concerns known to the Chief Executive of Forestry England and to the Deputy Surveyor in the New Forest in the letter reprinted below.

CHAIRMAN reply to:
22nd June 2022

Mike Seddon
Chief Executive
Forestry England
620 Bristol Business Park
Coldharbour Lane
Bristol
BS16 1EJ

John Ward

[ADDRESS SUPPLIED]
chair@friendsofthenewforest.org

 

Dear Mr Seddon

Tender for the operator of New Forest campsites

We were greatly heartened by the news that Forestry England and Forestry and Land Scotland had purchased Camping in the Forest (CiTF) from The Camping and Caravanning Club, because this seemed to present a great opportunity to review campsites in the New Forest with a fresh start in their management. Likewise, Craig Harrison, Deputy Surveyor, commented, “Taking greater control of these [campsites]will allow us to continue to offer this experience and support local businesses, whilst working more closely with our local partners to plan and develop their future”; and the New Forest National Park Authority expressed the view that, “A number of these sites are located in environmentally sensitive areas and longer term, we are keen to explore with Forestry England and partner organisations whether some of these pitches could be relocated to less sensitive areas.”

However, with the publication of tender documents for campsite management the Friends of the New Forest are now gravely concerned that the process of appointment of an operator of campsites on the Crown Land is failing to have proper regard of the particular circumstances of the Forest. We question whether the proposed terms of a lease are lawful, we are certain that the process is inappropriate. There is a risk that a future operator of campsites will compound existing harms to the Forest and will find themselves in conflict with those concerned with the conservation of the Forest. We therefore request that Forest Enterprise suspend the current process of appointment and take time to work with partners to review their strategy for camping in the Forest.

Our broad areas of concern are set out below.

We question whether Forestry England, on behalf of the Secretary of State, has the lawful authority to enter into a lease with campsite operators as set out in the draft Heads of Terms. Our understanding of the tenure of the Secretary of State in the New Forest is that it is insufficient to enter into such agreements.

We had expected to see any arrangement with campsite operators being fully compliant with the laws and legislation governing the New Forest, particularly incorporating the role of the Court of Verderers and the rights of Commoners. This absence infers that Forestry England do not properly appreciate those roles and rights.

We are alarmed at specific provisions in the Heads of Terms, notably those relating to provisions for ‘year-round’ camping (rather than the limited open season in the New Forest) and provisions for removing a percentage of trees each year from the campsite without any reference to aesthetic and nature conservation obligations. Furthermore, we regret that the Heads of Terms do not set out a campsite operator’s obligations to deliver the statutory and policy commitments of Forestry England arising from designations, nor advise prospective campsite operators that they will become an ‘occupier’ of the designated sites and therefore will be regulated by the relevant authorities.

Consequently, we are concerned that the documentation accompanying the Heads of Terms fails to clearly advise prospective campsite operators of obligations arising from the status of the New Forest as a National Park, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a Natura 2000 site (both a Special Area of Conservation and a Special Protection Area) and a site designated under the Ramsar Convention. In the past, Forestry England have recognised some of their obligations to these designations, not least in their signing the 2001 Special Area of Conservation (SAC) Management Plan together with the agreement of 1995 that the Crown Lands will be managed as if they were a National Nature Reserve.

Over twenty years have passed since the Forestry Commission recognised the need for closure of selected campsites due to the damage they have done to the internationally important habitats of the New Forest. Not only have those closures not happened but other remedial works agreed with Natural England have not been delivered, nor have the baseline surveys and monitoring of the condition of campsites been delivered. The Friends of the New Forest sought to assist the establishment of baseline surveys through our report of 2004, unfortunately Forestry England have not adopted this methodology on other sites, nor have they used our work as a baseline for monitoring. In the meantime, we have experienced a continual deterioration in the condition of campsites, with decades more attrition to their character.

Since the signing of the 2001 SAC Management Plan, the New Forest has been declared a National Park, with its own statutory obligations relating to the aesthetics and special qualities of the landscape. With National Park status comes the Sandford Principle, setting out the pre-eminence of the conservation of the Special Qualities of the National Park. We regret that this principle is not reflected in Forestry England’s appointment process.

Fifty years ago removing unfettered camping on the New Forest was a bold and essential move, although establishing some designated campsites on the open Forest perpetuated problems of conflict including with semi-feral roaming stock. And much has changed in half a century, not least a rising appreciation of environmental issues, the biodiversity crisis and our understanding of the harmful impacts arising from poor locational or management decisions for some aspects of recreation in a fragile landscape. Now could be an opportunity to review historical decisions in that context – it should not be lost. We remain committed to participating in planning a fresh start with camping and working with whoever becomes the operator in the New Forest.

Yours sincerely

 

John Ward

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Campsites on the Crown Lands: Presentment to Verderers Court June 2022

We agree with and support the Commoners Defence Association’s position on campsites in their presentment today. We strongly share concerns about the campsites’ impact on commoning, habitat, and the correct involvement of the Verderers as specified in the 1964 and 1949 New Forest Acts. We welcome the more direct role of Forestry England, and the imminent surrender of the problematic lease with Forest Holidays.

However, we have wider concerns that Forestry England are allowing continued damage to the Forest to mar their legal obligations under the Habitat Regulations and the Minister’s Mandate, and existing agreements with Natural England and the National Park.

Natural England’s SAC Management Plan for the New Forest 2001 prescribed the closure or relocation of three of the Crown Lands campsites. This is part of the agreed management scheme to address the Unfavourable Declining condition of those SSSI units, the Pasture Woodlands of Hollands Wood, Denny Wood, and Longbeech. Unfavourable Declining means “special features are not being conserved or are being lost, so without appropriate management the site will never reach a favourable or recovering condition”. The Plan required action by the Forestry Commission by 2003. Those Pasture Woodlands have seen a further two decades of decline. Our 2010 survey showed they retained less than 50% canopy than comparable woodland. During those 20 years Forestry blithely ignored the prescription for closure, the agency entered into a 75 year lease without consulting the Verderers, including those sites, and planned but thankfully dropped measures to further urbanize Hollands Wood with more infrastructure and a mobile shop.

It is also probable that over this time, growth of facilities off the Crown Lands may have already provided or exceeded provision necessary to replace capacity potentially lost from closing unfavourable sites.

While the establishment of campsites on the Crown Lands half a century ago was seen as an improvement on the previous free for all, they would likely not be permitted under modern regulation; nor would they be conceivable with our richer understanding of the importance of these habitats. Even now we are just beginning to appreciate other impacts including camping as a vector for invasive plant species. There is also more work to be done to evaluate the effects of noise and light pollution.

The SAC Management Plan narrowly considers only damaging factors within each SSSI unit, and so does not look at proximity. Forestry England’s policy closes Car Parks [i] (10 out of 130) in relation to Ground Nesting Bird sites from March to August. Forestry England already have the data in surveys they’ve commissioned, including data from Hampshire Ornithological Society, Wild New Forest and others, to be able to determine which further campsites should be closed for the protected SPA species Ground Nesting Birds by the exact same criteria.

Natural England should serve a management notice [ii], their legal recourse to enforce the actions in their agreement with the Forestry Commission. In February 2010, the National Park adopted the Recreation Management Strategy 2010 – 2030 to which the Forestry Commission agreed as partners. This included actions to audit campsite provision, and the phased removal of the more damaging sites (explicitly referencing the three SAC Plan campsites) [iii]. Forestry England should honour these agreements before engaging in new arrangements for the campsites.

The three campsites marked by Natural England for closure, Hollands Wood, Denny Wood and Longbeech, as well as any other campsites which would be shut if they were merely dawn to dusk Forestry England Car Parks should be phased out as quickly as possible. An impact assessment equal to that which would be required by the planning process should be performed on the remainder. Forestry England should commit to changing or removing campsites as indicated.

At May’s Court the Deputy Surveyor announced that the tender process for a new operator had already begun. This should not have been done without prior agreement with the Verderers, and other stakeholders. Damaging campsites should not have been included in this tender, or only offered on limited terms. The campsites to be shuttered should be excluded from any tender or lease offer, or limited to a maximum of two years, the deadline for closure originally offered by the SAC Management Plan. Those rest requiring further assessment should have a maximum of five initial years to allow their impact to be judged.

Forestry England are in the untenable position of relying on revenue from an activity which is unquestionably damaging to the habitat that they are legally bound to protect. The nation must invest in the protection of this precious national asset, not sell it cheaply while driving it into further disrepair. This is the case that, sadly, must be made to government by Forestry England, by their Partners in the National Park, the Verderers and by all of us.

ENDNOTES

[i] Car Park Closures – From FE Website https://www.forestryengland.uk/article/new-forest-car-park-closures

Burbush, Clayhill, Crockford, Crockford Clump, Hinchelsea, Hinchelsea Moor, Ocknell Pond, Ogdens, Shatterford and Yew Tree Heath are closed to protect critical breeding locations for ground nesting birds. Alternative car parks are located near to all these areas.

Protecting ground nesting bird breeding locations

From March until the end of August, special quiet zones will be established at critical breeding locations to help reduce the likelihood of ground nesting birds abandoning their nests and exposing chicks to predators. A small number of our car parks, listed above, near to these areas will be closed.

In the quiet zones, people are asked not to disturb the ground nesting birds by sticking to the main tracks and not to venture onto open, heathland areas where birds will be nesting. Those with dogs are asked to lend their support by keeping dogs with them on tracks and where necessary using leads to keep them under close control.

From FE Email Release 7 Jun 2022 at 12:04 —

Subject: Car Park update

To:

Good afternoon,

I am writing to update you on some positive news regarding this year’s ground nesting bird season. One of our Keepers who has been closely monitoring the bird’s progress has reported a significant number of hatched Lapwing and Curlew chicks in one of the Forest’s key nesting locations in Burley.

These birds are extremely rare and surviving the next few weeks is critical. The campaign to support the birds allows us to be flexible and respond to the pattern of breeding as it develops during the season. Given the success of the birds in this area we are looking at ways to help as many as possible chicks successfully fledge. One measure we will be taking is to temporarily close Burbush Car Park in Burley. This brings the total number of car park closures due to ground nesting birds to ten, out of a total of 130 car parks across the Forest.

The car park at Burbush will close from Wednesday 8 June. We will closely monitor the progress of the chicks over the coming weeks and advise on reopening accordingly. During this time, alternative parking is available at nearby Burley and Burley Cricket car parks as alternatives.

During the current breeding season we can all support ground nesting birds. We ask everyone spending time here to stick to the main tracks and keep dogs with them, using a lead if necessary, during this critical time. The efforts of the community and those spending time in the Forest this breeding season can help make an important contribution to the future survival of these birds in the UK. More information can be found at https://www.forestryengland.uk/ground-nesting-birds

[ii] Management Notices – may be issued by Natural England to land managers who do not carry out works agreed in their management scheme to resolve unfavourable SSSI conditions, and require the work to be carried out within two months. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/protected-areas-sites-of-special-scientific-interest

[iii] New Forest National Park Recreation Management Strategy 2010 -2030, February 2010, pg.57

Priority actions for the next five years

6.4 Camping and caravanning

  • 6.4.1 Audit the provision of camping in the National Park and maintain the unique experience the New Forest offers; sustain the significant contribution it makes to the local economy whilst ensuring that campsite management does not adversely damage the Park’s special qualities.
  • 6.4.2 Work with partners to identify potential alternative sites to which the phased relocation of the more damaging campsites (e.g. Hollands Wood, Longbeech and Denny Wood) might be achieved whilst providing a similar quality of camping experience. It must be recognised the difficulties in finding alternative sites; many issues will have to be taken into consideration, including the local economy, transport links, access to facilities (e.g. villages, shops) and the camping experience.
  • 6.4.3 Work with campsite operators to reduce the environmental footprint and impact of camping and caravanning on sensitive areas to enhance landscape and visitor satisfaction by:
    • preventing the extension of existing and development of new camping and caravan sites.
    • restricting the spread of new supporting built facilities.
    • ensuring that any built facilities that are provided reflect their surroundings.
    • securing more sympathetic conservation management of existing camp sites.
    • monitoring the condition and operation of the sites on designated areas.
  • 6.4.4 Explore opportunities to develop campsites as substitutes to those displaced from the commonable lands as a valuable form of farm and business diversification in robust locations.
  • 6.4.5 Provide further guidance on the future management of campsites to reduce the dependency on car use, for example, by encouraging campers to leave their cars on site whilst visiting the National Park and continuing to promote alternatives to the private car for travel around the Forest.
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Damaging and Illegal Activities Revealed in the New Forest

  • 1,100 reports of litter and dog mess
  • 550 reports of cyclists away from designated tracks
  • 500+ reports of cars parked on open forest verges away from car parks
  • 50 reports of livestock being chased and/or attacked by dogs
  • 150 reports of livestock being fed by the public
  • 140 reports of cars blocking access to the open forest
  • Multiple reports of drone flying, wild camping, open fires/BBQs, fly-tipping, and the picking of large quantities of fungi

A survey co-ordinated by Friends of the New Forest has highlighted a lack of understanding and enforcement of New Forest byelaws, and a prevalence of damaging and illegal activities that are harming the special qualities of the New Forest.

The ‘New Forest Byelaw Watch’ was launched by FoNF with the aim of raising awareness of Forest byelaws and generating independent data on byelaw breaches. During a six-week period in autumn 2021, over 2,700 breaches were recorded by FoNF members and volunteers within the National Park, with observers on average noting about 11 individual breaches per visit.

The detailed results indicate that litter and dog mess are ubiquitous across much of the forest, with a combined total of nearly 1,100 reports and highest abundance around popular car parks and along roadsides. There were also 550 reports of cyclists away from designated tracks, and over 500 reports of cars parked on verges away from designated car parks.

Of particular concern were 50 reports of livestock being chased and/or attacked by dogs, suggesting this illegal activity is far commoner than official reports would suggest. There were also 150 reports of livestock being fed by the public, and nearly 140 reports of cars blocking access to the open forest. Other infringements recorded on multiple occasions included drone flying, wild camping, open fires/BBQs, fly-tipping, and the picking of large quantities of fungi. About three-quarters of recorded breaches were on the Crown lands, which cover roughly half of the National Park and are managed by Forestry England. However, a Freedom of Information request to Forestry England by FoNF confirmed that there have been no formal investigations or prosecutions of byelaw breaches since at least 2015 (see here).

“We are grateful to everyone who contributed data to this initiative. The results are startling and show that current forest initiatives focussed on educational activities and volunteering alone are insufficient to protect the forest from harm, and that we urgently require updated byelaws that are appropriately promoted and enforced by the forest authorities.”

John Ward, Chairman

This latest survey follows a detailed report produced by the FoNF and provided to Forestry England last year that documents the various impacts of recreational activities on the special qualities of the New Forest, including internationally protected habitats and species.

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2021 New Forest Byelaw Watch

The 2022 Byelaw Watch is HERE

The New Forest is in theory protected by byelaws that aim to conserve the forest, preserve its tranquillity, and regulate recreational use. However, the increase in local recreational pressure associated with COVID-19 travel restrictions has highlighted issues around limited public awareness of the byelaws and a general lack of enforcement by the appropriate authorities; this is not a new problem, but it is generating increased concern amongst the local community.

Last year the Friends of the New Forest produced a  Report highlighting the various negative impacts caused by recreational activities on the Special Qualities of the New Forest and provided this to the relevant forest authorities to inform future management action. Unfortunately, although we recognise that most forest users do behave responsibly, the actions of a minority (who deliberately or unwittingly breach the relevant byelaws or guidance) are unfortunately continuing to contribute to some of the impacts outlined in our report.

It is also clear that the byelaws that cover the largest areas of the New Forest, specifically the Forestry Commission byelaws (established 1982) and the National Trust byelaws (established 1965) urgently require updating and/or clarifying to take account of the evolving nature of recreational activities; pertinent local examples include the increased use of drones, paramotors, e-bikes, and e-scooters in and around the New Forest in recent years.

The Friends of the New Forest have therefore launched New Forest Byelaw Watch to 1) help promote local New Forest byelaws, guidance, and the New Forest Code, and 2) generate independent data highlighting which recreational and/or commercial activities are of most concern. We are asking forest users to complete a simple recording form between 15 Sept and 31 Oct 2021 and will use the results to inform the relevant authorities of particular ‘hotspots’ of damaging activity, and areas where increased enforcement and/or clarification of existing byelaws may be required; we also welcome any photos showing evidence of negative impacts of recreational activities.

The recording form can be accessed and completed online or downloaded in pdf and doc format from the links below; Forms can be completed and returned digitally on a smartphone or tablet or printed for use in the field and photographed or scanned for return by email. Although we prefer digital submission, we can also accept postal contributions at the address below.
Online Survey Form
Download Survey Form (.pdf version)
Download Survey Form (.doc Version)
The raw data will only be accessible to Council Members of the Friends of the New Forest and will be compliant with GDPR requirements, and only appropriately anonymised and aggregated data and photos will be provided to the forest authorities and released to the public.

Thanks in advance for taking part in New Forest Byelaw Watch and helping to inform the future protection of the New Forest.

Sarah Nield (FoNF Secretary)
Green Oaks
Wilverley Road
Brockenhurst
SO42 7SP

A summary infographic of the New Forest Code is provided below,
and links to the full Forestry England and National Trust byelaws are below that:

Forestry England byelaws

National Trust byelaws

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Background: Close The Campsites That Harm Habitat

Northern end of Hollands Wood camp site, New Forest August 2005 / Jim Champion / CC BY-SA 2.0

This article includes the Background Notes from our July 2021 Presentment calling for a review of the campsite infrastructure on the protected habitats of the Crown Lands, the closure of three of the campsites which were given high priority in the 2001 SAC Management Plan.  These are only the campsites on land managed by Forestry England and run by Camping in the Forest.  We are also calling on the National Park and New Forest District Council for significant initiatives to improve standards for temporary campsites as a sustainable alternative.

We will be publishing further articles exploring this debate, as well as our own evaluation of available evidence in the context of the campsites.

 

i & ii Citing fundamental incompatibility within close proximity of veteran trees, Natural England’s SAC Management Plan for the New Forest 2001 gave “Unfavourable Declining” condition assessments to Hollands Wood, Denny Wood and Longbeech due to the presence and management of the campsites, calling for their removal or relocation as an immediate high priority.  Failure to carry out the works set out in the Management Plan to address the Declining condition should lead to Natural England issuing a Management Notice to the land manger which would make their non-compliance illegal.

[i] New Forest SAC Management Plan 2001, Part 3, pp 22-23

Issue 15. Recreation …

Most of the activities described in Part 1 occur in the pasture woodlands. It is however the location of car parks and camp sites within pasture woodland units which have created by far the biggest impact on their nature conservation interest. Impacts from the other major forms of recreation have not to date contributed to a decline in favourable condition of pasture woodland.

Car parks and camp sites: their impact on pasture woodland

There is a recognised and fundamental incompatibility in locating high concentrations of people, their equipment and vehicles within close proximity of veteran trees. Inevitably, health and safety considerations have resulted in extensive removal or vigorous tree surgery of ancient trees over time in these sites. In addition, the development of camp site and car park infrastructure and the physical trampling of ground vegetation has dramatically impoverished the ground vegetation, replacing it with artificial tracks, hard stands and species poor grassland. These impacts are progressive and striking. However there are other more subtle changes and impacts which contribute to affected units remaining in unfavourable declining condition:

  • reduction in lichen flora from tree removal, pollution, drying out and increased drainage;
  • removal of ground flora and increase in bare and compacted ground;
  • removal of dead standing and fallen wood;
  • long-term impact on regeneration and viability;
  • reduction in capacity to support range of organisms and traditional management;
  • progressive decline.

Location of car parks and camp sites in or adjacent to pasture woodland

As a matter of principle hard recreational facilities cannot be sustained in heavily treed areas of pasture woodland. A programme to consider each facility will be required, but in the meantime 34 car parks and 3 camp sites require immediate consideration for relocation or re-design in the short to medium term.

[ii] New Forest SAC Management Plan 2001, Part 3: General Prescriptions, pp 30-31)

  1. Recreational disturbance

Where units are in unfavourable condition through excessive levels of recreational disturbance then appropriate restoration measures will be carefully evaluated and implemented. Such measures are likely to include:

  • The closing and/or relocation of camp sites, followed by pasture woodland habitat restoration.
  • The closing, redesign or relocation of car parks, followed by pasture woodland habitat restoration.
  • The repair and restoration of eroded footpaths.

Priority sites for action during the 20 year span of this management plan are indicated on the tables below. It is appreciated that restorations involving major camp site closures and re-siting and car park re-structuring will generate highly complex issues, requiring considerable research, evaluation and resources, (both financial and in terms of provision of alternative locations where intensive forms of recreation are sustainable). Such proposals will require extensive consultation, and formal compliance with local authority procedures and the Habitats Regulations and will be the subject of individual detailed plans beyond the scope of this Management Plan.

The following table lists the locations of camp sites in or adjacent to pasture woodlands. A summary of their impact and their contribution to unit condition is given together with a prioritised recommendation for action.

Camp Site Location Impact Condition Assessment Recommendation Priority
Denny Wood In pasture woodland Severe reduction in old trees/ dead wood/ lichens & ground flora Unfavourable declining Relocate camp site / Restore pasture woodland High
Hollands Wood In pasture woodland Severe reduction in old trees/ dead wood/ lichens & ground flora Unfavourable declining Relocate camp site / Restore pasture woodland High
Longbeech In pasture woodland Severe reduction in old trees/ dead wood/ lichens & ground flora Unfavourable declining Relocate camp site / Restore pasture woodland High
Ashurst In pasture woodland Severe reduction in old trees/ dead wood/ lichens & ground flora Unfavourable maintained Redesign infrastructure to maintain existing features & prevent further degradation. Low

 

iii “Our recent consideration of evidence on recreation impact” refers to our 2020 report.  Our concerns were that, to date, the increase of recreational use arising from nearby urban growth has been assessed as a broad overview, rather than taking into account the impact on the Forest’s individual Special Qualities – these include ground-nesting birds and fragile wetland, heathland and ancient woodland habitats. While there is sufficient information available to the authorities to identify the key issues arising from recreational use, there are significant gaps that need to be filled for future recreational strategies, plans and projects to be effective. The report recommended that a long-term monitoring process be adopted to ensure that recreational policies are evidence-based and flexible to future change.

[iii] Chatters, C & Wynn R (2020) A contribution to understanding the relationship of the recreational use of the New Forest with its Special Qualities. New Forest Association.

iv Around 20% of the campsites in the National Park are on land covered by the primary conservation designations (i.e. SAC, SPA, SSSI, Ramsar)

[iv] Ewald, Naomi and Stride, Gemma, Freshwater Habitats Trust, A Look Beyond The Pitch – What This Means For The New Forest’s Freshwater Landscape pp 9-11 New Forest Waternews – New Forest Catchment Partnership Newsletter July 2020: Issue 10 Clean Water Camping

v Our 2010 Campsite Survey showed the campsites in pasture woodlands, (those identified for closure in the 2001 SAC Plan), have less than half the canopy they ought.

[v] Cox, Jonathan: July 2010 New Forest Camp site Baseline Survey: Final Report, New Forest Association
(Campsite_Survey.pdf)

vi Unwelcome, invasive plant species have been recorded at campsites throughout the UK and the New Forest in particular.  Perhaps it worth adding that the hazards to feet from the sharp spine on the fruit of the Cotula Sessilis may also be a problem for livestock including softer footed pigs and cloven footed cattle.

[vi] Rand, Martin (2020) Cotula sessilis (Jo-jo-weed) and other Buttonweeds in Hampshire, Flora News – Newsletter of the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust’s Flora Group No. 59 Autumn 2020 Published September 2020, pp 27-28.

The most intriguing (and worrying) arrival is Cotula sessilis (Jo-jo-weed or Carpet Burweed formerly Soliva pterosperma), which originates from South America and has now gone global…. Along with its invasiveness, it has a feature that makes it particularly unwelcome: the very sharp spine produced on each ripe achene. As it grows in short amenity grasslands and other places where people like to walk, it is a painful menace to pets and barefoot walkers and will even puncture the soles of flimsy footwear.

…The first record for South Hampshire was made in 1997 in Bournemouth by Felicity Woodhead. Significantly, as we shall see, it was found in a caravan park. … in 2017 it was followed by records on 9 sites in the Isle of Wight during an investigation by Paul Stanley. Every one of these was a holiday camping or caravanning site, and in several it was present in quantity. In the same year Paul extended his search to two campsites in the New Forest (Ashurst and Hollands Wood) which take caravans, finding it in both. It persists there until the present.

Given the clear pointers to the means of its spread, Hampshire’s popularity as a touring destination and our proximity to cross-Channel ports, it seems unlikely that it will not be found in more touring sites and perhaps elsewhere.

In 2017 Keith Turner made the first Hampshire record of another species, Cotula australis (Annual Buttonweed) on a camp site in Eastney, Portsea Island. …. Fortunately, this species does not have the spines of C. sessilis. In 2018 John Norton and Debbie Allan found it on another New Forest touring camp site (Denny Wood). This obviously suggests that it is arriving by the same means. …, its presence in the New Forest is of some concern too. …

vii The National Park’s new 2021 Partnership Plan draft lacks any meaningful initiatives to address the impacts of campsites.
Camping is only mentioned twice.
1. Campsites, only as an example of a recreation facility under Our Proposed Vision:

[vii] New Forest National Park Partnership Plan 2021 – 2026 – Issues, Vision and Objectives – Draft Consultation Document, June 2021
Our proposed Vision for the New Forest National Park (page 4)

The Vision for the New Forest is to be a national beacon for a sustainable future, where nature and people flourish. In 2050, the National Park is a unique and immediately recognisable place where:

  • facilities such as car parks, campsites, walking and cycling routes and community green spaces are in the right places to both protect rare wildlife and to provide a better, more informed experience for people

2. As the subject of unspecified “longer term actions”, possibly referring to the May 2019 RMS Actions (which only itself mentions campsites as another recreation facility AND as a possible access grant opportunity for private landowners (Action 5.3, pg 12 of the RMS))

Managing recreational pressures (page 10)

…Over the lifetime of this Plan, there is likely to be an increased demand for ‘staycation’ holidays and further recreational demands placed on the National Park as opportunities for travel further afield remain limited due to the pandemic. A joint ‘care for the Forest, care for each other’ action plan has been put in place for 2021 but we recognise that we need to deliver the longer-term actions that have already been agreed to better manage these increasing recreational pressures, including camping. Partnerships need to be developed to identify and create new green spaces for recreation away from the protected habitats of the New Forest.

There are no detailed plan actions addressing campsite issues, although it is possible to infer that it is lumped under the vague language around spatial strategy (Action 1.5.1.). For comparison, car parks are given a specific action (Action 1.5.2.) which partially echoes what we’d want to see for campsites, namely a plan to change the location and capacity on the Open Forest:

Agenda for Action (pages 16,17)

We will work together, and at scale, to maintain, reconnect and enhance nature. We commit to developing a nature recovery programme for the National Park that: ….

1.5. Mitigates recreational pressures by:

1.5.1. Developing a spatial plan for where recreation should be encouraged across the New Forest and surrounding areas

1.5.2. Agreeing a strategy to facilitate changes to the location and capacity of car parking on the Open Forest and adjacent commons

1.5.3. Developing a strategic approach to mitigate the potential impacts associated with increasing recreational pressures arising from planned new housing and visitor accommodation development on the internationally designated habitats

1.5.4. Increasing the level of funding available for recreation management so that it is sufficient to address both existing and future needs

1.5.5. Using appropriate and proportionate enforcement strategies to deter illegal use of the Forest

viii Previous Plan Campsite Aspirations:
The original Recreation Management Strategy of the New Forest National Park Authority included closing Hollands Wood, Denny Wood and Longbeech campsites as well as initiatives to audit campsite provision, and reduce environmental impact.  We supported the 2010 Strategy, and have found that many aspirations then noted as 5 year priorities have not even been begun, and subsequent updates to strategy have increasingly watered down essential goals.

[viii] New Forest National Park Recreation Management Strategy 2010-2030 6.4.1-6.4.5 page 57

Priority actions for the next five years

6.4.1 Audit the provision of camping in the National Park and maintain the unique experience the New Forest offers; sustain the significant contribution it makes to the local economy whilst ensuring that campsite management does not adversely damage the Park’s special qualities.

6.4.2 Work with partners to identify potential alternative sites to which the phased relocation of the more damaging campsites (e.g. Hollands Wood, Longbeech and Denny Wood) might be achieved whilst providing a similar quality of camping experience. It must be recognised the difficulties in finding alternative sites; many issues will have to be taken into consideration, including the local economy, transport links, access to facilities (e.g. villages, shops) and the camping experience.

6.4.3 Work with campsite operators to reduce the environmental footprint and impact of camping and caravanning on sensitive areas to enhance landscape and visitor satisfaction by: .. preventing the extension of existing and development of new camping and caravan sites .. restricting the spread of new supporting built facilities .. ensuring that any built facilities that are provided reflect their surroundings .. securing more sympathetic conservation management of existing camp sites .. monitoring the condition and operation of the sites on designated areas.

6.4.4 Explore opportunities to develop campsites as substitutes to those displaced from the commonable lands as a valuable form of farm and business diversification in robust locations.

6.4.5 Provide further guidance on the future management of campsites to reduce the dependency on car use, for example, by encouraging campers to leave their cars on site whilst visiting the National Park and continuing to promote alternatives to the private car for travel around the Forest.

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