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Proposed tree felling at Slap Bottom Burley

Statement Issued 20th December 2019

The Association’s attention has been drawn to concerns raised about proposed tree felling within the New Forest at Slap Bottom, Burley. We note comments made by objectors, the intervention of local MP, Sir Desmond Swayne and recent press reports. Some objectors have sought our support.

As Forestry England know well, we are the first to object to any of their proposals for forest operations that we consider not to be in the best interests of the long-term protection of the New Forest. In making these judgements we take the best scientific advice available regarding the implications, overall effects and likely long-term consequences for the New Forest.

In this case we have visited the site and reviewed the proposal together with the necessary consents obtained by Forestry England. These include the Felling License application with associated maps, the habitat restoration purpose of the works, proper consideration under any appropriate assessment requirements of Regulation 63 of the Habitats Regulations, and the views of Natural England that the whole proposal, as submitted, is directly connected to or necessary for the management of this European Site for the interest features for which The New Forest Special Area of Conservation, New Forest Special Protection Area, New Forest RAMSAR Site has been designated. 

In conclusion this proposal is one that is fully supported by the Friends of the New Forest as a well-considered and moderate proposal to restore habitats without harmful landscape impacts.

In a relatively small area an invasive exotic tree, Scots Pine, is being removed from valuable open wetland habitat, which is being damaged by their shade. However, retention of evergreens, both Scots Pine and Holly, is proposed for the neighbouring properties. This is not a large-scale felling but a necessary one to restore degraded habitat, which is internationally threatened and in itself makes a valuable contribution to carbon fixing. The scheme is already a compromise and has been modified to retain a landscape screen for the neighbours.

One of the stated reasons for objection that has been widely circulated by objectors concerns the loss of trees at a time of Climate Crisis, when trees should be planted not felled. The general view that trees are an important part of carbon capture is to be lauded, but in this case it is simplistic and misguided, based on not understanding the interaction of different types and ages of trees and other habitats to maximise opportunities for carbon fixing.

So far as the Climate Change Crisis is concerned, science tells us that removing trees from organic-rich soils will enhance the capacity of that landscape to absorb carbon. If that tree removal is accompanied by wetland restoration then that capacity is further enhanced. More carbon is held in organic-rich soils than in standing trees. In addition, the world (and the New Forest) is facing a Biodiversity Crisis with species extinction, and the Forest’s bogs and heaths have an international importance for wildlife that depends on them being kept free from invasive species such as Scots Pine.

The proposed works will both improve the habitat and prevent the drying out of wetland, so increasing the retention of stored carbon with an overall gain in terms of carbon capture. Registered Charity No: 260328           Hon Secretary: Tara Dempsey Chair: John Ward

Rewilding The New Forest?

Sir Charles Burrell, Diana Westerhoff, Debbie Tann and Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre

The growl of a large grizzly bear filled the hall at Lyndhurst Community Centre and the audience of two hundred people gasped. As curtains drew back and they were confronted with a huge picture of the bear, they listened attentively to Sir Charles Burrell’s description of his pioneering rewilding project at his family estate, Knepp, in West Sussex. At the event organised by the Friends of the New Forest, Sir Charles explained that rewilding is not currently about bringing back such major predators as we don’t have the right eco-systems. He showed how Britain has only tiny pockets of true ‘nature’, and we need to care for these but also need more, bigger, better and more joined-up areas if we are to have a real impact on nature conservation.

Sir Charles went on to describe how over a period of six years, the Knepp estate moved away from traditional arable and pastoral farming on what he said was very poor quality Wealden Clay land, whose production capacity was falling short of national averages. He divided the estate into three main areas, which were treated differently. In the southern block, formerly mainly arable land, field hedges were removed, and the land was stocked with Tamworth pigs, Old English Longhorn cattle and Exmoor ponies, while three species of deer soon made themselves at home.  Scrub developed quickly, though each former field responded differently.

The middle block where the old Knepp Castle had been was believed to be a cultural landscape, a park with a large hammer pond designed by Repton. It was re-seeded with grass and wildflowers, which deterred an exuberant explosion of scrub. The resulting grassland is stocked with ponies, cattle and deer but no pigs.

The northern block had been farmed for dairy cattle, and was re-seeded with grasses but no wildflowers, and is now stocked just with cattle. The resulting open farmscape is slowly developing a little scrub. Sir Charles explained how he had been criticised for creating scrubland, and pointed out that pollen data from 6,000 years ago reveals that only one third of Britain was covered by woodland, contrary to the popular myth that a squirrel could once pass from tree to tree without touching the ground from Lands End to John O’Groats.

The Knepp project is steered by an advisory board of international experts from many relevant fields,. In order to have a more convenient term for a ‘long-term, minimum intervention, natural process-led area’, which although accurate would hardly inspire anyone,  ‘rewilding’ was adopted. This team looked at the UK’s extinct animals and selected proxies which would be appropriate, for example, cattle to replace aurochs. Sir Charles enthusiastically described how the animals seem to complement each other, and the new habitats have drawn in huge numbers and varieties of insects, birds and animals as well as plants, many more than when the estate was farmed traditionally. The estate employs a full-time ecologist to survey, monitor and record these. They have also found that their soil biodiversity and function have improved significantly.

Perhaps surprisingly Sir Charles then demonstrated how the changes have also benefitted the estate financially. Even excluding the tourism, camping and glamping activities which he has developed, the income from the farming side of the estate now well exceeds the national average by some 30%.

Sir Charles was then joined on the platform by Debbie Tann, Chief Executive of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, and Diana Westerhoff, a Verderer, to answer questions from the floor. Debbie Tann said that she has visited Knepp and been most impressed by what the estate is doing. She said that wildlife in Britain is disappearing at an alarming rate and we need imagination and new bold thinking to put nature into recovery. She reported that the Trust is looking for opportunities in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight to create larger scale reserves and one or two ‘Knepps’.

Diana Westerhoff commented that while the New Forest is very different to Knepp, there have been some efforts at rewilding. The Forest Design Plan is resulting in restoration to traditional land use in some areas, while the wetland restoration programme is returning lost habitats to a favourable condition.

Oliver Crosthwaite Eyre, President of the Friends of the New Forest, noted that one of the six reasons for rewilding listed on the Knepp website was the revitalisation of communities, and wondered how this could be achieved where farms are smaller. To this question, Sir Charles responded with news of an upland farmer he had met at the Oxford farming conference. By changing his pattern of sheep farming including actually reducing stock numbers, and diversifying into holiday lets, he had managed to make his business much more sustainable.

In reply to a question about the impact of global warming on wildlife habitats, Debbie Tann agreed that there is some impact on habitats but possibly more on the food needed by wildlife. She gave the examples of a crash in insect numbers and changes in timing of bird migration having severe effects. Diana Westerhoff added an example of the falcon species, the hobby, declining in the Forest because of a decline in the numbers of house martins, a favoured food of their young. And Sir Charles gave his own example of cuckoos, which have returned to Knepp in good numbers. However they feed with swifts in sub-Saharan Africa, and if it doesn’t rain there for five weeks and there are no insects, they never arrive in Britain.

Another audience member proposed that people are increasingly intolerant of wild landscapes and incapable of being sensible round large herbivores, and wondered if rewilding as a concept would help. Maybe because visitors to Knepp understand they are visiting a ‘rewilded’ landscape, they are more respectful of the large grazing herbivores than visitors to the New Forest are with the free-roaming livestock. Sir Charles recalled a neighbouring farmer who runs educational visits finding that even young farmers could not name common trees, and he suggested that we need more nature education as part of the curriculum. Debbie Tann suggested that we need to rewild people and regretted that many children have never known the fun of running around in long grass.

Questioned about the complexities of environmental stewardship schemes, Sir Charles noted that the Rural Payments Agency uses Google satellite images to categorise landscape, resulting in confused and contradictory definitions which need to be sorted out soon. Diana Westerhoff reported that the Higher Level Stewardship scheme includes more or less all grazed land but the Rural Payments Agency excludes gorse as non-grazing land even though ponies happily eat it in winter.

Comparing the New Forest to Knepp, the next questioner noted that while Knepp has withdrawn from management, in the New Forest we manage both land and stock much more. Diana Westerhoff pointed out that the Forest starts from a very different position, resulting from biodiversity developed over thousands of years. It would be good to have other Knepps around the Forest but we could lose from emulating it in the Forest itself. Debbie Tann added that only 55% of Sites of Special Scientific Interest in the Forest are classified as in a ‘favourable’ condition, little better than  compared with 45% across the whole of Hampshire, and some extra wilding activity might be helpful to improve this. Sir Charles picked up the point of rewilding people and felt that this arises from inspirational things in the landscape – think beyond the box. What about bison?

Focusing on the Forest, it was suggested that the grazed areas of the forest do not enjoy the abundance of wildlife described at Knepp and the questioner asked what impact animal density has on this. Sir Charles felt that it was not necessary to worry about it. This is just a moment in time, and livestock numbers wax and wane over long periods. Diana Westerhoff endorsed this and added that even short-grazed turf may be home to species missing from other habitats. The woodlands are rich in insects like moths and in bats but we just don’t often see them.

Sir Charles was asked to explain the term ‘pop-up Knepps’ mentioned in his talk. He pointed out that farms and estates pass down the generations and landowners may not wish to tie the land forever to specific conservation designations like SSSIs. So a commitment to plan for 10 or 20 years would enable people to choose to return to conventional farming in the future. The Knepp estate has footpaths crossing it and Sir Charles was asked how he manages the public. He stated that longhorn cattle were useful in deterring people from straying from paths, but that dog-walkers were a problem for ground-nesting birds.  He suggested that good paths, routes, maps and signs were all needed.

Thinking again of the Forest, two questions raised the effect of grazing levels on the possible decline in wildlife and growth of new trees, issues welcomed by the audience with applause. Diana Westerhoff noted that studies on the impact of grazing on ground-nesting birds showed that it was hard to separate it from other factors like deer numbers, dog-walking, predators and climate change. But she commented that it was hard to control over-grazing. Tree regeneration is a long-term business and the Forest includes pasture woodland rather than dense canopy woodland.

At this point John Ward, Chairman of the Friends of the New Forest, said that he did not feel comfortable at being told we don’t have enough information so cannot take action, and asked the panel whether, nonetheless, it might be possible to divide the Forest into areas and exclude recreational access to part of it in order to test rewilding. Sir Charles responded positively, saying that the Forest is large enough to do this. Joking, he even suggested bringing back wolves to control the deer! But he felt that it was possible to amend stock intensity and deer density. He also pointed out the value of thorn bushes which protect young trees, quoting an ancient forestry saying: ‘the thorn is the mother of the oak’. An audience member added that a 400-year old oak only needs one seedling produced during its lifetime to replace itself.

The next question raised the issue of recreational pressure. Debbie Tann agreed that for the New Forest this is the greatest current problem. The words ‘National Park’ mislead the public, and some rewilding might make the nature and purpose of the Forest clearer. We need to be braver, for example in challenging plans for housing development, and local authorities should be providing alternative green space for recreation outside the Forest.

Finally Peter Roberts, previous Chairman of the Friends of the New Forest, enquired what would be the smallest area which could engage in rewilding, with the large estates around the Forest and the Forestry Commission in mind. Sir Charles gave examples of the area which a pig needs per week, because scale matters. The smaller the area, the more management you have to do. The bigger you get, the more you can sit back and leave it alone.

At the end of a stimulating and wide-ranging discussion, Oliver Crosthwaite Eyre thanked Sir Charles for his talk and admired his courage in rewilding Knepp, also thanking Debbie Tann and Diana Westerhoff for their contribution and finally urging the audience to join the Friends of the New Forest to support its fight for the Forest’s sustainable future.


NFA Habitat and Landscape 2017-18

RSPB Franchises Lodge - credit Terry Bagley

Habitat and Landscape Chair, Brian Tarnoff reviews with uncharacteristic brevity the past year on the Forest Design Plan, Recreation Management Strategy and the England Coast Path.  Part of our series of Annual Reports relevant to our AGM on Saturday 21st April 2018.  Updates since original publication, reflecting these ever changing issues, are provided below each section.

Once again I am full of gratitude and amazement at the generous contributions of our committee members this year. This included countless hours volunteered to pour over one of the most vital consultations we’ve seen in some time, and days spent trudging the Forest in all weathers on site visits for works proposed by the Forestry Commission on the open Forest.

The Forest Design Plan

Consultation continued this year. Our ecologists took part in round table discussions on this year’s draft, a palpable improvement over the March 2016 version. The detail, which had concerned us previously, now was much more in line with the commitment from the 1999 Minister’s Mandate (strongly supported by subsequent policy) to restore pasture woodlands, heathlands, valley mires and Ancient and Semi-Natural native woodland, and favour broadleaves over conifer. In these meetings, Forestry Commission staff expressed sound underlying principles that would serve this plan, both in its current form, and going forward, to manage towards these goals.

Our main quibble is that the documentation of the plan does not adequately express those principles. This may seem a small thing, given how close the detail plan is to delivering many of our Association’s goals, but without them in place the plan may not be able to show its logic adequately to stand on its own against Habitats Regulations Assessment, or possible changes in future management of the Forest which could veer away from the promise this plan holds.

After the public consultation on the plan, the Forest Services review determined that consent under EIA regulations is required for the deforestation proposals (some areas being returned to open Forest habitats). Forest Enterprise has been tasked with producing an Environmental Statement for consideration, and we are amongst the stakeholders invited to a scoping exercise in January 2018. DEFRA have agreed to roll forward some elements of the FC’s expired felling license, which was dependent on the now unknown date for approval of the plan by the Inspectorate for renewal.

The Forestry Commission have opened up the next stage of consultation which runs for eight weeks from 11 Apr 2016 to 6 Jun 2016. This will produce the version of the plan which will be submitted for the inspectorate, and final consultation later this year. The NFA will argue that the planned eight weeks may not be sufficient for less nimble organizations (those that meet less frequently, such as Parish Councils, or those larger whose relevant knowledge is spread across expert and consequentially busy staff); we would prefer ten to twelve weeks. When the timeframe was sprung upon the great breadth of Forest organizations in attendance at a special launch day on March 22nd, the FC suggested that they may be “flexible” about the length of the consultation. We will be making our case later this month.

Wetland Restoration Strategy

In a similar spirit of openness the Forestry Commission proposed a Wetland Restoration Strategy at a well-attended December workshop including representatives across the spectrum of the debate. In addition to more constructive engagement with all stakeholders, we hope this will lead to a monitoring program that is apt, affordable and will adequately support future efforts.

The FC have just updated us (12/04/2018) with a view of present and future monitoring plans. We believe these will be robust and adequately adapt and augment standard river monitoring techniques to the unique challenges of the New Forest’s streams and wetlands.  We hope sufficient funding will be allowed to cover a range of catchments including both restored and untouched.

England Coast Path

Understandably our section of Coast, with a nearly uninterrupted series of very protected habitats (some garnering between four and five layers of designation, nationally and internationally), has been a very thorny problem for Natural England, who have nudged the consultation forward throughout the year. Once mooted for March 2017, now February 2018 (the original target date for implementation was March 2018).

Although a habitat adjacent inland route may be viable, the coastal margin created by the default spreading room designated in the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 would potentially create up to 3,500 acres of new access land on these easily disturbed habitats, where it would cause irreparable damage. We hope that Natural England will exclude these, but even if they do, the Ordnance Survey will not show those exclusions. Our main role currently seems to be to remind one and all of the immense importance of our Coast with greater fragility and importance than the precious habitats of the Crown Lands that typically draw our focus.

The eight week consultation on the Highcliffe-Calshot stretch finally began on 14th March 2018 and is due to run until 9th of May 2018. The route itself (barring some quibbles) is reasonable, however the exclusions for spreading room are either incomplete or lacking classification for habitat protection.  The consultation documents themselves are of greater scale and complexity (the sensitive features appraisal alone, at 215 pages is three times larger than the equivalent document for any of the other published stretches), and yet we’re expected to comment on them within the standard 8 week consultation window.  The Sensitive Features Appraisal is rife with error and stops short of a full Habitats Regulation Assessment (relying on flimsy mitigation measures which have failed elsewhere).  We could go on (and we will elsewhere….), but in short, the needs of our habitat point up severe flaws in the legislation, specification and consultation processes.

Recreation Management Strategy

The welcome review of the NPA’s Recreation Management Strategy has been mentioned above in this annual report. Unfortunately the public survey reiterated paragraphs from the current strategy alongside each potential subject heading, leaving some confused as to whether to respond to these remarks or implicitly approve them? For our response we asked that the next RMS should feature priority projects with clear objectives and timeframes. We proposed a comprehensive review of recreation infrastructure within the park, including surveys of habitats, campsites and parking, with actions leading to a provision that is ‘Fit for Purpose’. We proposed initiatives to raise the profile of the National Park so the decision makers of adjacent Authorities and communities become more aware of their impacts on the Forest and ‘Section 62 Duties’, create adequate, proportional mitigation, and petition Central Government for more strategic targets to take pressure off the Forest. We also asked for clearer messages in Education that would easily highlight the Forest’s need for protection as a National Nature Reserve, Working Farm and Working Forest.

Our full response to the RMS survey is here. Subsequent remarks on the Park Authority’s flawed draft interpretation here.

Going Forward — Other areas of concern to address in 2018:

Dibden Bay (ABP) / Fawley Power Station (Fawley Waterside Ltd)

Along with Associated British Ports revisiting their goal of a deep-water container port at Dibden Bay, our Association and the whole of the Forest will be facing many challenges for renewed development of the already heavily urbanised Waterside. This includes the proposal by Fawley Waterside Ltd for the development of a new town, with an estimated population of 3,500 on the site of the Fawley Power Station. The development on the brownfield portion of the site, originally exempted from the National Park, might be hard to resist, but the current proposal includes a ‘village’ built out into the National Park on Tom Tiddler’s Ground*, which is a young coastal grazing marsh and forms a rough habitat that is prime for rehabilitation.

— excerpted with updates and links from the NFA Habitat and Landscape Committee Annual report, by Committee Chair, Brian Tarnoff

* Tom Tiddler’s Ground is considered over several pages in committee member Clive Chatter’s tome Flowers of the Forest.

Finally, we should note that many of our committee members were involved in steering the process which led to the purchase by the RSPB of a major landholding in the Forest, now to be known as RSPB Franchises Lodge.  We’ve been embargoed from discussing this effort as it has unfolded over the years (and at long last announced on 23 Mar 2018).  I wish to thank the RSPB for the purchase, and the members of our committee who identified and shepherded this opportunity to fruition.


Forest Design Plan – next steps

NFA Statement to the National Park Authority Meeting 14th July 2016

[The Forest Design Plan is both the Forestry Commission’s long term vision for the Inclosures, and the Felling License and Restocking Plan for the next ten years. ]

The NFA find much to commend in the “New Forest Inclosures – Forest Design Plan – 2016 Forestry Commission Consultation draft”. On the surface, it seeks to deliver the emphasis on habitat restoration demanded by the Minister’s Mandate, the SAC management plan, the Lawton White Paper, Policy on Ancient Woodland Sites, and this authority’s Biodiversity Action Plan.

Sadly, we find the current draft flawed at the detail level. Good intentions have not been applied in a way that will produce functional habitat. For example, there are nods to habitat defragmentation, but large plantation blocks and fencing remain. Without a thorough ecological review, this draft would likely fail the inspectorate’s habitats regulation hurdles. The NFA offer the Forestry Commission our resources and experienced ecologists to assist; and hope that the National Park will lend the expertise of their relevant officers. We also ask this Authority to join us in urging the Forestry Commission to pause, take stock and accept our help to revise the detail plan. This should be fixed before it is submitted to the next stage.

Campsites and Recreation

Consistent with the SAC Management Plan 2001, the NFA campaigns for the removal or relocation of campsites situated on Ancient and Ornamental Woodland, and other important woodland sites. These are managed to the detriment of both biodiversity and landscape; have less than half the canopy of comparable woodland sites; and just this year Hollands Wood has been subject to an incident of unguided felling by over-enthusiastic contractors and inappropriate investment in new road priorities at its entrance.

The Plan explicitly seeks to fulfil the SAC Management Plan, and states an objective for recreation provision “best placed to balance public enjoyment with protection of habitats and biodiversity”, however it dodges the issue with this caveat, “this Plan does not attempt to pre-suppose or assume any issues or proposals which may arise in due course as part of a wider recreation strategy for the New Forest.”

However, if camping provision in A&O woodlands is to be suitably relocated, existing Inclosures are likely candidates. This plan cannot exist in isolation. It needs this National Park Authority to implement a comprehensive review of recreation infrastructure on the Forest, which is currently arbitrary, outdated, and has no strategic relationship between forest users and the habitats whose condition they may affect.

At this moment, when concerned habitat campaigners, including the New Forest Association, are looking to all levels of government for reassurance that our habitat’s protections, policies and funding will continue at current, or better standards, positive engagement on these issues would be very welcome.

Statement made at the Authority Meeting by Brian Tarnoff, Chair, NFA Habitat and Landscape Committee. The current draft of the plan was open to a public consultation until 4th July 2016.

From the SAC Management Plan 2001 Part 3 General Prescriptions, page 30:

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.

Campsites : Denny Wood, Hollands Wood & Longbeech
Location : In pasture woodland
Impact : Severe reduction in old trees/ dead wood/ lichens & ground flora
Condition Assessment : Unfavourable declining
Recommendation : Relocate camp site / Restore pasture woodland
Priority : High

Campsite : Ashurst
Location : In pasture woodland
Impact : Severe reduction in old trees/ dead wood/ lichens & ground flora
Condition Assessment : Unfavourable maintained
Recommendation : Redesign infrastructure to maintain existing features & prevent further degradation.
Priority : Low

Forest Design Plan

NFA Presentment for the Verderers Court 15th June 2016

[The Forest Design Plan is both the Forestry Commission’s long term vision for the Inclosures, and the Felling License and Restocking Plan for the next ten years. The current draft of the plan is open to a public consultation until 4th July 2016]

“A significant proportion of woodlands in the Inclosures will be modified to restore pasture woodlands, heathlands, valley mires and Ancient and Semi-Natural native woodland where these are appropriate. A consequence of the modification will be that the present overall balance between broadleaves and conifers will be changed in favour of broadleaves. The pace of this modification will depend on markets, availability of resources and a desire to avoid unnecessary premature felling of existing growing trees, the removal of which will be necessary for restoration of habitats.

– Plan for the Inclosures, Minister’s Mandate For the Forest 1999-2008 (July 1999)

The NFA find that the proposed Forest Design Plan comes much closer to delivering on this promise than the plan made a decade ago. Additionally it is in keeping with policies and directives including Policy on Ancient Woodland Sites, the SAC management plan, the Lawton White Paper and even an aesthetic nuance demanded by the 1877 New Forest Act.

Last month the court heard an accusation that the plan would reduce the Forest to an artificial park. A monocultural crop of uncertain or decreasing commercial value, little or no habitat value is the very definition of a fake landscape held in aspic. While we can’t ask the Forestry Commission to guarantee the economic future of forestry, a more diverse woodland would be safer for future climate change and biosecurity. The Forest has been a working forest long before the proliferation of blocks of non native conifers, and can be again. Plantation and managed woodland and habitat restoration may co-exist within a naturally structured functional ecosystem.

The NFA welcomes the broad intent of the plan. However, we find the current draft flawed at the detail level, the good intentions have not been applied in a way that will produce the needed functional habitat. Without serious attention to these details, the plan would likely fail the habitats regulation hurdles of the inspectorate. The NFA offer the Forestry Commission our resources and experienced ecologists to assist and will encourage like minded knowledgeable organizations to follow suit. We hope the Verderers may add their collective wisdom of the Forest’s ecology, history and law to our efforts.

Presentment made at the Verderers Court by Brian Tarnoff, Chair, NFA Habitat and Landscape Committee.

NFA Habitat & Landscape 2015-16

Highlighting tomorrow’s NFA AGM, further amended excerpts from our Habitat and Landscape Committee’s Annual Report

Our ecologists have had a very busy year, and I hope they will forgive me if this report cannot hope to capture the full scope of their efforts. They have my, and I presume the Association’s, deepest thanks.

Site Visits

HAL members attended site visits and provided feedback for a variety of Forestry Commission led habitat restoration and maintenance project proposals. This has included:

  •     Linford Bottom
  •     Norley Mire, Bagshot Moor, Upper Crockford Bottom,
  •     Three Beech Bottom and Horseshoe Earth
  •     Ogdens Mire and Sloden Inclosure
  •     Lyndhurst South (Coxlease Lawn, Brick Kiln Mire, Allum Green)
  •     Waters Copse, Withycombe Shade
  •     Broomy/Ocknell Plain (Suburbs Wood Mire, Broomy Bottom, Linford Brook Mire)
  •     Dibden Bottom, The Noads Mire, Ferny Croft

We continue to support the FC’s restorations. We would like to see more resources for monitoring, a more procedural basis for prioritizing the schemes with clear reference to the framework provided by the habitats regulations and the SAC Management Plan and a cohesive grand design for habitat restoration across the whole of the Forest.

The Forest Design Plan

In July 2015, we were one of a select group of conservation organizations invited by the Forestry Commission to comment on their earliest draft of the next Forest Design Plan. With a shift towards much more broadleaf planting, it represents a huge sea change for the foresters. In a much appreciated move, the FC is actively seeking our input and expertise. We hope to see more detail and nuance as the plan is further developed this year, with public consultation this Autumn. Much of this committee’s work over the last decade has been preparing research and evidence to bolster the NFA’s vision for the inclosures as presented in Recovering Lost Landscapes, and has been aided further by changes in government policy as evidenced in the Lawton Report and the Policy on Ancient Woodland Sites.

The Forestry Commission have opened up the next stage of consultation which runs for eight weeks from 11 Apr 2016 to 6 Jun 2016. This will produce the version of the plan which will be submitted for the inspectorate, and final consultation later this year. The NFA will argue that the planned eight weeks may not be sufficient for less nimble organizations (those that meet less frequently, such as Parish Councils, or those larger whose relevant knowledge is spread across expert and consequentially busy staff); we would prefer ten to twelve weeks. When the timeframe was sprung upon the great breadth of Forest organizations in attendance at a special launch day on March 22nd, the FC suggested that they may be “flexible” about the length of the consultation. We will be making our case later this month.

Busketts and Felling Licenses

In Autumn 2015, Neil Sanderson, one of our leading ecologists, spotted veteran and woodland edge trees marked for felling at Busketts Lawn. Whilst this had been done as part of a scheme to improve grazing – and had been granted a felling license – many trees of value, but not detrimental to the lawn, had been marked including glade edge Oaks, nectar source Crab Apples and Hawthorns.

The NFA had not previously been aware of the plans due to the sparse detail available in the list of works we receive through our membership of the Open Forest Advisory Committee, and the equally slim notification of the felling licenses through the parish councils. To the FC’s credit they did manage to arrange a site visit before the works commenced and took on board some of our advice. Whilst from our point of view this was damage limitation rather than success – we saved some trees and shrubs and a large mature Oak – we were also able to make suggestions that were accepted as useful going forward: we got some Oak pollarding, preventing loss of grassland to shade, not previously considered as a tool in lawn management; and by cutting back Holly from former wood edge trees, we agreed to maintain a transition from lawn to wood, both aesthetically, and functionally within the habitat, desirable.

We will be pressing for improvements in the way the FC and Natural England notify felling licenses and document works of this type on the open forest.

New Forest Water Blitz 2016

We did a trial email shot to our members looking for volunteers for the New Forest Water Blitz, a survey taking place during the four week period of 12th March – 10th April 2016. This was a trial run survey taking place as part of the larger Clean Water for Wildlife project. The NFA are promoting this study as a member of the New Forest Catchment Development Group, a clean water initiative between the National Park and the Freshwater Habitats Trust. Over twenty volunteers administered very easy to use water test kits, collecting two samples from assigned locations within the New Forest during the four week period.

Whilst nearly all the Association’s work is done through our council and committees by volunteers from our membership, this was the first time we were able to offer a small scale, “Citizen Science” style volunteer opportunity to engage our members. We were very heartened by the enthusiastic response we received. There will be further opportunities for all to volunteer both as the New Forest Water Blitz is due to be extended (popular demand!) and as the Clean Water for Wildlife project moves forward.

Naomi Ewald of the Freshwater Habitats Trust will be one of the Association’s guest speakers at our post AGM members event. She will be discussing the New Forest Catchment Project and the New Forest Water Blitz.

Going Forward — Other areas of concern to address in 2016:

Countryside Stewardship Scheme – This new version of the HLS funding will need our particular attention. We were very disappointed in the NELMES consultation that produced Natural England’s Countryside Stewardship Statement of Priorities. As funding may be targeted based on the erratic outcomes of the consultation, we are hoping to have these refined or corrected.

Having received negative feedback, Natural England are duly redrafting the document. The NFA are happier that this is being addressed, but will be reviewing the result still wary of the process that produced the original version.

Night Disturbance from LEDs – As part of our tranquillity remit, we want to see the nocturnal disturbance to wildlife and infringement of the New Forest byelaws cease. With our neighbouring conurbations, it is unlikely that we’d ever qualify as an International Dark Sky Reserve (a designation held by 3 other National Parks), but any steps in this direction would be welcome.

— excerpted with updates from the NFA Habitat and Landscape Committee Annual report, by Committee Chair, Brian Tarnoff, with permission.