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CDA Letter to Members Relating to Localised Excessive Poaching

This letter was written by New Forest Commoners Defence Association Chair Tony Hockley to CDA members, following concerns during the wet winter of 2017-2018.

Dear Member

You should by now have received letters from the Official Verderer and Deputy Surveyor relating to localised excessive poaching. The CDA welcomes these interventions. Commoning rests on the principle that we share a responsibility to exercise our rights in ways that are mutually beneficial.

The CDA is working hard to ensure that we have a system of financial support after Brexit that It is locally designed and locally led, unlike the BPS. For the next few years, however, we must work within the existing system. We must demonstrate that the New Forest is up to the task of leading a future bespoke scheme and to take full responsibility for its implementation.

It is clear that the vast majority of commoners take these responsibilities to each other and to the Forest very seriously indeed. We cannot, therefore, allow the actions of a very small number to destroy what we are achieving and what we hope to achieve in the future (In the short term we also face the risk of removal of approval for cattle feeding areas on the Open Forest). The letters from the Official Verderer and the Deputy Surveyor set out some of the powers that can be used by them to ensure good grazing practice. Our own CDA Rule 33 states that: “The committee may suspend or terminate the membership of any member who is deemed to have acted in a way which is prejudicial to the interests of the commoners or the Association”. Wilful and unnecessary damage to the grazing would be prejudicial to all of our interests.

The CDA will be calling on the Verderers to use their powers to support good grazing practice and compliance with existing regulations. We will also be asking for the Verderers Grazing Scheme Advisory Group to be convened to discuss the general topic of grazing levels and policies.

Our partnership work on a future support scheme for the New Forest is generating significant goodwill for commoning. i am very confident that if we continue to demonstrate the best of commoning over the next two or three years, based on our genuine concern for the Forest, we will be able to achieve a sustainable and lasting solution.

Yours faithfully

Tony Hockley

Chairman

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Guest Post: High Level Stewardship AGM 2018 — Official Verderer

The New Forest HLS is England’s largest environmental improvement scheme, launched in 2010.  The scheme is managed through a formal partnership between the relevant statutory bodies for the Crown Lands: the Verderers, the Forestry Commission and the New Forest National Park Authority.

This year the AGM was preceded by an Open Day afternoon in the Garden of Queen’s House, featuring stands and displays from representatives of various HLS projects, festive New Forest Marque nibbles, and a mare and young foal (perhaps one of the first many had seen for the year).  Here Lord Manners, the Official Verderer, reflects on this year’s achievements.

Today

I hope you have all had an opportunity to visit the open day and enjoy the new format. Do please give us your feed back on what you thought worked and on any areas where you think we could have done things better or differently.

As we have had an open day there are no speakers or presentations this evening apart from me. In the next few minutes I propose to run over some of the highlights of the past year.

Education

I would like to start by mentioning the educational aspect of the HLS. It is vital that we do as much as we can to educate our school children about the special qualities of the Forest.

2136 pupils from 47 schools were able to take part in educational visits this year, thanks to HLS education access funding. The slight decrease in numbers is due to curriculum changes at GCSE level. Schools visited all through the year. Human impacts and activities, and investigation of the special qualities of the Forest have remained the most requested teaching sessions. HLS funding ensures that the schoolchildren visiting the Forest not only enjoy their visit, but leave with a much greater understanding of its heritage and landscape.

Lost Lawns Restoration – Tree and scrub management

Consultation site visits took place in March to view the following lost lawn locations: Bramshaw, Brook Wood, Broomy/Splash Bridge and Milking Pound Bottom. Following the issue of a felling licence in September works commenced at 2 out 4 sites – Splash Bridge/Broomy (Dockens Water) and Milking Pound Bottom. At Elkhams Grave, Trenley Lawn, Red Rise tree and scrub felling took place as agreed with consultees. At Bolderwood hollies habitat restoration and pine clearance of some mature trees was carried out. Slender Cotton Grass habitat at Holmsley bog was cleared of willow and birch encroachment. A total area of 66 Ha was achieved.

Wetland Restoration

In Summary the following wetland restoration areas were achieved:-

  • 2532m of meanders were restored.
  • 1078m of drain was in-filled
  • 1079m of channel was bed-level raised

Two planning application sites were part completed:

  • Wootton Riverine Woodland Phase 1 was completed following the work that was undertaken last year.
  • Pondhead (Parkhill Lawn, Matley) was part completed. Weather and seasonal constraints limited full completion in 2017.

Noads Mire This site has been re-programmed into the summer 2018 wetland restoration works and will be completed by George Farwell.

Ferny Crofts South was also partially completed this year.  However due to the weather delays experienced on site through August and September 2017 it was decided that the completion of this site should be delayed until August/September 2018.

Coxlease Lawn. The site was subject to wet weather delays for seven days. The site became too wet to continue work within the 2017 wetland restoration season and it is proposed that this work will be completed in 2018.

The short wetland restoration season was curtailed further by wet weather causing many of the sites being too wet to work for large periods of the summer. Work was not possible due to wet ground conditions on approximately 45 days out of a possible 105.

Bracken Management

This was carried out by two local contractors MJ Hoare and Dan Shutler. 33 days of bracken forage harvesting was carried out between them covering a total area of 69 Ha.

The bracken sprayer covered an area of 134Ha over the following sites: Bolderwood, Turfhill, Sloden and Milkham.

Control of Non native species

Non-native plant management was carried out across the Forest, thanks to the hard work and dedication of Catherine Chatters and her hardworking team of volunteers. This involves control of Pitcher Plants, monitoring and controlling Cotoneaster, Control of Parrot’s Feather, Japanese knotweed, Pickerel weed, Yellow Azalea and Golden Club.
Rhododendron. Cut & burn areas were tackled in January on the beat of Patrick Cook, site locations covered include the following SSSI units: Busketts, Ironshill, Rhinefield, Bolderwood, Burley through to Anderwood, Knightwood, Gritnam, Allum Green, Acres Down & Lucy Hill. Total time spent equivalent to 80 man days. Rhododendron spraying was carried out at Acres Down, Burley, Minstead and Allum Green, Bolderwood.

Gemma Stride, HLS Monitoring Officer

Riverfly Partnership

Volunteer rangers have been carrying out surveying of specific wetland restoration stream sites for riverflies, since 2015. All of their collected data has been input into the National riverfly database, and used locally to see abundance scores of riverflies and how they have re-acted before and after restoration. I would like to express particular thanks to those volunteers for participating in what is an extremely valuable but painstaking process.

Programme of Data Processing and Ground Surveys for Historical Features

2017 saw a successful survey season with the target coverage of 2,013 hectares reached. This work involved 131 volunteer days. Again I would like to express my thanks to the volunteers. During these days the volunteers helped to record archaeological sites, undertake detailed geophysical surveys of specific sites identified during the Lidar surveys and clear vegetation from scheduled monuments. During 2017, work also continued to clean survey data and submit records to the County Historic Environment Records Office. All the above work continued to feed into wetland restoration, lost lawn, verge restoration and ridge and furrow proposed schemes. Of the 20,130 hectares to be surveyed during the HLS scheme, only 3,342 hectares remain to be surveyed. This leaves 1,671 hectares to be surveyed during 2018. This work started in January. Work will also continue to identify monuments that require restoration works and collaboration between the appropriate parties to ensure the best results for the monuments and the habitats they are found in.

Beaulieu Road Sales Yard

Grazing Management

The HLS supports a wide variety of activities in order to maintain and improve grazing management.
494 Commoners received grazing payments

The HLS makes funds available to improve and develop Infrastructure for Livestock Management by means of a Small grant scheme. The HLS delivered 39 grants in 2017 for contributions towards stock handling systems. 15 grants are still to be claimed for 2017.

The HLS also makes funds available to improve and develop infrastructure for livestock management by improving sightline fencing and drift fencing,

Projects delivered were Boltons Bench: 120m Drift style fence, Pilley Allotment : 210m of wire fence, Hatchet Mill : replacement of oak split rails, Burbush : 85m of oak sightline fencing.

Sloden & Trim Holly Pounds were rebuilt in 2017.

Improvements to the welfare standard for ponies are achieved through the pony welfare scheme. The number of ponies entering the welfare scheme has increased this year as commoners are becoming more aware of the scheme. The scheme does appear to be reducing the older mares on the Forest as we are having less welfare issues over the winter.

Improvements to the value and diversity of the New Forest Pony Breed is achieved through the New Forest Livestock Society

The New Forest Livestock Society receives VGS funding towards the cost of marketing in order to increase sales at Beaulieu Road. The aim is to provide known potential buyers with regular reminders about sale dates, and to advertise the sales as widely as possible to attract new customers.

Looking ahead

This year the HLS is funding ridge and furrow restoration and stump removal in areas that have been felled. I think these are particularly exciting projects as they will not only improve the habitat but also improve the restored areas for stock and making drifting over those areas possible. I would encourage you to visit the area recently restored at Dur Hill as an excellent example of what can be achieved.

We have now completed 8 years of the Verderers HLS. The current scheme expires in February 2020. The Forest Farming Group, under the energetic chairmanship of Oliver Crosthwaite Eyre, is actively engaging with Government both at the political level and with the relevant civil servants. Our strong preference is for a bespoke, flexible scheme that suits the needs of the Forest. It is too early to say what the future holds but I am confident that the public and environmental benefits delivered by the Forest make it a strong candidate for future support.

Finally a thank you to the many people who work so hard to deliver the benefits of the HLS, they are too numerous to mention but they know who they are and they are due thanks not just from me but from all of us.

Lord Manners
Official Verderer
25 April 2018

Provided with permission by the Official Verderer, to whom we send our thanks.
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Whistleblower Leaks Plan to Convert Forest To Car Park

artist’s sketch of the whistleblower

In what may be an advance preview of the next Recreation Management Strategy, a whistleblower has come forward with information indicating plans afoot to pave the entire Forest to put up a parking lot. The whistleblower, only willing to be identified by the handle JMitchell@CanyonLadies70, has hinted at other coming developments, but it is unclear whether these plans are from the National Park Authority or the District Council.

For now, the locations are vague (a comment about boutiques has suggested Lyndhurst), but, with some deduction, there is a chance that the Lyndhurst Park Hotel will be released from its development limbo to reopen under a fresh coat of pink paint and with a new entertainment venue described as a “swingin’ hot spot”.

The deforestation resulting from this paving project will require relocation of some conifers, and ostensibly large deciduous plants for viewing by the public. Another surmise is that this display may be in the New Forest Centre. However, no representatives of the Ninth Centenary Trust who run the Centre could be contacted on this proposed conversion of the Centre to a tree museum, nor the plan to abandon the Centre’s free entry policy to charge the people a dollar-and-a-half (just over £1 pound sterling, as determined by American tourist focus groups, as what it would be worth “just to see ‘em”).

The Forestry Commission has also been unavailable to comment on whether the proposed deforestation is within the scope of their Forest Design Plan, and the rumour that glyphosate may not be available post-Brexit, requiring use of the even more controversial DDT for control of pest plants like the non-native rhododendron. The informant did express concerns, which we believe are unfounded, that this may affect their right to forage for apples on the Crown Lands; although we do concur with worries over the effect of the pesticide on birds and the declining population of bees.

When asked why he/she had come forward, the whistleblower said that people “don’t know what they’ve got till it’s gone”. In this reporter’s experience it does always seem to go that way. When confronted with the NFA’s research showing no known basis of these plans from any of the relevant authorities, the informer fled the café, slamming the screen door on the way, and hopped in a big yellow taxi which sped off.

It is not known whether there will be car parking charges or a clock scheme. An unidentified Natural England contact may have stated “we welcome this plan as it will give visitors a place to put their cars when they come to use the boardwalk we’re erecting around the entire coast.”

It is worth noting, that beyond the lack of corroboration, the meaning of this article will evaporate to mere satire by noon on the date of publication. Whether the satire is weak, or based on deeper truths, is entirely up to you, dear reader.  If we have inadvertently misled, feel free to contact the relevant authorities, be sure to tell them “Shooo bop bop bop bop!” (with apologies to J Mitchell).
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Presentment: Recreation Events at Night


Last month the Commoners Defence Association noted problems with the planned 2nd December, Hampshire Maverick Silva Dark Series trail running event.  It is in early evening, but in hours of full darkness (starts an hour after sundown, and a quarter hour after end of twilight). It is sponsored by a headlamp manufacturer promoting a range of LED headlamps that emit 250 lumens over 65 metres [1] (The top of their current range outputs 1500-2000 lumens over 175 metres! [2]).

The nocturnal disturbance of both livestock (as noted by the CDA) and wildlife by a mass event on the Forest, alone, is of concern, but use of high powered LEDs will greatly compound that disturbance. The NFA object to the event as an inappropriate precedent for both reasons. This is, as well, a fundamental conflict with all aspirations to maintain tranquility within the Forest and night-time dark skies above it.

Research on light disturbance has shown bats, amphibians and plants affected by relatively low levels of light. The route comes as close to the A337 as 1500 metres, which could prove fatal to motorists if easily spooked deer bolt towards the road.

This event, if held in daytime, or more appropriately off the SSSI, would be relatively benign [3]. The Forestry Commission have clearly worked hard to mitigate a bad situation created by the event’s organizers, and their permission [4] explicitly states that this is a one-off and that “any future night time events would need to be run at other venues off the New Forest” suggesting Moors Valley as an alternative. Head torches are restricted to Max 250 lumens, max beam length 50m, and must be angled downwards.

A FC spokesperson informed me that the permission would not have been granted if the event were a later time in the evening, or if it was outside the short window of hibernation for many local species. Unfortunately, nature isn’t that simple. At least 11 bat species have been recorded in the route area, including some of the most light-averse. All these bats move in and out of hibernation November to March, rousing to feed when the weather is mild, with early evening as their peak time in winter [5].

The media have lost all the nuances: the route restricted to the gravel tracks in Inclosures (from original plan on open forest), limitations on lighting, and that the FC regard this as a one-off.  The reporting has oversimplified the FC assessment to suggest it “poses no negative impact on the SSSI”. A hard to support statement, which without the context of the prescribed restrictions, sends an erroneous, dangerous message.

This official FC permission will beget the expectation for more large scale after dark events, from the public unaware of even minimal limitations which should be observed, and encourage greater after dark usage both organized and unorganized, at even more damaging times of the year. Creating new unprecedented levels of disturbance on protected habitat at a time where there would be little or none is simply unacceptable.

The NFA hope the Verderers will join us in asking the Forestry Commission, and those who would sensibly enjoy the Forest, to let it, in the name of tranquillity, the livestock, and the wildlife, have a well deserved rest.

Annotations below refer to the bracketed numbers in bold above [n]….

[1] The event offers participants free test use of their previous slightly weaker range (170 lumens over 50 metres), which they no longer produce. The route starts and ends at Foxlease, goes through Clayhill and deep into Denny Wood, Parkhill and Standing Hat inclosures.
[2] That’s roughly the same as a single standard H1 Car head lamp on main beam. 12 Runners with the highest permitted beams will emit approximately as much light as a single car.
[3] …presuming it is well run, safe and considerate to other Forest users, and tidies up after itself.
[4] The Permission includes the following non-boiler plate requirements:

  • “Competitors will be restricted to using head torches with Led bulbs, Max lumens 250, max beam length 50m. All torches must be angled down. Marshals must keep lighting to a minimum as well as per runners.”
  •  “The permit is for this event only please note any future night time events would need to be run at other venues off the New Forest – we will look to offer Moors Valley as an alternative.”
  • “The route as agreed…. It is vital to keep to the tracks and paths as details on the maps provided.”
  • “All gates must be manned to prevent ponies and cattle going through and to ensure that there is no access by vehicles. Gate must be closed after use.”
  • “All litter must be cleared up and signs removed by the following day at the latest.”

[5] from nearby Busketts Lawn there have been records of at least 5 species in late December.

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Recreational Harm : Presentment from the Commoners Defence Association

Here we welcome a guest post from Dr Tony Hockley, Chairman of the New Forest Commoners Defence Association, who gave this Presentment in this month’s Verderers Court.

The September court heard several presentments on pressures and abuse of the New Forest. The CDA supports such concerns.

Commoners have long been involved in educational efforts. But education alone will not suffice for companies that see the Forest as a profit opportunity, or for those who care only for their own entertainment.

Enforcement action is a sad necessity. In 2005 the Forestry Commission prosecuted one of the kite-buggy riders using Wilverley Plain*.  That sent a warning to others.  Similar resolve is needed on other routine breaches of the byelaws.

I would highlight two current issues that typify the challenges that can only be resolved by the Forestry Commission:

  • The Ordnance Survey, another public body, has started to facilitate mountain-bike trespass; allowing subscribers to its online mapping service to upload their routes for others to follow. The Forest is now covered with these unlawful routes.
  • On 2nd December the Forest will face its first commercial event in the hours of darkness. It is sponsored by a headtorch company, and hosted by Foxlease. For £30 entrants are offered the thrill of a night-time incursion into Forest. The company says that the racer will have: “a wealth of wildlife to keep your mind occupied”.  **

Both of these are abuses of the Forest that the Forestry Commission could and should stop. It seems that the tranquility of the Forest is being sold to anyone capable of making money from it whilst we all stand by. Our livestock and this special place deserve much better and we would urge to Court to do whatever it can to make this case.

Dr Tony Hockley is a Practicing Commoner and Chairman of the New Forest Commoners Defence Association.  This has been shared with his express permission, and represents the view of the CDA.

* Verderers Court minutes, January 2006 (item 2006/2082).
** This event is promoted by Maverick Race as part of their Silva Dark Series of night time trail running events, Silva is the headtorch sponsor.  http://www.maverick-race.com/races/silva-dark-hampshire-2017

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“Look, Don’t Pick” – The Arguments

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

Foraging is wonderful and magically connects people to nature.

Fine, just not fungi + here, please.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You are criminalising ordinary people.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hericium erinaceus in the New Forest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Europe is a free for all.

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

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

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

NO IT ISN’T (sorry for shouting):

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

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

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

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The Wild Trout Trust and New Forest River Restorations

For some perspective on some of the issues raised by river restorations we contacted the Wild Trout Trust, themselves deliverers or partners in many river restoration projects addressing similar issues to those met by the Latchmore proposal.  As it turns out, they had made an advisory visit in September 2015; this was undertaken by their Conservation Officer, Mike Blackmore.

Their advisory visit programme is “very much focussed on identifying good and poor trout habitat and what can be done practically to make the poor good. Mike looked at a 1 km reach of the Brook and a 500m reach of a tributary, the Thompson’s Castle Stream.” 

Their key findings were:

  • Valuable wild trout habitat is under threat by the status quo condition of the Latchmore Brook and tributaries.
  • Channel incision and accelerated morphological processes as outlined by the JBA Consulting report and as observed during the site visit are limiting the abundance and quality of marginal habitat (important for freshwater invertebrates and juvenile trout). These factors are also likely to be significantly impacting the viability of spawning habitat in the main channel.
  • Reconnecting paleo-meanders will result in a net increase in habitat for wild trout (as a result of increased channel length) and is likely to help protect existing spawning habitat by reducing the rate of channel incision and the magnitude of cut and fill events.
  • The overall paucity of in-stream and low-level bankside woody habitat features significantly limit the abundance, diversity and quality of cover and refuge habitat for trout.
  • Habitat quality and diversity is being significantly reduced by over-grazing and bank poaching by livestock.
  • Further habitat enhancement, including tree planting and the introduction and retention of woody habitat features, will be required to provide a good quality and diverse habitat for wild trout.
  • Improvement in the wild trout population of the Latchmore Brook and the aquatic ecosystem upon which it is dependent will require a significant change in land management including improved protection of the riverbanks from grazing livestock.

Their conclusions recognize the problems with the status quo and acknowledge the benefits of the project to fish species and wildlife. They also suggest measures which would make the habitat optimal for trout species, promotion of stream shading scrub, and fencing to prevent livestock poaching scrub and vegetation bankside, which would fly in the face of traditional forest management, and would even restrict the amenity in ways to which even the protesters would object.  How would Forest users react to the sight of a fenced off stream, with access only through gates?

Scrub does vary over time, and we know that historically there has been, at times, little scrub along stretches of the stream on the open forest.  Even now, there is about a kilometre stretch with next to no riparian shade.  The Commoners often push for active scrub removal to create more grazing (The NFA will usually push for key nectar species to be left where possible), and of course the livestock themselves will have nibbles that hamper growth.  

So, neither the current stream nor the proposed change would be absolutely ideal for fish species, but here’s where the point is being missed by objectors’ narrow focus.  Habitats are complex.  What benefits some species may be detrimental to others.  The biodiverse rich habitat of the New Forest is not managed solely for any single species.  Scrub removal may warm some of the unshaded water, but this will benefit the Dragonflies, even if it narrows the tolerances for the fish.

Despite the insufficient scrub, both historically and at present, fish tolerate the conditions in the Brook.  Restoring the meanders will recreate the more natural morphology that benefits these species.  The claim that changing the stream will frighten away shy fish, is refuted by many the projects elsewhere aimed at wild fish habitat improvement which restore meanders (some other successful projects go even further and create meanders), including projects directed at fisheries (over 900 in the RRC database), and even more strikingly here in the New Forest, by the fish themselves.  Brown Trout were recorded spawning in a restored section at Harvestslade within three months of the completion of that project.

We thank the Wild Trout Trust for their permission to share their findings (particularly their director, Shaun Leonard who provided the bullet point summary quoted above), and for their candour and generosity in response to our queries.  We commend them for their fine works in implementing and promoting habitat restoration. According to Environment Agency monitoring, their upper Itchen project has produced a four-fold increase in trout biomass, compared to unimproved, control sites.

For further information on some of their projects, and ways to help, on the WTT website: http://www.wildtrout.org/content/projects-1. 

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Chalara Ash Dieback Reaches The New Forest

At tonight’s Consultative Panel, the Deputy Surveyor announced the first laboratory confirmed case of ash dieback within the New Forest National Park.  This was discovered in trees near Picket Post.

Chalara Ash Dieback is a disease caused by fungal infestation of Hymenoscyphus fraxineus.  This fungus originated in Asia, where it is benign to the native Ash species.  The disease was first identified in Europe as Chalara Fraxinea in Poland in 1992. It is devastating to European species of Ash, and is now firmly entrenched across mainland Europe.  2012 saw the first confirmed cases in the UK in a Buckinghamshire nursery in imported plants from the Netherlands.   East Anglia, Kent and Essex have had the highest concentration of cases so far, but the outbreak is spreading to the west, with cases in the wild in Wales, and past the Forest to Cranbourne Chase and further west in southern England.

The fungus produces tiny fruiting bodies on the leaf stalks of infected trees.  By the following summer these produce spores which spread to other trees via their leaves.  A slightly different form of the fungus then migrates into the branches and trunk where its mycellium interrupts the flow of water and nutrients, slowly starving the tree.

Little can be done about it, there is no treatment.  It kills small trees very quickly.  Mature trees may be severely weakened, then killed by secondary pathogens.  Some survive indefinitely in a weakened state, and there may be various degrees of resistance in these, although they remain infected carriers. The only active practical measure that may be taken, as the spores are spread in the leaf litter of infected trees, is basic biosecurity, clean your boots off between walks in different woodlands, limiting transport of, or treating wood harvested from infected trees, etc.

Small comfort, but the Forest landscape will be less impacted than much of the countryside, as Ash is less common on acid forest soils, typically present here in wet/riverine woodlands.  That does not reduce its threat to the overall biodiversity of the country, nor the potential impact on the forest’s habitat assemblies that include Ash.

One resistant tree has been identified in the UK, and several on the continent, which may support future propagation and DNA fingerprint tests for other resistant trees.  Panel Chair and botanist Clive Chatters observed that this is not as bad as Dutch Elm disease. That outbreak was exacerbated by the lack of genetic diversity in Elm (once intensively nursery produced), whereas in Ash in the wild “there is a vast amount of diversity”.  This diversity is important as the likelihood of extant resistant plants is increased. While the vector for the disease is in the leaves, on a typical Ash plantation it would be a nonsense to hoover them up, Clive noted that “in our wood pastures, where the Commoners turn out their stock, the stock hoover up all those leaves, particularly in the wet woodlands where they get in there this time of year, they’re absolutely hoovering up that fallen green. And I think the forest will be very interesting to monitor as a model for how things may cope in the future.”

Much more information about Chalara Ash Dieback, including how to report possible sightings, is available from this Forestry Commission page: http://www.forestry.gov.uk/ashdieback. 
A 2012 Episode of the BBC Radio 4 Programme The Long View contrasts Dutch Elm Disease and Ash Dieback .  And their programme from nature writer Richard Mabey, Mabey in the Wild of 3rd July 2013, featured a discussion of New Forest trees including Elm, Holly and Beech with Clive Chatters.

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The Forestry Commission’s New Forest Fungi Policy

The New Forest Association are pleased that the Forestry Commission are implementing a “Look, Don’t Pick” rule regarding fungi foraging on the New Forest Site of Special Scientific Interest under their stewardship. This affirms the protection our habitat deserves. This is consistent with their obligations to the protections of the SSSI, their management of the New Forest SSSI as a National Nature Reserve and their powers to authorise or deny picking of fungi under consent from Natural England.  This brings the FC policy in line with the ban on fungi foraging on the Commons the National Trust, and the Nature Reserves the Wildlife Trust manage within the Forest.

We hope that enforcement may be hard hitting on  pickers taking undue advantage of the forest whether commercial or not.  Enforcement may also be soft and educational for casual foragers.  The message is the same, this is a protected habitat and landscape, leave the fungi to nature and the autumn display for all to see.

It brings the FC back in line with the guidance 1998 Wild Mushroom Pickers Code of Conduct, the misreading of which was the source of the arbitrary 1.5 kg “limit”, which has absolutely no basis in law. The code clearly meant the limit for undesignated habitats, not SSSI  or National Nature Reserves.  An allowance should never have been implemented at all in this protected habitat.

NCC Consent 25 January 1988 (subsequently under Natural England)
The Nature Conservancy Council issued the following consent to the FC regarding the above operation:-  “The collection of fungi as authorised by the Forestry Commission, subject to periodic review by the FC and the NCC.”

FC/Verderers/English Nature Declaration of Intent 25 July 1995
“The Forestry Commission will continue to manage the New Forest as an area with the status of a National Nature Reserve and to maintain the nature conservation interests for which it is designated under national and international legislation or agreements.”

In July 2015 the NFA launched its campaign for a very specific ban on fungi harvest from the SSSI on the Crown Lands of the New Forest.  In doing this we’ve sought to bring about best practice under existing laws, byelaws and guidance.  After careful consideration we decided that calling for an Epping Forest style ban was the most clear cut solution, with its obvious precedent.  We’re taking the precautionary principle that on a SSSI, especially one including fungi amongst its notified features, under heavy pressure from recreation and other use, that the fungi should be protected, part and parcel with the whole of this habitat.

The NFA campaigns for the habitat and heritage of the Forest.  In entering into this campaign we consulted with our own ecologists and local mycologists. We’ve consulted with and had support from the British Mycological Society, the Fungi Conservation Trust, Natural England, Buglife, Plantlife and the National Trust, the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust (the latter two had already banned fungi foraging on SSSI land they manage).  The fruiting bodies of the fungi are not merely food for other fauna, but are depended upon by at least 600 species of invertebrate using them as micro-habitats to fulfill their life cycles.

The New Forest Site of Special Scientific Interest is in one of the most densely populated National Parks, surrounded on many sides by conurbation with insufficient alternative greenspace, and mounting recreation pressure.   As open access land, it is easily accessible to all users, and an easy touch for volume foragers.  SSSI is a designation that confers habitat protection under UK law. The New Forest is also a Special Protection Area (SPA) and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), Natura 2000 designations or initiatives under EU law, and a National Nature Reserve.  The Natural History Museum picked the New Forest as one of two biodiverse rich sites on which to base their ongoing climate change study.  It is a gem, one of the crown jewels of natural biodiversity in Britain, Europe and the World.  We ask all to understand importance of this ecosystem and the need for its protection, and that they respect its protection and find their fungi elsewhere.

For Immediate Release

We will be examining and addressing some of the counterarguments and myths surrounding this policy and fungi conservation in “Look, Don’t Pick – The Issues”. (available soon)

Material World

Warwickslade Cutting, infilling of minor drain - geograph.org.uk - 1464070One concern I think we all share about the Latchmore Brook project is the transport of the infill materials.  This is due to cause a certain amount disturbance and inconvenience to those residents and visitors along the delivery routes, as well as valid questions about the safety for both road and Forest users, man and beast.   I’ve already had a private go at the FC and LUC over their need to provide concise and useful figures for the public to properly convey the size of the issue.  Here I attempt a stop-gap.

Movement of materials to the nine stockpiles to service nine different project areas is due to run over four different access routes in two or three of the four years of the overall project.  Two of these access routes are via relatively well used roads, the B3078 Roger Penny Way from either Godshill or Brook to Telegraph Hill, and the turning from the A31 to Stony Cross, then the turning towards Slufters and Cadman’s Pool, followed by the turn towards HighCorner /Linwood, almost immediately turning off onto the Forest Track to Holly Hatch / Alderhill.  The more problematic routes go through the village / cul de sac Fritham, home of the Royal Oak pub, which some consider the unofficial office of the NFA, the other through the village of South Gorley and Ogdens. 

As you drive northeast up the unnamed road towards Ogdens, many of the houses grow larger. You’ll pass Fir Tree Farm, one of the best placed and few remaining commercial stables on the Forest, its manège is only a fence and a few feet away from the narrow lane, riders in the school may not appreciate the extra challenge to their control and aid skills as their mounts react to passing tipper lorries.  After the stables, the road becomes a forest track, with more modest dwellings fronting directly and quite closely to the road.

Naturally we have every sympathy for those who may be effected.  All the more reason to get at some realistic, and relate-able numbers.

I’ve seen and heard alarming figures, 70HGV movements a day or 44000 HGVs over the course of the project, which I’ve discovered to be ridiculously overblown.  Not that I blame anyone for getting this wrong as the planning documents do not lay out the information in a helpful way. I had to bounce around four or five of the submitted statements and appendices to pull this together.

1.3 The works are anticipated to last for approximately 4-12 weeks (July-September) per year over a period of 4 years. If weather conditions are poor (wet), works may halted temporarily to protect ground conditions.

4.9 The highest maximum number of deliveries for each route to the site per day has been calculated as follows:

  • Ogdens – 25 HGVs and 4 tractor/trailer deliveries per day.
  • Alderhill – 25 HGVs and 4 tractor/trailer deliveries per day.
  • Fritham – 25 HGVs and 4 tractor/trailer deliveries per day.
  • Telegraph Hill – 25 HGVs and 4 tractor/trailer deliveries per day.

4.10 In addition to the HGV movements set out above, there will be approximately six employees on site associated with the restoration works (i.e. total 12 movements per day).

In two of the planning documents we are only given maximums or ranges, we’re told a maximum of 25 HGV deliveries per day per route, a window of 4-12 weeks in each of the four years, this last is the beginning of distortion as only the 2019 Phase is 12 weeks July to September the other three are 4-8 weeks August-September.

Back to one of the numbers being bandied about by alarmists.  70 HGV’s per day.  If someone has quoted this figure at you, they are either lying, or unknowingly passing on an intentional lie.  The only way one could arrive at the number 70 is to take the maximum 25 HGV deliveries, the 4 tractor/trailer, plus up to 6 staff vehicles for a total of 35 roundtrips = 70 movements, only 50 movements are HGV (still not a small amount, but smaller, and a maximum, averages may be lower).  As we’ll note later, despite the stated maximum of 4 tractor/trailer deliveries per day conjuring an equal level of traffic, the number bale deliveries becomes negligible very quickly.

Here’s the initial information I pulled out of the “Appendix 4.1: Estimated Restoration Material Quantities and Transport Movements Data” (a diabolically poorly laid out document in which every 2 out of three tables has a single line, in some case, a single cell).  The 22 separate tables are easily and more usefully aggregated into three tables, the first gives us Material Quantities, the primary information we need to derive the number of deliveries, the other two Maximum number of deliveries per day clay/gravel/hoggin and heather bales respectively (plus Delivery timescale for HGV loads).   You’ll forgive the small size required to squeeze this in here.  The more important summary tables that follow will be suitably legible.

Table 1: Estimated Material Quantities

Project Area Stockpile Lorry Route Hoggin & Washed Gravels (tonnes) Clay (tonnes) Minimum Tipper Deliveries Minimum Tipper Days _ Heather Bales Minimum Tractor Deliveries Minimum Tractor Days
Islands Thorns Picket Corner Telegraph Hill 10004.6 4001.8 702 29
1815 7 2
Islands Thorns Islands Thorns Fritham 5002.3 2000.9 352 15
1815 7 2
Islands Thorns Fritham Bridge Fritham 5002.3 2000.9 352 15



Thompson’s Castle: Hampton Ridge Telegraph Hill




460 2 1
Thompson’s Castle: Ogdens Car Park Ogdens 2071.0 829 146 6



Latchmore Mire: Hampton Ridge Telegraph Hill




1944 7 2
Studley Wood: Claypits Telegraph Hill 5860 2344 411 17
986 4 1
Studley Wood: Picket Corner Telegraph Hill 5860 2344 411 17



Ogdens Mire: Ogdens Mire Ogdens




2280 8 2
Ogdens Mire: Ogdens Car Park Ogdens 99.75 39.9 7 1



Amberwood and Alderhill Inclosures: Fritham Bridge Fritham 9662.43 3864.97 678 28



Amberwood and Alderhill Inclosures: Alderhill Inclosure Alderhill 9662.43 3864.97 678 28
1920 7 2
Sloden: Sloden Inclosure Alderhill 5671.5 2268.6 398 16



Watergreen Bottom: Alderhill Inclosure Alderhill




500 2 1
Latchmore Shade: Ogdens Car Park Ogdens 9755.4 3902.16 684 28














TOTALS

68651.71 27461.2 4819 200
11720 44 13

I have added four columns of calculations, number of both deliveries and days for each material.  In each case all numbers are rounded up to the nearest whole number before being used as a factor in the next calculation.  These are based on both the optimal 100% load capacity and the maximum number of deliveries per day, and so derive the minimum number of deliveries necessary for each location/phase/route of the project.  Depending on your point of view, this is perhaps the best case scenario, the maximum amount of disruption each day, but the fewest number of days.

Table 1a1: Estimated Material Quantities by Route by Year HGVs

Year Lorry Route Hoggin & Washed Gravels (tonnes) Clay (tonnes) Minimum Tipper Deliveries Minimum Tipper Days
2019 Alderhill 15333.93 6133.57 1076 44
2020 Alderhill
2017 Fritham 10004.60 4001.80 704 30
2019 Fritham 9662.43 3864.97 678 28
2017 Ogdens 2071.00 829.00 146 6
2018 Ogdens 99.75 39.90 7 1
2020 Ogdens 9755.40 3902.16 684 28
2017 Telegraph Hill 10004.60 4001.80 702 29
2018 Telegraph Hill 11720.00 4688.00 822 34
TOTALS 68651.71 27461.20 4819 200

If the lorry loads are always at fullest capacity, than the number of deliveries remains constant.  That’s the minimum number of deliveries that would have to happen, you could have them in the fewest number of days if the maximum deliveries per day is reached, but more likely you may want to spread that pain.

 Table 1b1: Estimated Deliveries/Days by Route by Year and Comparison to %90 Capacity / 20 deliveries/day snapshot

Year Lorry Route Minimum Tipper Deliveries 90% Capacity Tipper Deliveries Minimum Tipper Days 90% Capacity 20 Max Tipper Days
2019 Alderhill 1076 1195 44 61
2020 Alderhill
2017 Fritham 704 780 30 40
2019 Fritham 678 752 28 38
2017 Ogdens 146 163 6 9
2018 Ogdens 7 9 1 1
2020 Ogdens 684 759 28 38
2017 Telegraph Hill 702 779 29 39
2018 Telegraph Hill 822 914 34 46
Totals 4819 5351 200 272

For a lesser case scenario, I tweaked numbers for HGV loads at 90% of Capacity, which would increase the number of deliveries required, and thus the number of days, and further increased the number of days by decreasing the maximum deliveries per day to 20.  This makes for some useful comparisons.

Table 1a2: Estimated Material Quantities by Route by Year Tractor/Trailer

Year Lorry Route Heather Bales Minimum Tractor Deliveries Minimum Tractor Days
2019 Alderhill 1920 7 2
2020 Alderhill 500 2 1
2017 Fritham 1815 7 2
2019 Fritham
2017 Ogdens
2018 Ogdens 2280 8 2
2020 Ogdens
2017 Telegraph Hill 4219 16 5
2018 Telegraph Hill 986 4 1
TOTALS 11720 44 13

Heather Bales will by delivered by tractor/trailers with a capacity of 300 Bales per  delivery.  We’ve also been told there’s a maximum of 4 deliveries per route per day.  It’s tempting to simply add that to the other numbers of daily deliveries, but the problem with that is that there are not that many deliveries of bales needed compared to the other infill materials.  At maximum capacity, there would need to be 44 deliveries for the entire project, not per year, not per route, the whole bale of wax.  If you were to spread those evenly by year by route that’s less than 3.  I can’t conceive that 3 extra tractor trailers per YEAR would be noticeable on even the quietest routes.  For our lesser case scenario, we run at ¾ full, and that ups the total deliveries to 58.

 Table 1b2: Estimated Deliveries/Days by Route by Year and Comparison to %75 Capacity snapshot

Year Lorry Route Minimum Tractor Deliveries 75% Capacity Tractor Deliveries Minimum Tractor Days 75% Capacity Tractor Days
2019 Alderhill 7 9 2 3
2020 Alderhill 2 3 1 1
2017 Fritham 7 9 2 3
2019 Fritham
2017 Ogdens
2018 Ogdens 8 11 2 3
2020 Ogdens
2017 Telegraph Hill 16 21 5 7
2018 Telegraph Hill 4 5 1 2
Totals 44 58 13 19

Of course it’s not that evenly spread, as we see when we look at the data, but the Fritham and Ogdens routes would need 7 and 8 deliveries respectively for the whole project.  It gets better than that, the number of bale deliveries coming by road routes might be nil:

For the purposes of the assessment it has been assumed that the heather bales will be transported from outside the catchment via the four routes listed below, thereby assessing a worst case scenario in terms of potential effects. However, it is more than likely that the heather bales will be harvested from within the open forest areas near to the Latchmore Catchment and public roads will not be needed to transport them to the areas of the proposed works.

Table 1c: Total Estimated Deliveries/Days over course of whole project by Route and Comparison to Worst Case snapshot (in combining Days for both Infill and Bale Delivery, overlap has been accounted for.)

Lorry Route Minimum Deliveries Worst Case Deliveries
Minimum Days Worst Case Days
Alderhill 1085 1207 45 62
Fritham 1389 1541 58 78
Ogdens 845 942 35 48
Telegraph Hill 1544 1719 63 85
Totals 4863 5409 201 273

It is also important to note that some mitigation measures are already in the plan which include: The same drivers will be used, and will be made aware of the “possible pedestrians, cyclists and livestock in the carriageway”, there will be “speed restrictions for delivery vehicles;” – 15mph on the Forest gravel tracks, 5mph under the ordinary 20mph restriction under the byelaws, and “traffic management with radios on the Ogdens route” as well as term time restrictions for school run to local schools.  For those concerned about the condition of their roads, there will be a survey of the local highway network before and after the restoration phase to identify and agree any remedial works reasonably attributable to the restoration activities.  (Full list in ES Vol 3 Appendix 4.2 Construction Traffic Management Plan Section 5).

We hope that this analysis goes a little way to giving a realistic scale to the potential problems.  Even if some may still want to scare monger, at least they should have more realistic numbers.  But we don’t want fear, we want sensible and proportional discussion.  And no, we don’t expect that this solves any remaining concerns – whether or not conditions are placed on the planning application to suggest further mitigation, there may still be work needed by both the Forestry Commission and local residents to accommodate each other fairly.