How time flies! It seems only yesterday that PCT held its first ever conservation event and now we have successfully completed our fourth conservation season. In fact it was 23 October 2014 that saw us take our first tentative steps along our conservation road map and what a great amount has been achieved since. During the past season, virtually without exception, all tasks have been very well attended and our volunteers have contributed over 2700 hours to the project – based on a 40 hour week and including time for holidays, that’s nearly a year and a half’s work by a full time worker. Put another way, it equates to around £40K in monetary terms over a six month period – I hope the Forestry Commission appreciate how much we’ve saved them in times of austerity!
Our conservation season did have a sting in the tail with snow creating chaos across the Forest on the first day of meteorological spring (1 March), resulting in the cancellation of our penultimate task. However, we don’t see these conditions very often and it does create a completely different landscape. Hopefully there will be no need to cancel any further tasks but please check the Events Diary on the morning of a task you are booked onto – if it is not marked “CANCELLED” it will still be on.
The Forestry Commission have also been active in Pondhead during the past month. Their contractors have been busy replacing the deer fence at the north of the inclosure that runs parallel with the Beaulieu Road. This has been quite a challenge for them as their work area was completely overgrown but, hopefully, it will improve deer control in the medium/longer term as the old fence line was inadequate for purpose. As a result of this work, there will only be one gate at the Beaulieu Road entrance rather than the two that were there previously.
As mentioned in our previous post, from 9 March onwards we will be concentrating on charcoal production, weather permitting. We currently have a team of 10 “wood colliers” who operate on a rota basis running our retort kiln. It’s a two person job that takes around 9 hours or just under and if anyone else would like to join the team, just let us know and we’ll train you up – it’s not difficult. These “burn” days will always be advertised in the Events Diary so just turn up if you want to spend a few hours out helping the colliers. Emptying and bagging days will also be advertised in the Events Diary and on these days there will be a need for 5 volunteers and you will be able to book onto these tasks that generally finish around 1 pm. It’s the income from these activities that pays for everything else so please help if you can. Thanks.
We will also need volunteers to help with our Open Day and the date has now been confirmed as Sunday 29 April, when hopefully the bluebells will still be out. Further details to follow and we may need a couple of prep days which will appear in the Events Diary. We will also be running five chair making courses between June and September and will also need volunteer help on these – full details here. One way or another there will still be plenty to do during the spring and summer (as well as holidays), including a Tree Identification Walk with Dave among other things so keep checking the diary.
As we mature as an organisation, and to increase the general public’s awareness of us and the work we do, we feel it is about time that we had our own “team clothing”. Most other conservation groups have this but virtually all of them choose green for their clothing. Rather than follow the herd, we have decided upon Burgundy (pictured) or Plum (not pictured) sweaters and Antique Red unisex t-shirts both of which will carry our printed logo.
Our logo is based on an original design by Perry – the logo depicts a butterfly whose wings are comprised of leaves. Trendy, eh? We hope you’ll approve of these items of apparel and be proud to wear them. The cost will be subsidised by PCT – sweaters will be priced at £10 and t-shirts at £7. Hopefully there will be sufficient demand for us to obtain bulk discounts as the above prices have been based on that assumption. Please order via the form below by the end of this month – pay when you collect them. We intend to place orders with the printers on a six monthly basis, subject to demand.
And now for something completely different. There are several badger setts within Pondhead and we have been monitoring one of these recently. The Badger (meles meles) is one of our most iconic wildlife creatures, belonging to the Mustelids family which includes weasels, stoats, otters, polecats and pine martens. Males are called boars, females are called sows and their young are called cubs. They are social animals who live in family groups, known as clans, and their underground homes are called setts, which contain several entrances and underground chambers – the entire sett can stretch over 50 metres. It’s quite common to see family members play fighting which is an important part of their bonding process, as is mutual grooming. They will also defend their territory against members of other clans. They are clean animals who dig shallow latrines outside the sett and change their bedding material regularly.
They are nocturnal mammals who stay below ground during the day and look for food at night and, consequently, they are rarely seen. Badgers are carnivores and their diet consist mainly of earthworms and insect larvae although they vary their diet according to the availability of food and may eat small mammals, fruit, nuts and even scraps left by humans. Their eyes are small as sight is not their primary sense and they are not thought to be able to see in colour. They have an acute sense of smell and they also rely on their hearing.
Badgers mate at almost any time of the year but employ a method of delayed implantation of the fertilised egg into the womb which ensures that they have only one litter a year with most cubs born in early to mid-February. The cubs from those litters emerge above ground for the first time around the middle of April. However, if they feel that their sett chamber is threatened or unsafe (i.e.flooding) the sows may move the cubs to another nearby sett chamber.
Badgers are protected and so are the setts they live in. Under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, it is unlawful to wilfully kill, injure or take a badger (or attempt to do so). Notwithstanding, the Government has decided upon a controversial badger cull as they are regarded as carriers of Bovine Tuberculosis (as are deer, goats, sheep and feral cats to name but a few). It is likely that the cull will be significantly extended shortly – currently it does not affect Hampshire. Without getting into the politics of it all, the latest figures from DEFRA show that the number of badgers culled has risen from 615 animals in 2014 to 19,274 in 2017, but the number of cows that succumbed to tuberculosis has also risen in that period, from 27,474 to 42,000. Badgers that are culled are not tested to see if they are carriers!
In order to provide an insight into one of our Pondhead badger families, the short video clip below shows what they get up to when we are fast asleep in our beds.