Balanos and Bluebells

Well spring has well and truly sprung with the weather around Easter being unseasonally warm. No doubt encouraged by this early warm weather, the bluebells in Pondhead came into flower early and, as at the time of writing, are still looking good, although just past their peak. Our woodland always receives an increase in visitor footfall at this time of year to view the seasonal colours but not all come to see the bluebells. Early one morning recently, as i was doing a charcoal burn at the retort a group of Mums and their children approached me and asked where they could see the Dragon! News of our dragon has obviously spread and it now has a name – “Balanos”. Not only does it have a name but it also has its own Facebook page check it out. We understand that it may be joined in the near future by a badger or badgers as planning has already started with a scale model.

Not only is Pondhead luxuriant in spring colour at present, but the dawn chorus is at its peak. An early morning walk through the woodland will reward you with a choral symphony of birdsong at this time of year when our resident birds are joined by the summer migrants.

With Easter coming three weeks later this year and accompanied by warm weather, demand for our charcoal rocketed and production could hardly keep up. Bags were flying out the door as soon as the retort was emptied. Sales for April were just over £1000 and we are currently ahead of the combined April/May total for last year.

We now have a trained pool of wood colliers (charcoal burners) operating on a rota basis which has worked well and spread the workload. Thankfully, the recent cooler weather has dampened demand and we have been able to catch up and build up stock levels. As mentioned in a previous news blog we will continue to show “burn” dates in the Events Diary, to which you are welcome to come along – although no volunteers are need on these dates a helping hand sawing logs is always welcome. However, we still need volunteers for emptying and bagging days and these will continue to be open for bookings via the Events Diary. New dates have been added.

If anyone else fancies being trained up as a wood collier, drop us an email and we will arrange another training day. Charcoal remains an integral part of our award winning project and we do need help, particularly over the summer period, as without the funds that it generates we would be unable to run the conservation events and maintain the woodland on a fully sustainable basis.

This year we are hoping to supplement our funds with three “Make a Chair in a Day” courses in June, August and September with six places on each – see our dedicated web page. The June course is already fully booked and the other two 50% booked. A place on one of these courses would make an ideal present for someone – spread the word to family and friends.

Our container is now in situ at the Forestry Commission’s Ashurst yard and it is currently being kitted out with racking and shelves. We are gradually moving anything that is not charcoal related out of our existing store at Clayhill and this is freeing up space to maintain higher stock levels of bagged charcoal. It also keeps our tools and equipment much cleaner!

A couple of dates for your diary. On Saturday 10 June we will be attending “Picnic on the Pitch”, a family fun day in Lyndhurst, with a display of our work. Full details can be obtained by clicking here. In addition, we have just been given the green light for a free pitch at the New Forest Show, which will take place this year on Tuesday 25 July for three days. Our theme will be “Sustainable Woodland Coppice Management” and we will be looking for volunteers to help over the three days in due course – watch this space.

Finally, another plug for “Give as you Live”. If you shop online for anything from groceries, holidays, utilities, insurance, etc., etc., you can help raise funds for PCT at no cost to yourselves. Eight people have currently signed up who have raised nearly £70 in a short space of time.

That’s all folks – see you in Pondhead.


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