The New Forest today has many layers of Protection, whether SSSI, RAMSAR, SAC, NATURA 2000 and other designations, all aiming to safeguard the area for future generations. However it must be remembered that it has been and is still a working Forest. Today, timber production and Commoning remain well in evidence, but in the not too distant past Charcoal production was big business in the New Forest. Why this business declined and has been lost from the Forest is for others to discuss elsewhere. The associated coppice woods are dying out and only small remnants survive where protected by fencing against livestock and deer. Pondhead is one such place.
It’s these fenced woodland areas around the Forest that generally show the greatest plant and animal diversity. Keeping hazel coppice cut on a ten year rotation adds yet another layer of diversity. Little sun traps, microclimates, different aged vegetation, all add to the habitats available for a wide variety of species. By cutting the coppice in rotation the fauna and flora can move around over the years as a more favorable habitat structure becomes available. Many plant species set seed that lies dormant in the ground until the right conditions to germinate reappear.
The aim of Pondhead Conservation Trust (PCT) is to create and maintain this rotation of hazel coppice and manage the understorey accordingly within the 200 acres of Pondhead Inclosure. This inclosure in the late 1800’s was considered the foremost area for entomology in the New Forest. In particular, butterflies, but while some of those butterfly species still persist in low numbers many have gone. One species has been coaxed back naturally. The Pearl bordered Fritillary butterfly (pictured right) has recolonised through recent hazel coppice improvements, and with care of other larval food plants some lost butterfly species may reappear in time.
Other key species found in coppice woodland elsewhere may or may not be present in Pondhead. Part of PCT’s aims are to monitor what is present through surveys. By liaising with other species specific groups where greater expertise exists, we aim to build up a detailed picture of what flora and fauna occurs in Pondhead and how it fairs over time.
This is particularly important as it would indicate what effect any management of the area is having on certain species over time. Management protocols could then be updated if deemed necessary when any deleterious affects are observed in population trends.
If you have a particular wildlife interest or natural history specialty and would like to get involved with surveys and various conservation projects within Pondhead Inclosure, we would be pleased to hear from you.