It’s been a busy New Year

The new year has started with a hive of activity in Pondhead. Our conservation tasks have been very well attended and, as a result, we are ahead of schedule for our autumn/winter programme. The staked rustic fence around the hand coppiced area in Rosie Close is now complete, the area opposite it has been cleared, the woodland butterfly transect route has been widened and improved and we have restored an overgrown ride at the rear of the Limewood. In addition the chainsaw team have finished their coppice work on target and during the month we also planted over 200 young trees. Overall, we’ve started 2018 with a bang! Well done everyone – a really great effort.

As we enter the final month of winter, the signs of Spring are starting to appear and the early green tips of bluebells are popping up in a number of places. We are also in the final month of this season’s conservation work and coppicing programme and we aim to start charcoal production again in the second week of March to build up stock ahead of Easter. In the meantime, there are still plenty of jobs to do here and there around Pondhead and spaces are  available on most tasks in the Events Diary.

In January we held the Annual General Meeting of our Trustees and it was good to see a few volunteers come along to find out what happens behind the scenes. Following the departure of two Trustees during the year we were pleased to welcome Barry Dowsett, Ian Barker and Robin Mair to our team. Barry is currently a New Forest Verderer and is also actively involved with Bentley Wood (a large area of SSSI woodland to the north west of the New Forest). Ian is the New Forest National Park Authority Ecologist who has contacts with many wildlife/conservation organisations. Many of you will already know Robin who has worked for the Forestry Commission for a number of years and is a member of our chainsaw team. A copy of the minutes of the AGM can be obtained by clicking here.

Prior to our AGM Dave and Derek attended a meeting organised by the Forestry Commission about the Forest Design Plan for New Forest Inclosures. Nothing is likely to happen in Pondhead in the short term although at some stage there will be some alteration to the fence line in our south east quadrant. We will be consulted beforehand and the likelihood is that a small area in this part of the inclosure will end up outside the fence line but as we don’t coppice or do any other work in there, it shouldn’t affect us. On the subject of fences, the deer fence that runs along the back of the Beaulieu Road houses is being renewed by the Forestry Commission and preparatory work has already commenced. The area has been identified as the area where most deer are finding their way into Pondhead. As a result of the work, the inner gate of the two from Beaulieu Road will be removed and the top gate made deer proof.

During the month Perry, Dave and Derek visited the National Archives in Kew, courtesy of a free coach laid on by the New Forest NPA. The objective was to see what other history we could uncover regarding Pondhead. While we didn’t discover anything new, what we did find confirmed our existing information base. However, we did stumble upon a bundle of old Forestry Commission correspondence dated from 1936, relating to experimental trials for mobile charcoal retorts in the New Forest. Their purpose was to generate income from waste timber in various locations in the Forest which included Cadnam, Nomansland, Millyford (Emery Down) and Burley. There was also a letter of complaint regarding the metal bases of three of the kilns burning through in less than 12 months – eighty years later and we experienced similar design problems!! However, the design and operation was less sophisticated than ours and the burn process took between 18 and 20 hours – they are what we now know as “ring kilns”. It appears that the trial came to a halt following the onset of the Second World War. The following slideshow pictures them in action around the Forest.

  • The "Unique Charcoal Retort"
  • Waste timber ready for processing
  • Stacking the retort - one section (or "ring") at a time
  • The retort stacked & ready for firing up.
  • Regulating the air supply by earthing up the bottom of the kiln
  • Kilns in various stages of operation. Note the push cart on rails for moving timber & charcoal around.
  • The finished product
  • The Charcoal Store
  • The transport fleet

The annual New Forest Volunteer Fair took place towards the end of January. We were represented as usual with a new display which featured quite a few of you on a variety of tasks. We also gave a presentation featuring the public premiere of our new promo video which was well received. The overall show attendance was down on last year but we seemed to be busy with enquiries for most of the day and a trickle of new volunteers have started to sign up online. There were over 40 organisations represented with an increasing number having a conservation theme so we can’t rest on our laurels when it comes to volunteer recruitment! Tell your friends about us and please feel free to bring them along to a conservation task for a taster. If you like to plan well ahead, next year’s event will be held on Sunday 27 January.

Finally, a date for your diaries – we are planning to hold an Open day for the general public on Sunday 29 April. We held a very successful event in 2016 that was well attended and spread the word about our conservation work and charcoal production. As a result we decided to hold one every two years. Further details will follow but if anyone would like to be involved in any way, please let us know.

  • Creating a sunny patch opposite Rosie Close coppice
  • It's looking good
  • Plenty of charcoal timber following clearance
  • Now to open up the overgrown ride to the rear of the Limewood
  • Plenty of green bluebell shoots found in this glade that we created
  • The line of the re-opened ride as it heads towards Stokes Close
  • Some final touches with the shears - just a little job left for the chainsaw team
  • Our Volunteer Fair display
  • Perry explains the joy of volunteering in Pondhead
  • The public face of Pondhead Volunteering!


It’s been a busy New Year — 2 Comments

  1. Fantastic photos of those old retorts. Dave doesn’t seem to have changed a bit !!

  2. Lovely pictures, an interesting visit to national archives at Kew. Ahead of schedule well done all.

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