Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud

Well, the rain has continued for most of the month and Pondhead is a bit muddy at present, especially the ride alongside the coppice coupe in Rosie Close where we have been working all month. However, our hardy volunteers have been up to the challenge and a special mention for those volunteers who have been bringing out cut coppice timber on our trolleys through the mud – it hasn’t been easy! In addition to the rain, there have been a few days of high winds which can be dangerous when working in woodlands. A perfect example of this was a near miss to our charcoal store by a fallen tree brought down in recent high winds – it partially demolished the shed next to it occupied by Forestry England!

During our current conservation season, we decided to defer cutting one area of coppice that was scheduled in our woodland management plan. The reason being that we have plentiful supplies of charcoal timber lying around at present and it would be pointless cutting timber that we don’t need at this stage – better to let it continue to grow. The combination of this reduced programme and an increase in the number of volunteers, has meant that most events have become fully booked quickly and we apologise if any volunteers have been disappointed as a result – we are victims of our own success. If you want to make sure of a space on any event, we always sent out an email to all volunteers as soon as new events have been added.

Looking ahead and despite a few cancellations for adverse weather, we are on target to complete our revised programme on schedule by the beginning of March before we move onto our charcoal related tasks. The present coppice coupe should be finished in the next week and this will leave us time to undertake some work on the rides. The chainsaw team have made a start on reinstating the old overgrown ride that cuts across to the left of the area we are currently working. This area will need some fencing and hedging after we finish our current coppicing activities.

This past weekend, the charcoal kiln has made the short trip to the fabricators in Totton for some essential welding repairs ahead of our charcoal season which we aim to start mid March to build up stock ahead of Easter. When we decommissioned it in September, a further two small holes in the inner chamber were discovered which would only get bigger if we left them. This further remedial work should see us through the season – fingers crossed. We intend to take stock at the end of the season to consider whether to get a new inner chamber fabricated. If we decide to go down this route, we would be confident that the kiln would easily see us through until August 2024, when our current 10-year license with Forestry England is due for renewal.

The past month also witnessed our Annual general Meeting at the Scout Hall in Lyndhurst and it was good to see a more volunteers attending than in previous years. Our current board of Trustees were voted back on for a further term with the exception of our Secretary, Carol Dibden who has decided to step down. Carol stepped into the breach to help us out a few years ago when we were having difficulties filling the role and it is appropriate to record here our gratitude for the excellent support she has provided – many thanks Carol. In her place we are delighted welcome Jenny Pitt to our board of Trustees – those of you who volunteer regularly will know Jenny well.

One of the proposals to come out of the AGM, was the setting up of a separate Operations Team of volunteers to become more directly involved in the day to day running of our project. This was subject to a recent email to all volunteers and we are grateful to those who have responded. We have no set ideas for the team at this stage other than help in sharing the organisational workload that currently rests in only a few hands and a medium/longer term view on succession of roles, especially when we enter into discussions to renew our operating license for another 10 years. It is envisaged that the role of the new team will be evolutionary rather than revolutionary!

During the past month, we were represented at the annual New Forest Volunteer Fair once again. This was the 10th annual such event to be held and the number of organisations looking for volunteers increases year by year. This year there were a record 57 organisations represented which goes to show just how competitive the market has become for active volunteers. Despite this, nine new volunteers have signed up with us and we welcome them to their first newsletter and look forward to seeing them in Pondhead shortly.

We continue to work with other groups and organisations which is very much part of our ethos as a community woodland project. Last month was no exception as we welcomed a work party from the local National Trust and also gave a talk to a group of senior citizens at Brockenhurst Day Centre. We have also received a generous offer from the New Forest Painters Group. They will be holding their annual exhibition of their work in Brockenhurst Village Hall on Friday 6 March, which will include a painting of the visit to Pondhead by Toby Hoad’s Comptois horses, Fleur and Celine, last September. They have kindly offered to undertake a silent auction of the painting with the proceeds coming to Pondhead Conservation Trust. If you’re free on 6 March why not pop along to their exhibition.

Finally, we are not just all about cutting down trees, some of you may have noticed a recent post by Perry on our Facebook page highlighting the fact that in the past four years we have planted 1482 trees in Pondhead of the following species – Alder 9 Beech 10 Bird Cherry 48 Blackthorn 20 Crab Apple 18 Dog Rose 18 Dogwood 38 Elder 15 Goat Willow 54 Hazel 818 Lime 20 Mixed hedge 400 Oak 11 Wild Service 3. All the relevant information is on an excellent Google map he has produced which can be accessed by clicking here. Thanks Perry.

That’s all for this month – see you in Pondhead

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