After some early promise, the 2017 summer turned into a bit of a damp squib. It has been wetter than average and also warmer than average, although the warm weather at the end of June and the beginning of July helped boost the average temperature. Officially we are still in the final throes of summer which will end with the autumnal equinox on 22 September – the day when we are supposed to have equal hours of daylight and darkness.
The early warm weather was much kinder to the butterfly population this year. Butterflies are very susceptible to changes in both climate and habitat and it is for this reason they are one of the most widely monitored species worldwide. Closer to home, there have been some encouraging results. The surveys (transects) in Pondhead undertaken by Butterfly Conservation recorded over 1750 butterflies until the end of July compared to 758 for the same period last year. Results across the Forest have been up this year but nevertheless, the figures for Pondhead must also reflect the restoration work we are undertaking.
Despite all these fluctuations in climate, we have had a record season for sales of Pondhead charcoal. While our financial year does not end until next March, sales have already exceeded previous years and currently stand at just over £5000 with 1100 bags sold through our network of retailers within the Forest. This means we are in a healthy financial position and we have also been investing in additional tools and equipment. The team of 10 volunteer wood colliers (charcoal makers) have done a great job throughout the past spring and summer and without them, we couldn’t have achieved this total.
August 31 generally sees demand for charcoal die and with no Indian Summer in sight this is proving to be the case. We will be undertaking our last burn on 14 September and after that we will be mothballing the retort at its current location until next spring. However, we have a maintenance day planned for 19 September when we will be giving it a paint job so book onto the task in the Events Diary if you’re handy with a brush.
As we move towards autumn, the indications are that the wet summer will produce a spectacular autumn. Autumn leaf colour depends on sugar uptake by deciduous trees and while the warm, dry spring weather restricted this process, the subsequent wet weather helped trees to catch up and, according to the Forestry Commission, it should result in a colourful autumn display. This is expected to occur slightly later than normal this year and, at this stage, experts are anticipating a crescendo of colour around the last two weeks in October. Beech trees, in particular, can be very spectacular and we have plenty of these in the “wild wood” section of Pondhead.
Autumn will also see the start of our coppicing programme – this year we will be concentrating on further areas in Great Ingram, Rosie Close, Crab Tree Close and Two Oaks Close. However, this can’t commence, until leaf drop when the tree is dormant. Cutting at this time of year means there is no foliage to get in the way, the poles are free of leaves and the tree will not bleed any sap. In the meantime, we have started to add some conservation dates to the Events Diary and, initially these will concentrate mainly on ride maintenance so please book onto these events if you can – many hands make light work. Most have now been updated with details of the tasks we will be undertaking.
This past week has also seen the last of our three “Make a Chair in a Day” courses, which have proved highly successful and enjoyable. Don’t just take my word for it, this is a quote from an unsolicited email from two ladies who attended the last course :-
“We just wanted to thank you, and all the lovely Pondhead Conservation gentleman volunteers, for such a lovely day yesterday! It was relaxing and stress free to spend the day in the woods, close to and learning about the woods and the local nature from you and your well informed friends. We so enjoyed learning from all your expertise, and spending time with like minded people, with fun and a light hearted atmosphere.”
The lovely Pondhead Conservation gentleman volunteers – you heard it here first!
Look out for the new circular trail signs around Pondhead. Our old signs, which were always meant to be temporary for last year’s Open Day, were looking tatty so we’ve replaced them with permanent signs on fixed posts – we also measured the walk at 1.1 miles. At the same time, we decided to add an interpretation board adjacent to the Dragon to explain its relevance to the Forest. Check it out and find out about a ferocious dragon who terrorised the area in days of old!
Finally, it has been plugged previously, but if you are a regular online shopper you can help us via “Give as you Live“. It doesn’t cost you anything and the online price you pay for an item is not inflated. So far only 7 people have signed up but this has raised over £107 for PCT – just think how much more we could raise. The following video explains all.
Thank’s everyone – hope to see you in Pondhead soon for our new conservation season.