Summertime in Pondhead

Can you believe it, mid summer is almost upon us! Midsummer Day is on 24 June and in the UK, it was a traditional time of celebration which closely followed the summer solstice. This year’s solstice is on 21 June – the longest day of the year. As we like to do things traditionally in Pondhead we will be celebrating Midsummer with a BBQ at lunchtime on the 24th followed by our official unveiling of a brass plaque at the Volunteers’ Oak, which is currently in full leaf and looking very healthy. Please book on the BBQ via the Events Diary in order that we know how many to cater for. We hope as many as possible will be able to attend.

As we move into summer, our display of spring flowers has gone although foxgloves are starting to emerge. The majority of woodland flowers flower in early spring to capture the sun’s energy before the canopy of the large standard trees breaks into leaf and puts them in the shade. It’s good to report that the Volunteers’ Oak has broken into leaf after a slow start – no doubt the shock of re-planting had something to do with it. The coppiced areas that were cut in autumn and winter are also showing strong growth. Indeed, everything in Pondhead appears to be growing at a significant rate at present despite the lack of any meaningful rainfall. However, this lack of rain is creating an increased fire risk all across the Forest at present.

While its been generally dry, its not been exactly BBQ weather as we are yet to replicate the Easter heatwave. Despite this, charcoal sales at the end of May were up a few hundred pounds on the comparative period last year at just under £2000. We’ve kept up with orders so far despite more holes appearing in the kiln which we’ve managed to patch with a mixture of materials. There has been a slight delay in getting a repair done but it now due to take a short trip to the fabricators on 14 June ready for a return to action the following week. We’re hoping this further repair will get us through the remainder of this season and next as we build up enough funds to get a new one made to an improved specification.

The woodland is full of birdsong at present as the birds are busy nesting and the cuckoo has been heard regularly in recent weeks. Another visitor from Africa is the Nightjar and we believe that there is a nest at the back of the charcoal area. In the past few years these nocturnal birds have been regular visitors to Pondhead. One of their favoured nesting areas is recently cut woodland clearings such as those recently coppiced. Unfortunately it’s not such good news with butterflies as we appear to have lost our small colony of pearl-bordered fritillaries who have been hanging on in decreasing numbers over the past couple of years. We believe the species was artificially introduced into Pondhead a few years back but the colony has never really proved viable – shame.

You may recall that in last month’s news blog we mentioned that Pondhead was being used as a location for a promotional video for New Forest tourism – well here the link to it – If you blink you may miss the bit in Pondhead which took a day to film!!

The past month has also seen the start of our “Make a Chair in a Day” courses with two under our belt so far. The format we have developed continues to receive positive feedback and none of our participants have failed yet in making their chair. As we look to develop other courses, we recently trialed a wooden spoon making course with our volunteers acting as guinea pigs. The day started with felling a small tree in order to cleave out blanks for the spoons. I think it fair to say that by the end of the day, the results were mixed but everyone really enjoyed the experience and learnt how to use a mixture of tools to which they were unaccustomed. Another trial day is planned before we go live.

Over the last month we have also entertained a variety of visitors. You may recall that we have been shortlisted for the Royal Forestry Society’s Community Woodland Award and we recently received a visit from their judges for a tour of Pondhead to see what we have achieved. It seemed to go very well and we should know the outcome shortly – we’ll keep you posted. Shortly after we had one of our six monthly walks around Pondhead with our landlord, Forestry England (formerly the Forestry Commission) to show them the results of our autumn/winter programme. They remain happy with all that is being achieved by Pondhead volunteers and we will be meeting with them again later in the year as they plan thinning operations of some of the larger oaks scheduled for 2020.

Finally, a date for your diary. The New Forest Show will be taking place this year on 30, 31 July and 1 August. We will be attending again this year with a pitch in the Heart of the Forest area. In addition to a static display we will also be doing various demonstrations to showcase our work. More details to follow in our next news blog.

That’s all for now – hope to see you in Pondhead soon.

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