Saturday, December 6, 2014

Rare Dartford Warbler recorded at Barton Common New Milton

Dartford Warbler IUCN Red List Barton Common New Milton
A Dartford Warbler, taken by New Forest-based photographer
Luke Parkinson.
An iconic New Forest bird species has been recorded at Barton Common in New Milton for the first time in more than 10 years.

The rare Dartford warbler, which is on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, has been recorded at the common for the first time since August 2004 by local expert Keith Betton.

The New Forest is a UK stronghold for the heathland bird, which nearly died out in this country 50 years ago. Barton Common is owned by New Milton Town Council, which, with the support of the New Forest Land Advice Service and Natural England, has recently reintroduced grazing ponies to the site in order to improve habitats for plants and wildlife.

This includes the Dartford warbler, a long-tailed warbler, resident in the UK, which has suffered in the past from cold winters. In the 1960s the population declined to just a few pairs, and although it has gradually recovered it is still considered to be threatened.

Dartford warblers nest in dense gorse bushes, which occur in heathland and scrubland sites that are well-managed, and feed on caterpillars, beetles and spiders.

Keith Betton, County Recorder for the Hampshire Ornithological Society, said: ‘It’s always exciting when a rare bird is recorded in a new location, so I was pleased to hear the distinctive call of the Dartford warbler at Barton Common. I have talked to other local birdwatchers who visit the area and they are as excited as I am. The only previous sighting was in 2004, despite the fact that they are relatively widespread on the New Forest heaths.

‘The grazed gorse at Barton Common is a good habitat for the birds, and I’m hopeful that in the coming months we will record even more species on the common for the first time. There are two birds present - so I am hoping they may stay around for the breeding season.’

Geoffrey Blunden, New Milton Town Councillor, said: ‘We have been working with the Land Advice Service for several years to change the way the common is managed, fulfilling the Town Council’s obligation to ensure this important site is looked after in the best possible way for the enjoyment of all.

‘I am pleased the scrub clearance and reintroduction of grazing stock is already helping to return the common to its former glory. One of the aims of these changes is to improve the site as a habitat for many types of plants and wildlife, so to hear Dartford warbler on the common is a real joy.

‘As well as improvements for wildlife, the common is also undergoing work to ensure the area remains an enjoyable place for local people to walk. This includes widening the paths across the common and clearing scrub from ‘pinch points’ to improve conditions under foot and working with the grazier to monitor the behaviour of the ponies.’

To record your wildlife and plant life sightings at Barton Common and throughout Hampshire search ‘living record Hampshire’ online, or email

The New Forest Land Advice Service is funded by the New Forest National Park Authority, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, and the Verderers.

The grazing schemes in New Milton, which includes Barton Common, are part of the Town Council’s Higher Level Stewardship scheme, which provides financial support to assist with management of their important wildlife sites.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

New Forest Christmas Fair - come and join in the fun

Children enjoy a wagon ride with Father Christmas
at the 2013 New Forest Christmas Fair.
Kick off the festive season with locally produced seasonal gifts, tasty hot food and wagon rides with Santa at the New Forest Christmas Fair.

After last year’s successful event, which attracted over 10,000 visitors, the fair is returning to New Park, Brockenhurst on Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 December.

The gates are open from 10am until 4pm, with over 100 stalls and food outlets on site as well as a youth choir and Woodfalls brass band playing Christmas tunes. Visitors can purchase their Forestry Commission Christmas tree, enjoy a glass of mulled wine, browse for interesting or unusual locally sourced presents, or sample delicious festive food.

Many of the traders are members of the New Forest Marque, a quality assurance scheme supported by the New Forest National Park Authority. The Marque promotes authentic New Forest fare of the highest quality, and encourages people to shop locally.

If you are a local trader we would like to hear from you, as there are some pitches still available. Make sure you join the many businesses that make the most of this prime opportunity to sell their goods during the build-up to Christmas.

Marque member Catherine Shutler, of Cyril’s Soap Shed, attended the fair last year to sell her goat’s milk soap. Catherine said: ‘The fair is a wonderful event - there are lots of great stalls to buy unique presents and seasonal goodies, and many of the traders are local to the New Forest.

‘The weekend has such a friendly and festive atmosphere, so much so that there are quite a few people who come both days because they have such a good time.’

Sarah Hunt, New Forest Marque manager and fair co-ordinator, said: ‘We’ve run the fair for two years now, and it’s continuing to go from strength to strength. Last year’s event was hugely popular with visitors and stallholders alike, and the 2014 fair will have even more attractions and stalls for everyone to enjoy.

‘Take advantage of the fantastic range of local products on offer and take the hassle out of Christmas by doing all your shopping in one place. And remember – Marque businesses benefit from reduced pitch rates, which is one of dozens of reasons to be a member.’

For more information on the fair, or to reserve a trading stall at the event, email or phone 01590 646692.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Heritage on My Doorstep - have you a desire for local history

Volunteers in the New Forest Heritage on My Doorstep project
Archaeology volunteers in the New Forest
Anyone with an interest in history and a desire to discover more about their local area can unearth the secrets of their community’s past as part of an exciting new project.

Heritage on My Doorstep is a pioneering initiative that will help people in the New Forest to investigate and interpret their area’s past, before sharing their discoveries with the wider community.

The project will be led by the New Forest National Park Authority and will form part of the Our Past, Our Future Landscape Partnership Scheme, which will run from 2016 once funding is confirmed.

With support from experts, training in archaeological and research skills, and grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the project is an excellent opportunity to find out more about the buildings, people and nature that combine to form your area’s heritage.  

To be one of the communities involved in Heritage on My Doorstep you just need to:

Have a desire to discover your local area and share your findings with the wider community

Have a pool of people who want to support your venture and volunteer their time

Undertake a heritage project and interpret and publicise your findings.
Marian Spain, New Forest National Park Authority member, said: ‘The aim of this exciting four year project is to empower local communities to research and promote their own heritage and interests.

‘You can form a group to research anything and everything that interests you about your local area, which could be how your town or village was established, significant events such as the advent of war, or the history of a certain building, monument or person.’

The Landscape Partnership Scheme is led by the New Forest National Park Authority working alongside several delivery and funding partners including the Beaulieu Estate, Commoners Defence Association, Environment Agency, Forestry Commission, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, National Trust, Natural England, New Forest Centre, and the New Forest Land Advice Service.

If you have any questions, or would like your community to be involved, contact James Brown at or 01590 646695.