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Friday, 25 February 2011

Finding friends and fun at volunteer fair

People with a passion for the New Forest are invited to a Volunteer Fair showcasing the best of volunteering opportunities in the National Park.

Organised by the New Forest National Park Authority, the fair already has 25 different groups signed up, with everything from local history to conservation tasks on offer.

People of all ages are welcome to the event on Saturday 5 March at Lyndhurst Community Centre, which will include activities such as making animal homes.

Jim Mitchell, the New Forest National Park’s Interpretation Officer, said: ‘2011 is the European Year of Volunteering and we want to celebrate the great work going on in the New Forest and encourage more people to get involved.

‘Volunteering is good for meeting new people, learning new skills, it can keep you fit and is a great way to make a real difference to the Forest. For anyone with an interest in the wildlife, landscape and heritage of the National Park, come along!’

Diane Hogarty recently volunteered with the National Park’s Coastal Heritage Project. She said: ‘Volunteering is educational, fun, friendly (you meet people from all walks of life), exciting, inspirational, at times back-breaking, and very interesting! I now look at my local landscape with new eyes. I will definitely volunteer again, if they will have me!’

Groups wanting to exhibit at the fair can do so free of charge. The event will run from 11am to 4pm and people are welcome to drop in at any time. For more details, contact Jim Mitchell on 01590 646681, email jim.mitchell@newforestnpa.gov.uk

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

The Solent comes to the big screen

Over 200 people attended a film premier exploring life on the sea bed last week. They were taken on an underwater adventure exploring ship wrecks found in the Solent.

The film, by award-winning underwater cameraman Michael Pitts was made in partnership with the New Forest National Park Authority for the New Forest Coastal Heritage project.

Celebrating the launch of the ‘Shipwrecks of the Western Solent’ DVD - front row, third in Alison Barnes, Chief Executive of the New Forest National Park Authority, Mike Pitts, cameraman, James Brown, Authority’s Education and Outreach Officer and far right Mark James, Authority’s Maritime Archaeologist.

‘Shipwrecks of the Western Solent’ is a 28 minute long educational film investigating five different types of shipwrecks;  the Ceres, Fenna, SS War Knight, SS Serrana and MV Margaret Smith.

The premier was attended by local heritage and diving societies, educational groups and project volunteers who gave up their time to help contribute to this project.

‘Making the film wasn’t as easy as it sounds,’ says Michael Pitts who made the film. ‘Maritime archaeology is full of challenges and none more than on the south coast. If anyone has been across the Solent on the Isle of Wight ferry and looked in the waters they will have noticed that they are not crystalline.

‘It took a lot of hard work and after the initial disappointments we soon learnt to dive the right tides and with the knowledge and expertise of our skipper, we finally had enough footage to put the film together.’

Mark James, New Forest National Park Authority’s Maritime Archaeologist, said: ‘The New Forest has a vast coastal history and the aim of the film was to capture a snapshot of this. With the risk of rising sea level and the threat of climate change it is important that we start working on a detailed record of what lies beneath the Solent; making a film seemed like a logical part of recording this work.’

Mark added: ‘A lot of the New Forest’s history is underwater; we needed a lot of help from volunteers to dive previously unexplored areas of the seabed. It is thought that the Solent could have witnessed over 5000 wrecks.

‘James Brown, the Authority’s Education and Outreach Officer, said: ‘The film will be a great tool to take into local schools.’ He continued: ‘The New Forest coast has a great history and it is important that we take our knowledge and help children learn about the New Forest’s unique past.’

The film will initially be available to local schools, heritage organisations, museums, dive charters and clubs. However, the film will be available to watch free as part of the ‘Coastal Detectives’ exhibition at the New Forest Centre in Lyndhurst until the 10 March and at the St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery from the 23 April to 28 May. The exhibitions celebrate the discoveries made as part of the project through panels, an interactive game and a series of coastal inspired activities.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Working for the New Forest down under

Melissa McVee doing conservation work in Australia.
The New Forest National Park Authority has recruited its first international volunteer. However they will not be found at the Authority’s headquarters but behind a laptop in Perth, Western Australia.

Thanks to the ingenious powers of technology Melissa McVee is working on mapping walks in the New Forest from the other side of the world.

‘This is a really interesting project to undertake,’ said Andrew Bell, Geographical Information Officer. ‘We were approached by Melissa who was really keen to gain some mapping work experience before heading to the UK next year. She has previous experience doing map work in an Australian National Park.

‘We’ve found technology such as remote working and Skype work well together  and the time difference means that lunchtime meetings fit in with Melissa’s work in the evenings.’

Melissa added: ‘I’ve been working in mapping for the last five years and I am especially passionate about National Parks.’

‘The work I am doing is enjoyable and I can see how it is going to benefit walkers in the New Forest, hopefully I will do one of the walks I helped design next year. I’m looking forward to visiting the New Forest, I already feel like I know so much about it.

For more information about walking in the New Forest visit www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/walking

Monday, 21 February 2011

Authority’s response on Governance Review sent to Defra

Members of the New Forest National Park Authority have given their formal response to the Government following a national 12-week national consultation on how the Authority should be governed.

The national Government-led consultation was facilitated at a local level by the Authority who held four public meetings for local residents, groups and organisations to find out more about the review.

The Authority members at their meeting in February gave detailed consideration to all of the consultation responses made locally, and debated the issues at length.

The members agreed to recommend a number of changes to increase local accountability, these included:
  • The criteria for the appointment of 12 local authority members should be made transparent;
  • The role of the Secretary of State in formally appointing parish members should be removed to increase local accountability;
  • The Secretary of State is to consult with the Authority, Verderers and New Forest Consultative Panel when selecting ‘national’ appointees.

The Authority members also recommended that subject to these changes being made, the size of the Authority should stay at 22 members, to ensure the members can continue to engage with local communities.

Julian Johnson, Chairman of the New Forest National Park Authority, said: ‘We welcome the comments and feedback we received from the 57 consultation responses relating to the New Forest. They highlighted the diversity of local opinion and provided the Authority with excellent feedback for improving its engagement and accountability.
 
‘The basic composition of the Authority’s membership was supported by the majority of the parish councils and constituent local authorities who responded.
 
‘We were pleased that the Authority’s consultation with local communities was generally commended by respondents and we are keen to develop this further. The Authority will work closely with the New Forest Consultative Panel and continue working with local communities in and around the National Park through parish quadrant meetings and ranger services.’
 
‘If the Secretary of State feels that further changes are required, the Authority is willing to discuss the scope for introducing a proportion of directly elected members.’
 
The Government has stated that it will announce the outcome of the Governance Review by the end of March 2011. For further information visit www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/governancereview

Thursday, 17 February 2011

New Forest National Park Authority welcomes announcement that Forest consultation is halted

The New Forest National Park Authority today (17 February) welcomed the news that the Government’s consultation on the future management of the Forest estate has been halted.

Julian Johnson, Chairman of the New Forest National Park Authority, had written to Ministers on Monday inviting them to the New Forest to learn more about the special nature of the area and hear local views on the consultation. Mr Johnson today said he hoped that meeting would still go ahead.

He said: ‘There has been a huge groundswell of concern from our residents and partners in the National Park and Authority members were clear that we had to engage Ministers directly in understanding the views of local people about the consultation. Today the voice of local people appears to have been heard.

‘I wrote to Ministers asking for close engagement in the New Forest and to highlight the strong local views and the importance of the Crown Lands. It is evident that the consultation focussed minds at the highest level on protecting the importance of the New Forest Crown Lands as an internationally important landscape, and we will play a full part in continuing these important discussions for the benefit of the Forest.

‘In my letter to Ministers I emphasised that Authority members are unanimous in their support of the long-standing New Forest Acts – which underpin the ancient commoning system that shapes the unique Forest landscape - and that we are firm in our view that they should not be undermined or overridden.

‘Managing the New Forest estate is an incredibly complex operation that requires funding from government and significant local knowledge and professional expertise; state ownership and management of Crown Lands of the New Forest is the model that has delivered these.  Members are looking for these skills, local expertise and resources that underpin this complex management system to be secured for the future.’

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

New Forest National Park Authority Chairman requests Ministerial visit

The Chairman of the New Forest National Park Authority has asked Ministers to visit the New Forest to discuss the consultation on the future management of England’s Forest Estate.

Julian Johnson, Chairman of the New Forest National Park Authority, said: ‘There has been a huge groundswell of concern from our residents and partners in the National Park and Authority members are clear that we must engage Ministers directly in understanding the views of local people about the consultation.  Whilst we will lodge our formal response before the current consultation closes in April, I have written to Ministers now to ask for close engagement in the New Forest and to highlight the strong local views emerging and the importance of the Crown Lands.

‘I have emphasised that Authority members are unanimous in their support of the long-standing New Forest Acts – which underpin the ancient commoning system that shapes the unique Forest landscape- and that we are firm in our view that they should not be undermined or overridden. To maintain their unique qualities, the whole of the New Forest Crown Lands must be maintained and managed as a single entity, and we therefore welcome the fact that the consultation recognises that the Forest should be considered as a special case – as a single unit ‘Heritage Forest’.  It is evident that the consultation is already focussing minds at the highest level on protecting the importance of the New Forest Crown Lands as an internationally important landscape, underpinned by a unique way of life and providing access and enjoyment for all.’

‘Managing the New Forest estate is an incredibly complex operation that requires funding from government and significant local knowledge and professional expertise; state ownership and management of Crown Lands of the New Forest is the model that has delivered these.  Members are looking for these skills, local expertise and resources that underpin this complex management system to be secured for the future.

The Authority has convened a panel of members to consider the finer details of the consultation and to help compile the Authority’s formal response. Members are also continuing to work closely with partner organisations to make sure the views of the Forest are conveyed and heard by Government.

A full report on the consultation will be presented to the Authority meeting on 24 March 2011 (one month ahead of the closing date for the twelve week consultation).

Monday, 14 February 2011

The New Forest coast comes to Lyndhurst

Exploring the seabed of the Solent
The New Forest Centre has become a hub of coastal archaeology thanks to the New Forest National Park Authority.

For the last two years’ Authority archaeologists and volunteers have been investigating the New Forest’s dynamic coastline as part of a joint-funded project.

Their aim was to investigate the 125,000 years of history from the pre-historic period right through to present day.

The ‘Coastal Detectives’ exhibition celebrates the discoveries made and records the unique journey of the project through a series of panels, an interactive game and a series of coastal inspired activities.

‘The New Forest has a vast history, the first people here travelled north from Europe when the English Channel and the Solent were both dry land,’ says the Authority’s Education and Outreach Officer, James Brown. ‘The New Forest provided a good location for a settlement with a wide variety of food, access to fresh water and resources for building. When sea levels rose 7,000 years ago, people settled along the New Forest Coast.’

He continued: ‘With rising sea levels and the risk of climate change it is important that we make a detailed record of the past so that it’s not lost. We’re also looking at how we can predict coastal changes in the future; the New Forest coast is very flat and made mainly from clay and gravel, it’s a soft landscape that can change very quickly. By looking at how change has affected people in the past we can think about how to protect the coast’s future.’

James Brown with volunteers at Hurst Castle
The exhibition is not limited just to dry land. Mark James, Archaeology Project Officer at the Authority, adds: ‘Much of the New Forest’s history is actually underwater, a lot of diving was undertaken to survey known shipwrecks and investigate previously unexplored areas of the sea bed. It is thought that the Solent could have witnessed over 5000 wrecks. There are currently 75 recorded wrecks on the Shingles Bank on the entrance to the Western Solent.

‘This work is so important; the Solent is at risk from offshore dredging, fishing and from the action of the waves, tides and marine life.’

The Coastal Detective exhibition will be at the New Forest Centre in Lyndhurst until the 20 March 2011.

For more information about the Coastal Heritage project visit www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/coastal

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Helping hand for New Forest Volunteer Fair

Groups which are looking for more volunteers are invited to showcase their projects at a New Forest Volunteer Fair set up by the New Forest National Park.

The Fair, on Saturday 5 March at Lyndhurst Community Centre, already has 25 groups signed up, with everything from local history to conservation tasks on offer.

Jim Mitchell, the New Forest National Park’s Interpretation Officer, said: ‘2011 has been designated the European Year of Volunteering and we want to celebrate the great work going on in the New Forest and encourage more people to get involved.

‘We want the fair to showcase the best of volunteering opportunities in the New Forest and would like to provide as wide a range of groups as possible which have an interest in the wildlife, landscape and heritage of the National Park.

‘As well as an opportunity for groups to hold displays about their work and talk to visitors about volunteering opportunities, the fair will be an ideal place to network with like-minded organisations.’

Groups wanting to exhibit at the fair can do so free of charge. The event will run from 11am to 4pm with a wide range of activities for visitors. For more details, contact Jim Mitchell on 01590 646681, email jim.mitchell@newforestnpa.gov.uk

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Wheelie good scheme for youngsters with disabilities


A youngster enjoying one of the specially-adapted
cycles which the scheme is planning to buy.
Young people with disabilities will soon have more opportunities to explore New Forest cycle trails thanks to a scheme organised by the New Forest National Park.

A range of specially-adapted trikes and tandems will soon be available following a grant of over £30,000 from Hampshire County Council’s Aiming High for Disabled Children programme. The National Park itself is contributing £5,000, with New Forest District Council adding another £1,000.

The scheme means young people with physical or learning disabilities will be able to enjoy the outdoors.

The bikes will be available from Brockenhurst cycle hire company Cyclexperience by early summer. The bikes can also be used for individual hire and group sessions, where they will be delivered to specially-selected Forest sites from which suitable trails can be accessed.

A survey last year of visitors and residents showed that around 10% of visitors to the New Forest have a long-term health issue or disability which impacts on their daily activity. Feedback from Cyclexperience staff also shows there is a demand for all-ability cycles, some of which can be operated by hand, or carry wheelchair-users as passengers.

Chris Gregory, the National Park’s Transport and Tourism Officer, said: ‘The New Forest National Park has a popular cycle track network extending over 100 miles. It is consistently rated as offering one of the best family cycling experiences in the UK but at the moment many young people with disabilities are largely excluded from enjoying it.

‘These highly-specialised bikes can cater for young  people with a wide range of disabilities who have not previously had access to cycling in the New Forest.

‘By getting out in the fresh air and enjoying the National Park we hope the quality of life and well-being of these young people and their families will be given a real boost.’

For more details about the New Forest Access For All cycle scheme, contact Chris Gregory on 01590 646683, email chris.gregory@newforestnpa.gov.uk.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Bid to reveal importance of New Forest in World War II

Ibsley Battle HQ
Spy schools, prisoner of war camps, secret airfield missions and thousands of evacuees in World War II changed the landscape of the New Forest and also the course of history.

Now the New Forest National Park is hoping a widespread archaeological project to discover and record the crucial role the area played in World War II will capture people’s imaginations and is asking heritage organisations to get in touch.

The National Park has heard its initial bid for £473,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has been successful. The first-round pass* means that it can now progress to the second stage of the HLF application process and has up to two years to submit more detailed plans to secure the grant.

With 80% of first-round projects being successful, it hopes that now with the community’s help the World War II scheme will get the go-ahead.

Stuart McLeod, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund for South East England said: ‘This is an exciting application which may uncover previously undisturbed archaeological remains across large tracts of the New Forest and offer as many as 75 new volunteers the chance to get involved first-hand in preserving the legacy of World War II history on their doorstep. We look forward to receiving the National Park’s application for a full grant in the future.’

The National Park intends to use the money to:
  • Bring together existing information about World War II activities in the New Forest, working with the Forest community
  • Conduct surveys of World War II sites involving trained volunteers
  • Collect memories of military personnel, residents, evacuees and prisoners of war including recordings, photographs and artefacts
  • Increase understanding and awareness of the Forest’s role in the War with events, activities, archaeological digs, resources and educational materials.

National Park Archaeologist Frank Green said involvement from New Forest communities will be essential in making the project a success. However he stressed that at this stage he is only appealing for heritage groups to come forward to back their funding bid.
 
Frank said: ‘Some of the World War II features are well-documented like the 12 airfields that were created in the Forest and the building of the Mulberry Harbours at Lepe for D-Day. Others we come across by chance – a survey of the Cadland Estate back in 2008 revealed 34 World War II features we didn’t know about such as the remains of encampments, infantry trenches and air raid shelters. That’s only a small area of the New Forest so it shows that the records that we currently have represent a very small part of the overall picture of the National Park’s wartime past.
 
‘These features are critical in telling the story of the war, which in itself was instrumental in shaping our life today. If we do not begin to record these features now and piece together the stories that they tell, then they will soon be lost to future generations.’
 
World War II sites which we already know about include:
  • Over 200 bomb craters recorded at Cooper’s Hill and Ashley Hole, near Godshill in the north of the New Forest, some of which were believed to be connected to the trials of the bouncing bomb of ‘Dam-busters’ fame
  • Vast systems of earthworks criss-crossing the open heath at Milkham Bottom, near Linwood, which were designed to hamper any invasion by preventing gliders from landing
  • Dummy buildings and earthworks that formed a ‘starfish’ bombing decoy complex on Beaulieu Heath, created to spare other locations from the attention of the Luftwaffe
  • The site of a former advanced landing ground near Pylewell Park, a specialised type of World War II military airfield prepared for the Allied invasion of Europe
  • Extensive military camps at Exbury, Marchwood and Lepe.
 
Sites are already being lost due to accidental damage, whether through encroaching tree roots, timber extraction vehicles, new utility installations or machinery involved in land management. First-hand accounts of the human impact of the war are also dwindling as those who lived through it reach their 80s and 90s. The National Park Authority is therefore keen to capture the information now.
 
Frank said: ‘We are really hopeful we can get through to the final round and we need to show the Heritage Lottery Fund that we have the backing of heritage and community groups,’ he said.
 
D-Day remnants at Lepe
‘When the project is up-and-running, we’ll be asking people to help with everything from youngsters recording memories of the older generations, volunteers getting involved in archaeological digs and community groups telling us their ideas for events, exhibits and displays they would like to see in their village.
 
‘However, unless we have the Heritage Lottery Fund support we have no way of collecting and storing any artefacts or memories so please don’t send them to us yet!’
 
Applications for the next funding round will be soon be sent to HLF and the National Park should hear whether its bid has been successful in the summer.
 
If the project gets the go-ahead, it is hoped that all those involved will take part in a celebration event in the summer of 2013 to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day.
 
Heritage groups interested in getting involved should contact Rachael Bowen on 01590 646675, email Rachael.bowen@newforestnpa.gov.uk.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Lymington Consultant to Head Regional PR Group

Lyndsey Whiteside, Managing Director of Inspired Public Relations, Lymington; has been elected to chair the regional, Wessex group of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations.  Lyndsey has been involved with the CIPR for 14 years and held the position of Vice Chair last year.

The Wessex group supports PR practitioners across Hampshire, Dorset and the Isle of Wight.  The aim of the group is to provide opportunities for skill development and networking as well as championing communications students studying at Bournemouth and Southampton Solent universities.

“I am immensely proud to be leading a group as successful as Wessex” said Lyndsey.  “PR has become both multi-faceted and crucial to corporate success. As PR professionals, we should all keep learning; examining new ways of approaching and influencing publics.  The major objectives of our group this year will be to help our members achieve this.”

The first major event of 2011 for the Wessex CIPR group will be “Meet the Professionals” where PR practitioners from the region visit the universities to meet and mentor the students.

A full executive committee was elected to support Lyndsey, drawn from across the region.  Taking on the role of treasurer is Paul Noble from Cranborne in Dorset, the vice chair is Kevin Briscoe from Fareham and the group Secretary is Sarah Miles from Fareham. Six other committee members were also elected.