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Monday, 31 October 2011

Businessman gives boost to nature reserve on his doorstep

A 47 acre site at Lymington has been turned into a wildlife haven thanks to local businessman and resident Leon Crouch, his neighbour Amanda Otway and the New Forest Land Advice Service (LAS).

Mr Crouch and Ms Otway, who recently bought the land, are working closely with the LAS to ensure the land’s future as a ‘Site of Importance for Nature Conservation’. It is now bustling with insects and wildflowers in the summer and will continue to support migrating birds over the winter.
Before: Left to right - Pete Durnell, Hampshire County Council's Countryside Service Sites Manager for the Lymington-Keyhaven Nature Reserve, Leon Crouch landowner and Julie Stubbs, New Forest Land Advice Service Manager looking at plans for the land in March 2011.
After: Left to right - Julie Stubbs, New Forest Land Advice Service Manager, Leon Crouch landowner and Mark Larter, from the Land Advice Service in the same field six months later.

The LAS provides free, independent advice and support to landowners, farmers, commoners, equine owners, graziers and community groups across the New Forest National Park, the Avon Valley and surrounding area. It is funded by the New Forest National Park Authority, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, Natural England and the Verderers.

Julie Stubbs, the New Forest Land Advice Service Manager, said: ‘When Leon approached us for advice about managing the land we knew it would be a great project to get involved in and could really make a difference.

‘This area now has a real wealth of habitats. We have worked closely with Leon who has been keen to help enhance an area close to the coast and the Lymington-Keyhaven Nature Reserve.

‘We developed a special seed mix to create wild flower meadows to help regenerate the land with species such as knapweed, wild carrot, oxeye daisy and field scabious. We have also restored the hedgerows through coppicing and replanting.

Hampshire County Council's Countryside Service Sites Manager for the Lymington-Keyhaven Nature Reserve, Pete Durnell said: ‘This area of land is protected by a national designation and is home to a large and important population of Brent Geese over the winter months.

‘We also know that a range of other overwintering waders and wildfowl such as curlew, lapwing, oystercatchers and redshank visit Keyhaven Nature Reserve close by. Transforming this land will give these birds a much larger area.’

Landowner Leon Crouch said: ‘I have received a great amount of support and advice from the Land Advice Service and Hampshire County Council.

‘It is good to know that these free services are out there. When I purchased this land it was in very bad condition and needed a lot of work. With the Land Advice Service’s help I have been able to achieve a lot in a short space of time. I have had direct access to experts who have been able to guide me through the whole process.

‘The Land Advice Service also put me in touch with Peter Niccolls, a young commoner who will put his Dexter cattle on the site at certain times of the year as part of the wildlife management of the meadows. I’m looking forward to building a relationship with him. Commoning is of vital importance to the New Forest and I’m pleased to be able to help support the next generation coming through.’

Peter Niccolls said: ‘It’s great that Leon is supporting me to continue the tradition of commoning. Having this land to use for grazing will make such a difference.

‘My meat is part of the New Forest Marque which means that it’s from the New Forest. By having access to Leon’s land I am still able to be part of this scheme which promotes local smallholders and is a symbol of the high standards of local produce.’


Thursday, 27 October 2011

‘New Forest remembers- untold stories of World War II’ wins Heritage Lottery Fund support

The New Forest National Park Authority has received a confirmed* grant of just over £550,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for the project ‘New Forest remembers - untold stories of World War II’.


From left to right-New Forest National Park Authority’s Archaeologist Frank Green, John Levesley Secretary of Friends of New Forest Airfields and Julian Johnson, Chairman of the National Park Authority.

The project will carry out essential archaeological surveying of part of the New Forest National Park including an airborne infra-red LiDAR survey (light detection and ranging), mapping work and field surveys. These will record World War II archaeological sites and their conservation needs.

Volunteers will be recruited and an outreach programme will be designed to engage local communities, groups and organisations. Teaching resources and educational activities will also be developed to link World War II archaeology with the National Curriculum.

On the ground a range of new information and outreach materials will show visitors the important part the New Forest and its people played during the war.

Stuart McLeod, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in the South East, said: ‘The New Forest holds many clues to the stories of World War II and how it impacted on the communities in the area. With this grant, volunteers will not only expand their knowledge and learn lots of new skills, but it will also provide a unique record of the area for others to learn from, enjoy and be inspired by for generations to come.’

Julian Johnson, Chairman of the New Forest National Park Authority, added: ‘We’re delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has given us this grant. The Second World War changed the New Forest forever. It played a vital role and it is important that we have an accurate picture both on the ground and through people’s memories and experiences of this unprecedented period of history.’


Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Bats: mysterious and misunderstood – It’s time to go batty about bats says the New Forest National Park Authority

A rare Bechstein’s bat in the New Forest.
Photo Credit: Colleen Mainstone, Hampshire Bat Group.
To some people they bring to mind vampires and horror stories. But the New Forest National Park Authority says Hallowe’en is the perfect time to discover that bats are fascinating animals full of many mysteries.

The New Forest is a stronghold for bats and it is thought that 13 out of the 17 resident UK species can be found here.

The National Park Authority and the Hampshire Bat Group volunteers have been working over the past few years to help two of Europe’s rarest species.

Volunteers have been surveying Bechstein’s bats and barbastelle bats in the New Forest, both of which like to live in ancient woodlands. Until recently only a handful of breeding sites for either species were known in the UK.

National Park Authority Ecologist Ian Barker said: ‘The United Nations has designated 2011 as Year of the Bat and it’s the perfect time to dispel lots of myths about these incredible creatures. Bats aren’t harmful and are very good for the environment.

‘We know very little about Bechstein’s and barbastelle bats. Licensed handlers have caught some of the animals to identify, measure and record them, as well as fitting them with a tiny transmitter so we can learn where they roost and forage. None of this harms the bats and the transmitters fall off after a couple of weeks.

‘We have discovered four new colonies of Bechstein’s bat and two new colonies of Barbastelle bats – which is great news for the species and for the New Forest as their presence indicates a healthy environment.’
The information gathered will guide land management within the New Forest to help the species survive.

Ian says the best places to see bats are at dusk near water, such as Eyeworth Pond near Fritham and Hatchet Pond near Beaulieu. However time is running out this year as the bats will be preparing to hibernate.

‘There are lots of ways people can help bats, which have legal protection as they are dying out at a rapid rate,’ Ian said. ‘You can put up a bat box, add insect-loving plants to your garden to attract bats, or join Hampshire Bat Group to get more involved.’

More details of bats in the New Forest and how to help are on the National Park Authority’s website at www.newforestnpa.gov.uk.

Bats by Phil Richardson
In this fully revised and reformatted edition bat expert Phil Richardson takes the reader on a guided tour of the nocturnal world of bats: where they live, how they feed, and how they survive in almost every habitat on the planet. He uses his experiences of bat watching around the world to describe their complex life cycles, explaining how you can watch and study bats and help conserve these often threatened mammals. He also introduces many of the different species that have fitted so well into the environment. Amazing, fascinating, bizarre are words that barely start to describe the bats of the world. Read more...

Monday, 24 October 2011

Harvest time at groundbreaking Beaulieu community garden

School children at Beaulieu helped bring in the harvest at a unique community garden helped by funding from the New Forest National Park Authority.
Children aged six and seven from Year Two at Beaulieu Primary School help bring in the harvest at Fairweather’s Learning Garden, Beaulieu, with garden owner Patrick Fairweather and Vicky Myers, Chairman of the New Forest National Park Authority’s Sustainable Development Fund.
Fairweather’s Garden Centre set up Patrick’s Patch four years ago with 30% of the cost covered by the National Park’s Sustainable Development Fund (SDF).

Now the National Park is inviting more people to send in applications to the Fund, which supports projects that encourage greener living.

Garden owner Patrick Fairweather said: ‘We wouldn’t and couldn’t have built the garden to the specification we need to accommodate schoolchildren safely without the funding from the National Park’s SDF. It has also enabled us to afford to employ a part-time gardener to help with the development of the garden.

‘We have regular school visits and at the end of most sessions the children have a picnic and get the opportunity to eat something they have had a part in growing – for some children that is really groundbreaking. For children who come here from central Southampton, it is often the first time they have had the opportunity to do gardening.’

Patrick said the garden also has a loyal band of volunteers who have benefited in different ways – a few with mental health issues who appreciate the therapeutic benefits of gardening, others who come for the physical exercise and many for the social side.

‘We also use the veg in our cafe opposite and the garden is another attraction to bring visitors into Beaulieu village and therefore support other businesses,’ Patrick said.

Vicky Myers, Chairman of the New Forest National Park Authority’s Sustainable Development Fund, encouraged community groups, individuals and businesses to submit applications for their projects.

She said: ‘There’s a real breadth of projects the SDF can support, from renewable energy technologies in a community building to local produce schemes, eco-improvements in a B&B and support for a village shop – anything with environmental, community and economic benefits for the New Forest.

‘Instead of being just a veg patch next door to a garden centre, this fantastic Fairweather’s scheme is about sustainability, the community, green living and education.

‘We would love to hear your ideas.’

The SDF funds up to 75% of a project’s cost and grants can be up to £50,000. The money can be used for practical work – labour costs, equipment and materials, feasibility studies or research projects, education, training, and awareness-raising.

Find out more about the Sustainable Development Fund (SDF) at www.newforestnpa.gov.uk, or call SDF Officer Andy Brennan on 01590 646676.


Friday, 21 October 2011

Public urged to reconnect with local landscapes via groundbreaking new sustainable tourism initiative

A MAJOR new initiative urging people to reconnect with their local landscapes has been launched.

Our Land launch 1: (left to right) Rob Fairbanks (Surrey Hills AONB Director); Chris Reynolds (Independent Chairman of Kent Downs AONB); Jeremy Hunt MP (Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport); TV presenter Kate Humble; Nick Johannsen (Kent Downs AONB Director); Justin Francis (Managing Director of responsibletravel.com).
‘Our Land’ unites and celebrates the nine protected landscapes of South East England – the first time such a collaboration has been created – in a new central tourism website: www.our-land.co.uk (hosted by responsibletravel.com). The promotion of sustainable tourism businesses that have a passion and commitment to their local landscapes and communities lies at the core of the site.

More than a third of the South East is officially classified as Protected Landscape – this consists of the New Forest National Park and South Downs National Park, and seven Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB): the Chilterns, Cotswolds, High Weald, Isle of Wight, Kent Downs, North Wessex Downs, and the Surrey Hills.

Employment in tourism in protected landscapes is around double the national average at almost 20%, and in some cases is much higher – on the Isle of Wight it accounts for 41%. Our Land aims to boost the vital revenue generated through tourism, whilst ensuring the long-term protection of the land by encouraging the public to recognise and rejoice in these diverse landscapes.

Visitors can use the new website to find and book their next holiday, browsing specific regions and accommodation preferences or by viewing suggested itineraries themed around seasons and activities, as well as reading about the sights, sounds and smells that make the different landscapes so distinct.

Social media elements allow people to share their experiences and to ask questions of the area to a panel of local experts; including historians, conservationists and walking and cycling experts.

Local businesses signing up to the scheme will benefit from free or discounted inclusion on the website, support developing their interaction with the landscape, and the promotional weight of the initiative. To qualify as partners, businesses must agree to the ‘Our Land Promise’ www.our-land.co.uk/copy/promise to offer authentic experiences that celebrate the cultural and natural history of the region, and they must demonstrate to visitors their commitment to the environment.

Supporters and partners

TV presenter Kate Humble is championing the new initiative and said: “In the UK we have some of the world’s most beautiful landscapes on our doorstep. Not only are these wonderful places to enjoy Britain’s nature at its best, they are also packed full of interesting stories of thousands of years of human life. There is a powerful, resurgent interest in re-discovering natural and cultural Britain and I congratulate the Our Land partners in aiming to capitalise on this in a responsible and sustainable way.”

New Forest National Park Chief Executive Alison Barnes said: “Much of the local economy depends on visitors, with 13.5 million visitor days each year to the New Forest. The attention to sustainable tourism that Our Land will give will help ensure that many more day visits are converted to overnight stays, while ensuring that the special qualities which attract people in the first place – the landscape, wildlife, culture and tranquillity - are conserved and enhanced. The Our Land initiative is vital in offering a unique type of truly sustainable tourism which will help the New Forest National Park thrive and prosper.”

James Berresford, CEO of Visit England, said: “Within the Strategic Framework for English Tourism the Rural Tourism Action Plan aims to significantly increase the economic benefits of tourism to local communities, and the Wise Growth Action Plan embeds the principles of balancing growth with sustainability across the industry. Our Land is a very good example of putting these strategic plans in to action. In time I hope it will develop beyond the South East.”

Justin Francis, MD, responsibletravel.com, said: “We have some of the most diverse landscapes on our doorstep but too many are unaware of the riches that can be less than an hour away by bus, bike or train. Our aim is to reconnect people that live in the South East with our shared heritage to ensure it is enjoyed, whilst being conserved for centuries to come.”

As well as working with local tourism businesses, Our Land will collaborate with membership organisations, transport providers and the media to promote the range of visitor attractions on offer in the protected landscapes.

Our Land has been made possible thanks to a £1m grant from the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE), to be spent over the next 2.5 years, after which it is intended the model will continue to prosper commercially and be available as a template for other protected landscapes across the country. Our Land is being managed by the South East Protected Landscapes (SEPL) forum, made up of representatives of the nine landscapes, and is being given web, marketing and brand support by the project’s private partner, sustainable tourism leader, responsibletravel.com


Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Drive safely across the New Forest this winter

People who regularly drive across the New Forest are being urged to drive extra carefully this winter.

The New Forest National Park Authority and the Verderers want to remind people to be extra vigilant on their way to and from work; particularly after the clocks go back at the end of October.

Nigel Matthews, Community & Visitor Services Manager at the New Forest National Park Authority, said: ‘It can often take a while for people to adjust to the darker evenings and there is usually a significant rise in accidents in November.

‘A lot of ponies wear reflective collars but many don’t, so drivers should look out for dark-coloured ponies which are often more difficult to see. It is important to drive at a sensible speed and to make sure you can stop if an animal steps onto the road at the last moment. Ponies have no road sense so it is up to the driver to be extra cautious.

‘It’s not just the animals that are at risk in an accident. If the driver is speeding the results could be catastrophic for their passengers too.’

Sue Westwood, Clerk to the Verderers added: ‘Now is a timely reminder that we all need to be extra careful when driving in the New Forest.

‘Animal accidents are not only difficult for the people involved but also for the Agisters  whose job it is to find the animal, which may have been suffering for hours.

She continued: ‘Hit and runs are the most distressing of accidents – it’s vital that you report an accident straight away. Anyone who gives information leading to a successful prosecution can claim a reward of up to £1000.’

‘The Verderers have issued several rewards in recent years and a number of drivers have been successfully prosecuted for failing to stop and report an accident with a Forest animal.

‘Drivers who do report accidents are unlikely to be prosecuted, but if a driver fails to report an accident and is caught, the Verderers will always encourage the police to prosecute and the police are generally very willing to do so.’

Driving tips:

  • Be ready to stop - ponies may step out even when they’ve seen you approaching
  • Drive slowly, especially at night and when other cars are approaching with their headlights on
  • Give animals grazing by the side of the road a wide berth
  • Take extra care when there are animals on the verges on both sides of the road – they may cross to join their friends.
  • Remember that deer easily jump the fences alongside roads like the A337, A31 and A35 and when there is one deer more will usually follow
  • The faster you are going, the greater the damage will be to the animal, your car and your passengers - start your journey early so you don’t have to hurry.

If you witness an accident:

  • Call 999 in an emergency or 0845 045 4545 in a non-emergency to report any road traffic accident involving a pony, cow, donkey, sheep, dog or deer.  Alternatively ring the Verderers’ Office during normal working hours on 023 8028 2052 (Monday-Friday 9am-5 pm) or the Forestry Commission on 023 8028 3141 (24 hours) to report sick or injured commoning animals.

Be prepared:

  • Carry an animal accident hotline card, it tells you who to call and display an ‘I go slow for ponies’ car sticker. Visit www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/animal_accident_help or call 01590 646600 for more information on how to get a card and sticker.


Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Grants available from the New Forest Trust

The New Forest Trust would like to encourage non-profit groups to apply for the remaining grant money for 2011. Grants of between £250 and £1,000, which specifically promote the conservation, preservation of the New Forest, or provide education about this heritage site.

The Funds available from been raised through the New Forest Trust Visitor Gift Scheme which is supported by Balmer Lawn Hotel, The Bell Inn, Careys Manor, Chewton Glen, Limewood, Hotel Terravina, Master Builders and The Montagu Arms, guests staying at these hotels are asked to donate £1 to The New Forest Trust.

The projects which the Trust has supported in the past have ranged from: preventing animal accidents, improving the Beaulieu Road Pony Sale Yard, the Stallion Scheme, funding information about bats, providing funds for the Fine Crafted Wood Exhibition, a pond dipping site at Ferny Crofts Scout Activity Centre and many more interesting projects.

Richard Manley, Chairman of the New Forest Trust said “We are delighted to launch to support projects in the New Forest, which conserve and provide education about the New Forest and we are extremely grateful to all the hotels who have joined our Visitors Gift Scheme, who are helping us to support the conservation and education in the area”, he added “ We would like to encourage groups from across the New Forest to apply for these funds to support existing projects or help develop new ones.”

Full details about the New Forest Trust Visitor Gift Scheme Small Grant Programme and how to apply for a grant can be found on the website www.newforesttrust.org.uk.


Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Celebrate British Sausage Week by designing your own!

To celebrate British Sausage Week (31 October – 6 November) the New Forest Marque is teaming up with Oakwood Butchers, New Forest Marque Sausage Champion 2010, to bring someone’s favourite sausage recipe to life.

So if you’ve ever dreamed of making up your own unique or wacky sausage flavour, now is your chance to send in your recipe.

Your recipe doesn’t have to be exact but you must put New Forest Marque pork as the main ingredient. The rest is up to you.

The finalists will then have their sausages brought to life by Chris Oakes of Oakwood Butchers in Brockenhurst and the sausages will be judged by Chris and his fellow panellists: Alison Barnes (Chief Executive of the New Forest National Park Authority), Jenna McCulloch (representing the New Forest Marque) and James Golding (Head Chef at The Pig in Brockenhurst).

The winning recipe will then be made into sausages for the winner to take home. They also receive a voucher for ‘bangers and mash’ for a family of four (two adults and two children) at The Drift Inn at Beaulieu Road, as well as a New Forest Marque apron and cookbook.

Jenna McCulloch said: 'British Sausage Week is the perfect way to encourage people to eat local pork. We're really proud of the quality of pork available under the New Forest Marque. The Marque is the only scheme like it in the country. It ensures that a proportion of the ingredients are from the New Forest and that high animal welfare standards have been adhered to.

'We want to encourage people to go their local farmers’ markets and farm shops to buy their meat. This helps support local farmers and cuts down on food miles.

‘We’re looking forward to receiving these recipes and putting them to the test!’

Please send your sausage recipes to newforestmarque@newforestnpa.gov.uk by Friday 21 October.