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Monday, 16 March 2015

The New Forest Land Advice Service celebrate 5 years supporting rural businesses

The New Forest’s commoners, landowners and farmers are celebrating the fifth anniversary of a service that helps them and wildlife thrive in the National Park.

New Forest Land Advice Service helping rural businesses and wildlife in the New Forest National Park.
Julie Melin-Stubbs, Land Advice Service manager; Rhys Morgan, Land Advice Service advisor;
Angela Peters, Community Wildlife Plans officer; Tracé Williams, Land Advice Service advisor.

The New Forest Land Advice Service supports rural businesses with advice on land management and nature conservation, access to rural skills training courses, and help when applying for grants.

This work includes supporting commoners to ensure they can continue to make use of the ancient rights attached to their property to turn out livestock onto the open areas of the New Forest – a vital tradition as the grazing animals shape the area’s unique landscape.

The service’s notable achievements over the last five years include:

  • Reintroducing ponies and cattle to sites in Milford on Sea and New Milton for the first time in over 50 years, to encourage wildlife and support local farmers and commoners
  • Running the Better Boundaries project, which created more than 600m of laid hedges, 1,000m of hedgerows and 1,600m of wildflower field margins to act as wildlife corridors
  • Leading volunteers in a national pilot study of water quality on the River Blackwater in the north of the New Forest, and removing more than 2,000m of the invasive Himalayan balsam plant from its river banks.
  • The Land Advice was established by the New Forest National Park Authority, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust and Natural England in 2010, and is now also funded by the Verderers.

Since then, it has helped more than 100 businesses each year and has widened the scope of its work significantly. This includes launching the Community Wildlife Plans Project, which is helping eight communities to care for their local environment.

The outlook for the service remains bright, as it develops four complex wildlife conservation and rural skills projects, to be delivered over the next three years as part of the proposed New Forest Landscape Partnership Scheme, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Commoner Oliver Cook, from Brockenhurst, said: ‘The Land Advice Service has been increasingly active in providing advice and arranging education for farmers and commoners in the New Forest over the past five years.

‘Having them at the end of a phone is very comforting indeed for commoners facing increasingly tight regulations and more administration in their efforts to continue rearing stock.’

Alison Barnes, New Forest National Park Authority Chief Executive, said: ‘We have been delighted to support the Land Advice Service over the last five years, as it has worked to help hundreds of farmers, commoners and landowners in the National Park.

‘It is vital we continue to support those at the heart of the living, working forest to ensure that the New Forest continues to have a thriving rural economy, and the Land Advice Service plays a pivotal role in achieving this aim. I congratulate the service on a successful first five years and look forward to many more years of success as it continues to grow.’

Official Verderer Dominic May said: ‘The New Forest Land Advice Service plays an important advisory role in helping commoners deliver the obligations of the Verderers’ New Forest Higher Level Stewardship Agreement, by helping commoners farm their holdings in a more ecologically-sustainable manner.

‘The service has also carried out a baseline survey of the New Forest, which we are using to improve specific areas which need open forest management intervention. This survey will be repeated in a few years to see whether the management intervention has had the desired effect.’

Bob Chapman, Living Landscape Manager for Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust said: ‘The Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust has always been a keen partner in the New Forest Land Advice Service. The work that NFLAS does has been key in supporting landowners, commoners and others in delivering the healthy pastoral economy upon which the unique qualities of the Forest depend.’

If you are a farmer, commoner or landowner and would like more information on the advice and training available, please contact Julie Melin-Stubbs on 01590 646696 or Julie.melin-stubbs@nflandadvice.org.uk

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