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Tuesday, 27 January 2015

New Forest Volunteer Fair - Meet new friends and face new challenges

New Forest Volunteer Fair - Dominik Reynolds talks to visitors
Dominik Reynolds (right) speaking to visitors whilst
volunteering at the New Forest Reptile Centre near Lyndhurst.
An award-winning young wildlife enthusiast and a retired banker are calling for local people to do something different this year and volunteer in the New Forest.

People looking for new experiences and new social circles are being invited to the New Forest Volunteer Fair on Saturday, 31 January.

Hundreds will attend the fair from 10.30am to 4pm at Lyndhurst Community Centre, where more than 30 organisations will offer opportunities to record wildlife, restore landscapes, unravel wartime secrets and help some of society’s most vulnerable.

Volunteering is also good for volunteers, helping them find friends, reach out to the community, improve their mental and physical wellbeing and even advance their careers.

The fair will be opened by two people who have benefited from years of volunteering in the New Forest National Park.

Dominik Reynolds became the RSPB’s youngest volunteer in the country at the age of nine. Now aged 14, Dominik has been volunteering for six years at the New Forest Reptile Centre near Lyndhurst, sharing his knowledge of birds and reptiles with visitors.

His dedication has been recognised recently with a string of awards including Young Animal Enthusiast of the year at the Daily Mirror and RSPCA’s 2014 Animal Hero Awards.

Dominik, from Totton, said: ‘I’ve met so many nice people through volunteering. I like talking about wildlife and I think visitors like talking to a young person about nature. I’ve lived on the edge of the New Forest all my life. It’s beautiful for walking, cycling and getting out seeing badgers, deer, birds and reptiles, all for free.’

His mother Kerry said: ‘Dominik’s been interested in nature since he was very young, going for walks in the New Forest or watching David Attenborough DVDs. I’m tremendously proud of him. He particularly likes chatting to children visiting the reptile centre, getting them excited about nature.’

Derek Tippetts, from Cadnam, was looking for a complete change of scene when he became a volunteer ranger for the Forestry Commission after taking early retirement from his finance career.

He said: ‘Although I grew up in the countryside I spent most of my life in cities. I thought I knew the Forest but I’ve learned an awful lot more about its history, customs and traditions whilst getting involved in its conservation.’

Derek is now looking to recruit active volunteers for the Pondhead Conservation Trust, using hand tools and sustainable techniques to restore an area of woodland to improve its biodiversity and public enjoyment.

He said: ‘You meet all sorts of interesting people as a volunteer. There’s plenty of fresh air and exercise, much cheaper than a gym, and you’re helping to restore a natural area right in the heart of the New Forest.’

To find out more about the New Forest Volunteer Fair visit

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Friday, 9 January 2015

Fordingbridge Health Walks to improve fitness

Fordingbridge Health Walks for anyone wishing to improve their fitness

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Thursday, 8 January 2015

New Forest Wild Play Project addresses parent outdoor play concerns

A family playing at a wild play day in the New Forest in August 2014, which was attended by over 400 parents and children.
Almost two thirds of parents based in and around the New Forest have concerns about letting their children play outdoors, a survey suggests.

Parents cited safety concerns, especially ‘stranger danger’, as the main reason for not allowing their children to play outdoors without adult supervision, despite 85 per cent of respondents saying that it is ‘very important’ to them that their children play outside.

Now a wild play project, being developed by the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust with support from the New Forest National Park Authority, is aiming to address the concerns of parents by developing wild play areas, regularly monitored by community champions, where children can safely learn about nature through play.

In total 378 adults and children took part in the outdoor play survey, and the results from the children surveyed showed that:

  • 37 per cent play outdoors just once a week or less
  • Only 11 per cent play outside most often with parents, guardians or grandparents
  • The most common place for a child to play unsupervised was in their own, or a friend’s, back garden.
  • This echoes nationwide studies that have shown children have less freedom to play outside and get in touch with nature than previous generations. Less than a quarter of children regularly use their local ‘patch of nature’, compared to over half of all adults when they were children, according to Natural England research (

James Brown, the National Park Authority’s Community Engagement Officer, said: ‘In many ways the results of this survey are bittersweet. On the one hand children remain eager to play outdoors with their parents or friends, and the majority do play outdoors every day outside of school hours.

‘However our responses from parents show that although the importance of letting children play outside is recognised, many cite safety concerns and a lack of time as reasons why 37 per cent are only letting their children play outdoors just once a week or less.

‘Either way, these results are certainly illuminating, and will help us to develop our wild play project, which aims to provide exciting outdoor play opportunities in the New Forest for children, while helping to address the concerns of parents.’

Work is already underway with parish councils and schools to develop wild play areas, which will provide safe and engaging areas for children to experience nature.

More locations are needed, so if you represent a council, school or youth organisation and would like help to develop your own wild play area please email or call 01590 646695.

The wild play project is part of the Our Past, Our Future Landscape Partnership Scheme. This 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.

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Sunday, 4 January 2015

Ponds, Puddles and Paths Exhibition by local artist Pete Gilbert

Local artist Pete Gilbert Ponds Puddles and Paths Exibition
St Barbe Museum & Art Gallery, Lymington 17th January – 28th February

New Forest: Ponds, Puddles and Paths, a new selling exhibition at St Barbe Museum & Art Gallery, Lymington running from Saturday, 17th January until Saturday 28th February will showcase works by local artist Pete Gilbert and photographer Hugh Lohan.

Pete Gilbert found that moving to the New Forest rekindled a passion for landscape painting. He prefers to work on-site seeking inspiration from the endless variety of sights, sounds and smells revealed by the forest and capturing the immediacy of the moment with pastels and watercolour.  He then uses his sketches to either finish the artwork back in his studio, or as a reference for larger canvases in oil or acrylic.

Gilbert’s exploration of some of the hidden corners of the New Forest are characterised by the strong brush strokes and bold colours used in his recent landscapes. Although he is working in the moment Gilbert's paintings try to capture more than a snapshot, "I want to FEEL the landscape", says Gilbert.

He has been joined on his journey across the New Forest by photographer Hugh Lohan, whose work will also be shown to provide an alternative take on the subject.

Tickets to New Forest: Ponds, Puddles and Paths, which include entry into St Barbe Museum, cost £6 for adults, £5 for senior citizens and students, £3 for children aged five to 15, and £12 for a family of two adults and up to four children; under fives are admitted free of charge. St Barbe Museum & Art Gallery is open between 10am and 4pm, Monday to Saturday (closed Sunday).

For more details visit or telephone 01590 676969; further information about artist Pete Gilbert can be found on

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