Search This Blog

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Community Wildlife Plans giving New Forest nature a fighting chance

Volunteers from the Blackwater Conservation Group
stand behind a mound of the non-native, invasive
Himalayan balsam plant.
A community-led conservation project is marking three successful years helping nature thrive in the New Forest.

Across the National Park, dedicated bands of nature-lovers are standing up for their local environment by tackling plant invaders, reinvigorating common land and sprucing up woodland.

The Community Wildlife Plans project encourages local communities to record, map and conserve wildlife in their local area and is supported by the New Forest National Park Authority.

Eight communities have taken part across the Forest, with over 200 people involved with conserving and monitoring their local green spaces to find out what wildlife lives on their doorstep.

The groups have become increasingly independent over the last two years, and recently came together for a celebration evening to share their experiences of the project. The event also marked the end of the first phase of the project, though groups will continue to work to recruit new volunteers and protect their local environment.

The information collected by the wildlife champions over the last three years has helped to produce Community Wildlife Plans for their parish. These documents bring together knowledge about habitats and species and look at the opportunities for improving wildlife sites locally.

Improvements carried out by volunteers during the project include:

  • Removing more than 2,000m of the invasive Himalayan balsam plant from the banks of the River Blackwater in the north of the New Forest and conducting a national pilot study of its water quality
  • Reintroducing ponies to Barton Common in New Milton for the first time in over 50 years to encourage wildlife and support New Forest commoners
  • Improving habitats for butterflies and other insects by introducing traditional woodland management practices such as coppicing in Milford Pleasure Grounds.
  • Angela Peters, Community Wildlife Officer, said: ‘Over the last three years it has been inspiring to meet so many people who want to protect their community’s wildlife for future generations.

‘Nature is under so much pressure from human activity across the country, but we can all make a difference through small actions that help wildlife habitats in our local area flourish.’

Tony Boyle, volunteer with the Blackwater Conservation Group, said: ‘The Community Wildlife Plans project came at a most opportune time for the creation of our group. The Blackwater River is highly regarded by local residents and as a result the group was formed in 2013 with the objective of protecting the river valley and environment for future generations.

‘We are extremely grateful to Angela Peters and the project for the invaluable support and guidance given to us during the past three years. As a result we are able to look to the future with greater confidence.’

The community groups involved in the celebration evening were:

  • Milford Conservation Volunteers
  • Blackwater Conservation Group
  • Hordle Environment Group
  • Transition Lymington
  • New Forest Area Conservation Volunteers
  • Volunteers from Barton Common.

To see the groups' achievements and get involved visit

The Community Wildlife Plans project was established with EU funding through New Forest LEADER and supported by a grant from the New Forest National Park Authority’s Sustainable Communities Fund.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Help sort to uncover history of New Forest WW I

WWI Indian wounded soldiers at Forest Park Hotel.
Wounded Indian soldiers heading to their tented
accommodation in the grounds of Forest Park Hotel.
c1914. Credit:
Volunteers with a fascination for the New Forest’s history are being sought to help uncover details of war-time activity a hundred years ago.

During World War I, the Forest was home to several hospitals for wounded New Zealand and Indian troops, training schools and camps which left a lasting impression on the landscape.

Now thanks to support from Exxon Mobil at Fawley, the New Forest National Park Authority is piecing together what life was like in the Forest during 1914-18.

So far seven volunteers are scouring thousands of pages of censored letters from Indian troops on the British Library website to find material relating specifically to the New Forest, but many more people are needed to help with the research.

The personal accounts and photographs will become part of an online archive of the Forest’s war-time history ( and will form an exhibition next year in the New Forest Centre, Lyndhurst.

WWI project officer Gareth Owen said: ‘There’s a huge number of aspects of the war years which the New Forest is best placed to tell – we know the old race course at Lyndhurst was a camp for thousands of soldiers before they set off for the front; there were military hospitals for the wounded; a naval air station at Calshot; a bomb school at Lyndhurst and even a training school for dogs helping on the frontline.

‘These very personal accounts helps us understand more about the role the New Forest played in the First World War and will create a legacy for future generations.’

To get involved in the the New Forest Remembers World War I Project contact Gareth Owen at or call 01590 646652.