Pondhead Conservation Trust volunteers Derek Tippetts and Dave Dibden stand by the group’s charcoal burner.

Pondhead Conservation Trust volunteers Derek Tippetts and Dave Dibden stand by the group’s charcoal burner.

Volunteers are reviving old forest customs such as charcoal production to care for the New Forest’s first community woodland.

Pondhead Conservation Trust has been set up to manage Pondhead Inclosure near Lyndhurst under licence from the Forestry Commission, using traditional woodland skills. The charity hopes its work will encourage a greater diversity of wildlife and plant life in the inclosure, and make the area more accessible for local people.

The project is supported by the New Forest National Park Authority’s Sustainable Communities Fund, as well as the New Forest Trust, and will also provide environmental education opportunities to local school children in partnership with the New Forest Centre in Lyndhurst.

Volunteers will undertake a variety of conservation tasks, including coppicing areas of hazel in the inclosure, a traditional method of woodland management where trees are cut down to the stump to stimulate new growth. As well as benefiting the area’s wildlife, this process produces timber that will be used to make high quality charcoal on site to sell locally.

Pondhead Inclosure covers 190 acres and is the last significant area of hazel coppice remaining on the Crown land of the New Forest. It is unique because it has not been grazed by the area’s free roaming ponies or cattle for several centuries, giving rise to a range of plant life seen in few others parts of the Forest.

To watch a video of volunteers coppicing hazel trees and producing charcoal at Pondhead Inclosure visit www.youtube.com/newforestnpa.

Derek Tippetts from Pondhead Conservation Trust, said: ‘We are very excited about the prospect of restoring Pondhead Inclosure, and hope our work will encourage wildlife and plant life to flourish and make the area even more enjoyable for the public.

‘As part of our efforts to manage the woodland in a fully sustainable way we will be using all timber cut during the autumn and winter to produce charcoal during the spring and summer, thereby reviving an old Forest custom. The charcoal production process will use modern technology that is much more environmentally friendly than traditional methods and produces a higher quality charcoal which lights easily and burns evenly.’

This is a long term project which is heavily reliant on volunteers, so If you would like to volunteer or find out more about the project please visit www.pondheadconservation.org.uk. You can also sign up and chat to members of the Trust at the New Forest Volunteer Fair at Lyndhurst Community Centre on 31 January.

Funding for this project has been provided the New Forest National Park Authority’s Sustainable Communities Fund, which helps promote sustainable living and working within the National Park.

Grants support projects that promote:

cultural heritage
awareness of why the New Forest is special
engagement of people with the National Park
provision of local food and goods
reducing carbon emissions in the National Park
sustainable transport options including cycling facilities.
To find out more visit www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/grants.

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