Our next walk: 09 June 2022 Sturt Pond and Hurst Spit with Julia Race and Andrea Janssens

Sturt Pond and Hurst Spit: meeting at Milford-on-Sea Village car Park by the community centre in Sea Road (Pay and display or parking clock) and setting off at 10:00 a.m.

 Julia and Anrea have asked us to point out that it could be windy on the coast, so a wind-proof jacket might be appropriate. As the walk will also involve a short section of shingle on the spit looking for some special plants stout footwear is recommended. If people don’t want to walk on shingle, then there is somewhere they could sit down and look for birds on Sturt Pond.

 Grid ref:: SZ 291 917

What3Words: butchers.minute.doing

Walk report: 28 May 2022 Beachern Wood by John Enfield and Richard Smith

After a short walk to the improved path leading to Aldridge Hill Inclosure, the group came to a sudden halt, for to the right of the path a ditch and area of moist ground hosted many flower species. Fortunately the walk had some members with impressive plant knowledge and others equipped with fieldguides. As a result we all benefited from their knowledge and appreciated what we were looking at. Lacking necessary lenses for close examination meant that identification could not be guaranteed for every species.

Fallow Deer © Chris Robinson

A long time was spent looking at and hearing about Birdsfoot Trefoil, Common Milkwort, Water Forgetmenot, Cuckooflower, Lousewort, Lesser Spearwort, Creeping Willow, Marsh St John's Wort, Meadow Thistle, Tormentil, Heath Speedwell, Common Cotton-grass and a species of eyebright, the latter being one of several very similar species. All this before even reaching the Inclosure. 

Heath Speedwell © Chris Robinson

Common Cow-wheat © Richard Smith

At the same time a family of Stonechats, a Mistle Thrush and Chaffinch were observed. After crossing the Ober Water within the Inclosure a Nuthatch was seen and a Blackcap was heard. We looked at a dead Beech tree that was playing host to some very hard and minute bracket fungus and in addition the trunk was also riddled with small holes. Could one speculate it was the work of one of the Saproxylic beetles?

Stonechat - male © Chris Robinson

On leaving the Inclosure we saw House Martins, a fast low flying Peregrine, Swallows and a distant Raven was heard and seen. With so much to look at we had taken well over an hour to reach Fletchers Thorns. As we had barely covered a third of the planned walk we decided to have our coffee stop before retracing our steps. However, armed with a map some of the group had the time to complete the intended route.

Petty Whin - flower in close-up © Andy & Sue Skarstein

Meanwhile, on our return to the car park we saw Petty Whin, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, the orange-red of a Russula fungus, a charm of Goldfinches and a Skylark descending behind some scrub. In the semi-shade of a bridge Bugle was in flower and along the way Germander Speedwell. JE

Song Thrush © Richard Smith

Walking on after our coffee break a smaller group of us walked across Poundhill Heath, where we heard and saw Raven and Meadow Pipit. We noted several fallen trees along the boundary line of the Inclosure and distantly, several large Silver Birch with heads blown out; presumably earlier storm-damage. Amongst the heather was more Petty Whin and in a damper area a large patch of Oblong-leaved Sundew. A Red Poplar Leaf Beetle Chrysomela populi was found amongst the heather, in almost the same location as a previous walk in May 2021.

Sundew © Andy & Sue Skarstein

Red Poplar Leaf Beetle © Andy & Sue Skarstein

Continuing down the track opposite New Park Farm, we paused to listen to the birdsong from this wooded area, recognising Blackcap, Stock Dove, Song Thrush and Blackbird. As we approached Bolderford Bridge we noticed groups of Chicken-of-the-Wood fungus growing up the trunk of a dead hardwood tree and a Goldcrest was seen briefly as it hunted for food amongst the Ivy and leaf cover.

Chicken-in-the-Wood © Richard Smith

Returning to the car park we noticed the iron dome of an old hydraulic ram pump in its brick housing, sited quite near to the bridge but often overlooked. RS 

Our route
© Crown copyright 2022 Ordnance Survey. Media 005/22.
The licence is valid until 31 December 2022.




Walk report: Franchises Lodge RSPB with Richard Smith and Saul Alonso

 Franchises Lodge is a nature reserve covering almost 1000 acres. In 2018 it was acquired by RSPB, whose impressive long-term vision for habitat restoration of the woodland, and development of open heath is already evident. An important objective is the development of a “bridge” between Langley Wood to the north and the wider New Forest to the south. (1 on the map)

Saul Alonso giving us an introduction to the reserve
© Tina Vaughan

On a bright sunny morning, a group of us gathered to meet Saul Alonso, the RSPB Warden in sole charge of the reserve. Saul provided us with a background to the estate and the geography of the surrounding land before heading off down the bridleway and onwards into the private reserved area. Walking through the mixed broadleaf woodland we heard numerous birds including Blue, Great and Coal Tits, Wren, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Firecrest, Siskin and Blackcap, though we often had only fleeting glimpses of bird life through the growing canopy of leaves.

Nest boxes at Cameron's Cottage 
© Tina Vaughan

We paused at Cameron’s Cottage; a formerly derelict building that has been completely refurbished by the Cameron Bespolka Trust in partnership with the RSPB (2). Much of the restoration has taken the cottage completely “off grid” using solar powered heating and electricity as much as possible. Bat, Swift and House Martin boxes have been installed during building. A hibernaculum for reptiles and a very well appointed bug hotel (formerly an outside lavatory) have been built in the surrounding grounds. A Grey Wagtail flew in carrying food and obligingly perched in a nearby tree for the photographers.

Grey Wagtail with food near Cameron's Cottage
© Chris Robinson

Following down the footpath we came to an area of Scots Pine where the sheer scale of Rhododendron clearance and the challenge ahead were evident. This non-native, invasive species has engulfed large swathes of the woodland, much to the detriment of the habitat. This is being systematically removed and burned on site with a long-term plan for eventual eradication which is expected to take many years to complete. Radical management and culling of deer, predominantly Fallow doe has already been undertaken. An initial survey suggested as many as 2000 deer were entering and grazing the reserve preventing any woodland regeneration. 

Small-flowered Wintercress
© Richard Smith

Herb Robert
© Chris Robinson

Further on, we stopped for our coffee break at what had been dump where fly-tipping had been a major problem in the past. Much of this has been cleared and the remaining rubble, and mounds of earth are already colonised with Buddleia and wildflowers plus some probably garden escapes. A long-term plan is to develop this are for reptiles and for a butterfly bank. Goldfinches were seen feeding amongst the nettles and waste ground. The botanist in the group identified numerous wild plants including Small-flowered Wintercress, Dove’s-foot Cranesbill, Herb Robert, Verbascum sp, Ivy-leaved Toadflax, Spear Mint, Lemon Balm and Hedge Garlic.

Germander Speedwell
© Tina Vaughan

Yellow Pimpernel
© Chris Robinson

Walking along the path beside the pylons that thread across the lower part of the reserve, we saw more Greenfinches and a Common Buzzard circled overhead, Along the path, we identified Tansy, Germander and Wood Speedwells, Lesser Trefoil, Marsh Thistle, Silverweed, Yellow Pimpernel, Greater Stitchwort and Wood Spurge.

Speckled Yellow (moth)
© Richard Smith

Carder Bee © Tina Vaughan

We returned to the cars up a steep climb, passing behind Cameron’s Cottage where we saw more Blue and Coal Tits and a Dunnock. An enjoyable and inspiring visit to this site which is already providing access and education for young people and has an ambitious and exciting future development plan.


1/ ‘Secret forest’ becomes one of the RSPB’s most significant purchases : https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/franchises-lodge/

2/ Cameron's Cottage In partnership with the RSPB in the New Forest : https://www.cameronbespolka.com/cameron-s-cottage


Franchises Lodge route
© Crown copyright 2022 Ordnance Survey. Media 005/22. The licence is valid until 31 December 2022.

Walk report: 28 April 2022 Anderwood with Claire Kidger

It was a cold morning when we gathered for the walk and a Cuckoo was heard briefly during the introduction.   

 Bilberry flowers © Chris Robinson

We walked into Anderwood and heard and saw a Song thrush on the top of an oak tree. Blackcaps and Wren were singing adjacent to the path but not seen. Walking through a mixed confer and deciduous wooded area we reached Church Moor, where there were several old Beech trees. Some had been pollarded; a large number were rotting and had fallen to the woodland floor. On one particular trunk someone spotted an old Nuthatch nest hole, whose entrance was plastered with mud to reduce the size to fit for the Nuthatch. Possible Owl pellets were found nearby, with fur and bones.

Tormentil © Claire Kidger

Beeches were beginning to come into leaf, displaying a beautiful lime green foliage. The woodland floor was mainly grazed grass, with low patches of Brambles, where Bracken fronds were beginning to unfurl and Common Dog Violets, Tormentil and Wood Sorrel bloomed. Foxgloves, yet to flower, were in groups across the area and a male Redstart was heard, but not seen!

Wood Sorrel © Chris Robinson

We walked from Church Moor to a path between Mark Ash (left) and Barrow Moor (right), stopping for a coffee break on some fallen trees. Nearby a fallen Larch’s fresh bright green deciduous needles were soft to touch. After the break we passed an old Rowan that had fallen and formed a tangle of roots and multiple trunks.

Siskin - male © Richard Smith

Walking down to the small stream and along the bank we found new Hard Ferns emerging, more Wood Sorrel and large areas of liverwort Pellia epiphylla. Along the path following the stream there was a carpet of Bilberry in flower attracting bumble bees. Beech seedlings had germinated with two cotyledons also two year/three old beech seedling were seen. One mature Beech showed a broad arrow depicting the ‘King’s mark’, used to identify trees reserved for the building of navy ships. Before we crossed the stream a group of Siskins was seen in the tall Larches. On the trunks of Alders by the stream two Treecreepers were seen and nearby was a Wren. There was more Wood Sorrel, Water Mint and liverworts. 

Thyme-leaved Speedwell © Richard Smith

This week’s group safely managed to cross a bog without anyone falling in! Near the road was a Beech with a large hole, where the previous evening a Tawny Owl had been seen sitting looking very cute. Probably it was sleeping as we passed today.

Tawny Owl site © Claire Kidger

After crossing the road, we followed a gravel and grass track through a conifer area. We walked back through a deciduous woodland to the cars, passing small patches of Bluebells and remains of what could have been a bomb crater. CK

 Our route:

© Crown copyright 2022 Ordnance Survey. Media 005/22. The licence is valid until 31December 2022

Walk report: Further notes from the Vereley walk

Further notes from the Vereley and Ridley Woods walk by Andy Skarstein

Ridley Wood is ancient, coppiced from the 1500’s until 1698 when the practice of pollarding Oak and Beech trees was forbidden in the New Forest by an Act of Parliament ,so as to safeguard long timber for the navy.[1]  The woods have many fallen and dead trees, mainly beech, but some oak too, both providing valuable habitat.

“From medieval times the wood was used for coppicing.   Ridley Wood is mentioned in Norden’s 17th century survey of coppices as a place where land was leased to tenants for exploitation of the underwood only.  In 1571, the tenant of Ridley Coppice was accused of pollarding 200 trees and selling the cut wood, thus exceeding his rights. To compound his crime, he also cut young oak to make fences.”[2]

Beech trees are not usually long lived, 300 years on average.  They are very thirsty, so suffer from lack of rain, though don’t like water logged soil either.  In the New Forest they are vulnerable to being blown over as their wide spreading roots don’t enter the clay below.

 Before entering Ridley Wood, we saw a good example of inosculation, where an oak and a beech had self grafted.

Information of where to find Ancient and Veteran trees in the UK can be found at https://ati.woodlandtrust.org.uk/?_gl=1*1rra7da*_ga*NjQ4ODAwMjg0LjE2NDQ4NzA4MDU.*_ga_YYKVQEPV0X*MTY1MDczOTk3MC4xNi4xLjE2NTA3NDAxNDEuNTU  Just put a place into the search facility, then click on a highlighted tree, a small box will pop up telling you what the tree is, click on the box and more info and photos will come up regarding that particular tree.

A PDF can also be downloaded from the Woodland Trust explaining what ancient, veteran and other trees of interest are:   https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/publications/2008/11/what-are-ancient-trees/?_gl=1*d8bs8*_ga*NjQ4ODAwMjg0LjE2NDQ4NzA4MDU.*_ga_YYKVQEPV0X*MTY1MDczOTk3MC4xNi4xLjE2NTA3NDA4MDYuMTI.

Mill Lawn Brook was crossed twice.  It rises just south of the A31 and is fed by additional tributaries rising from Harvest Slade Bottom before flowing through Burley and then eastward via Markway Bridge and Puttles Bridge where it becomes known as Ober Water.  The Ober Water continues to flow eastwards to the north of Brockenhurst where it joins the Lymington River at Bolderford Bridge. [3]

Ridley Bottom:  In the brook itself we spotted Water-crowfoot.  We had some discussion about whether or not we were looking at Ranunculus novae-forestae– named for the New Forest, where it was first found.  A crib sheet separating out the different Water-crowfoot species can be found at https://freshwaterhabitats.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/THREE_LOBED-WATER-CROWFOOT-CRIB-SHEET.pdf

The other notable plant seen was Petty Whin, which was just coming into flower.  It has decreased drastically across the UK and apart from the New Forest is found only in eastern Scotland, south Wales and Devon.  It grows in moist open grasslands and heathland on acid soils. It likes areas where the ground does not get too dry and where the soil is a little richer. The drier fringes of bogs and acid pasturelands are ideal for it. This is a species that definitely requires grazing.  One of the main reasons for its decline has been a lack of grazing in many places where it used to grow. [4]

One of the fungus we saw was the miniscule Grey Disco which is a ‘spore shooter’.  It is common in Britain and is found on dead wood, usually on the underside of logs when rolled over.

Another fungus was Split Gill, a small fan like wood rotting fungus (below). Interesting information about this common fungus can be found at https://botit.botany.wisc.edu/toms_fungi/feb2000.html


The slime mould ‘False Puffball’ (below) was seen in its reproductive phase as a white 'swelling' on a branch of a fallen tree. 

[1] https://www.british-history.ac.uk/statutes-realm/vol7/pp405-408


[3] https://www.hlsnewforest.org.uk/app/uploads/sites/3/2018/03/Environmental_Impact_Assessment_Report.pdf

[4] https://www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/discover/plants-fungi/heathland-plants/petty-whin/