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Broad-leaved inclosures

New Forest broadleaved inclosures: Hursthill Inclosure
New Forest broadleaved inclosures: Hursthill Inclosure

Wander amongst oak and beech in one of the New Forest’s broad-leaved woodland inclosures, savour the experience and consider that these New Forest woodlands were originally created to supply timber for the Navy, timber with which would be built the ships so important to the British Empire.

Walk through other New Forest woodland inclosures, through South Bentley and Burley Old Inclosures, woodlands first planted in the reign of Queen Anne, more than 300 years ago. Then visit Holly Hatch, Ironshill and Set Thorns Inclosures, all first laid down whilst Napoleon waged war in Europe.

Not all the original trees remain, of course, and in places, few can still be seen. But time has largely been kind, endowing on these woods some of the variety initially missing from the neatly ordered rows.

Winter gales, damp and fungi have done their work. Fallen giants of yesteryear have created mini-clearings in which brambles often thrive, and dead and decaying timber can now be found, creating living space for birds, bats and invertebrates.

Active management is also undertaken in many of these woods.

Non-native and 'pest' species of trees and shrubs - Turkey oak, rhododendron, sycamore and Scots pine, for example - are often systematically removed or controlled where they present an invasive threat to the natural ecology.

Selective felling of native species is also undertaken so as to increase woodland diversity and benefit wildlife - additional space created between standing trees helps those that remain ‘grow-on’, spreading their crowns and creating new or modified places in which wildlife can live.

Clearings are introduced and increased light reaches the woodland floor, encouraging the growth of wild flowers, which attract insects, including a range of butterflies. Some bird species prefer the newly created space, rather than the denser parts of the wood, and many bat species like space in which to fly, free of the clutter that might otherwise interfere with their sophisticated echo-location systems.

Then, whilst some of the felled timber is sold as part of the New Forest’s commercial forestry operation, some is also left to lie and decay as another useful resource for wildlife.

Original plantings were most often of oak and beech, but other species have since colonised, or been introduced: sweet chestnut, ash, rowan, blackthorn, hawthorn, occasional ornamental conifers and more, all adding wonderful diversity to these beautiful woods.

Autumn, when the trees are ablaze with gold and crimson, is the most colourful time of year to visit New Forest woodland, and offers also the prospect of witnessing the awesome power of rutting fallow bucks.

Fresh, pale green springtime foliage is, though, just as attractive; whilst summer offers peace and quiet in shaded glades, and butterflies on woodland rides. Even winter has its joys - the trees stripped bare of leaves better reveal woodland birds high above.

Woodpeckers will be prominent amongst the New Forest Woodland inhabitants, both the often conspicuous great spotted variety and also its smaller cousin, the tiny lesser spotted woodpecker. The ringing cries of nuthatches are often present, whilst tits, treecreepers and chaffinches roam in often large, loose flocks.  

Jays, bramblings and chaffinches feasting on autumnal corns and beech mast will be joined by grey squirrels whose agile antics never cease to entertain.

Deer, too, enjoy the autumn’s harvest. Unless tall inclosure fences keep them out, roe and fallow deer are likely to be present, and to the south of railway line, just east of Brockenhurst, sika deer may also be seen. But if these elusive creatures evade observation, notice at least the signs of their presence: slots in the mud, droppings, and tracks below the fences, the deer ‘creeps’ used as these animals pass from place to place.

Commoners’ stock are often excluded from New Forest Woodland Inclosures, for their presence threatens the survival of wild flowers, bluebells, wood anemones, wood sorrel, violets, honeysuckle and brambles that when able to avoid the attentions of the deer, sometimes grow in reasonable numbers.

And where there are wild flowers, and brambles, in particular, butterflies will be found, sometimes in large numbers. Ringlets are common, and so are brimstones, gatekeepers, skippers, peacocks, commas, red admirals and speckled wood butterflies.

New Forest broadleaved inclosures: silver-washed fritillary
New Forest broadleaved inclosures:
silver-washed fritillary

White admirals are also widespread in some years, whilst July visitors will almost certainly see silver-washed fritillaries. Gorgeous, deep, rich orange insects, they are Britain’s largest fritillary. Watch as they pass along woodland rides in a series of swoops and glides, stopping every so often to take nectar and pollen from the bramble’s blooms.

In season, dragonflies, too, patrol, often well away from water, flying back and forth on gossamer wings along short stretches of path claimed as their own, all the while hunting for insect prey – golden-ringed dragonflies and southern hawkers are the ones most often seen.

Enjoy access, then, to these New Forest woodland inclosures, and explore the many miles of sheltered tracks and grassy rides, for every season has a beauty all its own.

And who knows what is around the next corner, as the New Forest’s wild inhabitants go quietly about their daily business.

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** New Forest ponies **
New Forest ponies in the road
Ponies, cattle, pigs, sheep and donkeys are a popular part of the New Forest scene, but during the first six months of 2018, 36 animals were killed or injured on Forest roads, compared with 26 in the same period in 2017, a shocking rise of 38%. And in the full year, 63 animals were killed on the roads compared to 56 in 2017.
** Always take care when driving **
New Forest 'what's on' - a small
selection of local events and activities
September 2019
Up to Sunday 15th - Exbury Gardens, Look Twice Artists' Exhibition, 10.00am - 5.00pm.
Sunday, 8th - Lyndhurst Community Centre, Royal British Legion Band Concert, 3.00pm.
Friday, 13th - Verderers' Hall Open Day, Lyndhurst, 11.00am - 3.00pm.
Sunday, 29th - Brockenhurst Village Hall, The Rhythm Tea Dance, 2.00pm - 6.00pm.

October 2019
Throughout the month - St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery, Lymington, Neo-Romantic Art: the McDowall Collection.
Saturday, 5th - New Forest Heritage Centre, Lyndhurst, Hedgerow Berries and Winter ills, 10.30am - 3.00pm. Advanced booking is essential.
Saturday 26th - Burley Village Hall, Craft Fayre, 10.30am - 5.00pm.

For further details, view the full New Forest What's on programme.
New Forest seasonal highlights
September
Dragonflies and damselflies remain on the wing and so do butterflies, but in ever decreasing numbers.
Hen harriers and other autumn and winter visiting birds begin to arrive in the Forest.
New Forest fungi - mushrooms and toadstools increasingly appear in the woods.
Red deer start to noisily rut as stags roar songs of love across favoured heaths.


October
Ancient, unenclosed woodlands and broad-leaved inclosures increasingly take on colourful autumnal hues.
Grey squirrels frantically seek out and store acorns for use during the cold days of winter.
Fallow deer boisterously rut for two or three weeks around the middle of the month before the bucks leave the does and eventually re-form their own male-only 'buck herds'.
Content produced by Andrew Walmsley
Content produced by Andrew Walmsley