New Forest
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New Forest
Explorers Guide
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Pony near Hampton Ridge
For comprehensive information about the New Forest National Park
For comprehensive information about the New Forest National Park
***** For information about New Forest access restrictions and related matters, check out the Forestry England website. *****

Honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum)

Where: Mainly woods and woodland edge
When: Blooms from May - September
How many: Relatively widespread, although rarely abundant

Honeysuckle: a plant for all seasons? Maybe not quite, although honeysuckle is one of the first plants in southern England to show fresh new growth each year, often as early as late December or January, amidst winter snow and frost, in a welcome reminder that spring is not too far away.

Honeysuckle flowers, however, do not appear until May or June, and may continue to bloom until September, but they are certainly worth the wait. Long-tubed, white inside but otherwise yellowish-cream tinged with lilac or red, they eventually take on hues of orange-buff. The upper lip is four-lobed, whilst the lower lip has been described as tongue-like. The stamens noticeably extend beyond the mouth of the flower.

Ever richly scented, the flowers’ deliciously sweet aroma led Samuel Pepys in the 17th century to refer to ‘the trumpet flower’ whose bugles ‘blow scent instead of sound’. They are visited by a range of day flying pollinating insects, but night flyers, such as long-tongued moths, are clearly important, too, for as darkness falls, the strength of the flowers' scent noticeably increases in a determined attempt to attract passing insects.

A number of the honeysuckle’s many country names - woodbine, woodbind, bind, bindweed - refer to its climbing lifestyle, using for support the trunks and branches of shrubs and saplings as it twists ever upwards. Indeed, so tight is the grip of this deciduous, woody, clockwise climber that Geoffrey Grigson noted in The Englishman’s Flora: ‘Woodbine, honeysuckle, hugs more like a killing snake than a friend, often squeezing saplings into a spiral’, which results in a barley-sugar-like appearance that can frequently be observed in the New Forest.

Honeysuckle can be found in many of the local broad-leaved inclosures and in some of the ancient, unenclosed woodlands, although it is rarely abundantly present, for the plant is avidly taken by deer and commoners’ stock – both ponies and cattle. What survives, however, is of considerable importance to the ecology of the woods, for honeysuckle is the sole caterpillar food plant of the strikingly impressive White Admiral butterfly, and the plant's bright red berries are avidly taken by a range of birds.

The New Forest – A Natural History: Colin R. Tubbs
The Encyclopedia of British Wild Flowers: John Akeroyd
The Englishman’s Flora: Geoffrey Grigson
The Millennium Atlas of Butterflies in Britain and Ireland: Jim Asher, Martin Warren, Richard Fox, Paul Harding, Gail Jeffcoate and Stephen Jeffcoate

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** New Forest ponies and other animals**
The New Forest
Commoners' ponies, cattle, pigs, sheep and donkeys are a popular part of the New Forest scene, but during 2019 agisters attended 159 road traffic accidents involving these animals, a small but disappointing increase on the 154 accidents attended in 2018.

Sadly, 58 animals were killed - 35 ponies, 13 cows, 8 donkeys and 2 sheep, whilst a further 32 were injured - 3 pigs, 9 donkeys, 11 cows and 9 ponies.

(Forty-three accidents occurred in daylight, 15 at twilight and 101 in the dark. Twenty-seven accidents were not reported by the driver involved).

Here's just one horrific example - Three donkeys killed in collision with van at notorious New Forest blackspot (Advertiser and Times)
** Always take care when driving **
Content produced by Andrew Walmsley
Content produced by Andrew Walmsley