Saturday, 20 August 2016

Correcting the media

Some of you may have seen the article in the Guardian this week from Chris Packham, saying the New Forest was overgrazed and the habitats and species were suffering. Well, from my experiences this year, I would beg to differ.

Last weekend the family opted for a pub lunch as part of a birthday celebration, and then walk through Wellow Common. This is part of the Northern Commons, owned by the National Trust. Here, the turf is very short, heavily grazed by ponies, donkeys and some cattle. Despite this, it was teeming with life.

The common and bell heathers, and cross-leaved heath, were all flowering, forming a mosaic of purple as we walked. Clusters of yellow tormentil, and in wetter patches, spearwort, provided the opposite end of the colour wheel (how does nature do that?). Large heath butterflies flitted from gorse bush to gorse bush, and buzzards wheeled overhead from the adjacent, cooling woodland. It was an idyllic English summer scene.

The New Forest's value comes in part from the mosaic of close-cropped turf (the 'lawns'), taller heath,  wetlands and ancient woodland. Many rare species require these conditions - for example, small fleawort positively thrives in habitats that look like the Somme! And where some species may struggle in areas where livestock might favour, there are plenty of other areas that they can survive. On the whole, it all balances out. I haven't seen the Forest looking this good in years, which is a testament to all those involved in positive management of this unnatural landscape.

Spending more time outdoors can have a surprising impact on work productivity, as I found this week! Our management team had a business planning meeting, and a following day of team building, at Testwood Lakes near Totton. We kick-started the session with a picnic buffet outside, overlooking the lakes on a beautiful sunny day, surrounded by dragonflies and bees. We were all subsequently very relaxed going into our business meeting, and came out of it feeling positive and inspired, which rarely happens! We continued this the following day with the team building sessions - being outside the whole day seemed to energise people.

Just think what could happen to our economy if people spent more time outside? Recession, what recession?!

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