Saturday, 28 November 2009

An hour in Anderwood Inclosure

A late November Saturday of low light and grey skies. As I write this, heavy rain batters the roof tiles above my head and streams of water run out of leaf-clogged gutters. It is five pm . It has been dark for almost an hour.

Earlier today, we walked in the quiet of Anderwood; a seventy hectare inclosure where the Forestry Commission grows and harvests trees.

Anderwood was first enclosed and planted with oak in 1811. At that time, during the Napoleonic Wars against France, the New Forest had provided fine oak for the building of warships. Many of the wooden sailing ships of Nelson`s Navy were built at Bucklers Hard, on the Beaulieu River and not far from the English Channel and the Naval sea ports. It was important to replant young oaks to replace those felled in time of war, so Anderwood was one of the areas chosen for this purpose.

Beech and sweet chestnut are also grown here. The photograph above shows a small plantation of young beech trees, growing in the shadow of tall, mature trees.

Unpollarded beeches growing tall, straight trunks towards the sky. The rust brown of wet bracken underlies the trees.

This New Forest mare was standing on the woodland edge with her family, a small group of bay ponies who looked very much alike . Mother and daughter groups are common and the ponies will often pair-bond for life with a relative or friend.

Foraging for soft twigs in the browsing line of lower branches beneath the trees. The ponies have strong molar teeth which enable them to grind twigs, gorse and holly when winter grass is insufficient for their needs.

The pony on the right shows how efficient her long, thick coat has been in draining away the earlier rain. Her back was still damp, but the hairs on her abdomen and legs were dry, warm and fluffed up against the cold.

This well-covered old gelding dozed and slept on the edge of the family group. His left hind leg was bent and that hoof was resting, pointed to the ground. Inside the stifle (anatomical knee) joints of a horse, are a web of ligaments called the Stay Apparatus, which enables that leg to fix and form a prop for the animal so that it can sleep standing up.

In the 1940s, many of the New Forest inclosures were planted with conifers as a relatively short-term harvest crop. These conifers, mostly pine and Douglas Fir, are now mature and are gradually being harvested by the Forestry Commission. This area shows land which has recently been cleared. The land had been dug and turned over by heavy machinery and will need time to recover, although the green leaves of clumps of foxgloves were growing amidst the sodden wasteland. When new planting takes place, there may be Douglas Firs and Norway Spruces in this place.

Ponies graze the edge of an area of woodland clearance. In the chill November wood, no birds were singing.

Bunches of young silver birch twigs, harvested and ready for collection.

Taking the dogs home along the forestry track, beneath tall conifers on the edge of mixed woodland. Last night`s rain gave the woods a dank smell of wet leaves and rotting wood. Sometimes the soft underscent of pines came sweetly out of the spruce plantations beside the gravel lane.


ChrisJ said...

I love your photos, descriptions and choice of poems. It is all so familiar. I have never been to the New Forest, but grew up in England around Bushey and mostly on the east coast of Yorkshire. We live in such a different climate and culture now and for these past thirty years. I love the wearm weather we have but I miss the familiar English countryside. The nice thing is that I can be reminded of it all by following blogs like yours. I went back and read quite a few of your previous blogs.

Bovey Belle said...

Thank you for the virtual walk. I used to say that it was Dorset I missed more than anything else now we are in Wales, but as I grow older it is the New Forest, where I used to play on summer Sunday afternoons as a child, which calls to me. The mealy-nosed bay mare looks to nod towards some Exmoor in her bloodlines . . .

Dartford Warbler said...

Thank you ChrisJ and welcome! I know the east coast of Yorkshire from the years we lived up there.My Yorkshire born husband often likens the New Forest moors to the moorland of the North Yorks moors, especially on a summer day when the sea wind blows in.

BB- lots of the NF ponies have that Exmoor look. I wonder if it is recent cross breeding or the fact that the ancient heathlands of the south west were once linked?