Call to relocate New Forest campsites to save the future of pooling
CAMPSITES in the national park should be closed and relocated if the old practice of pooling is to survive, a leading New Forest organization has warned.
The future of nine forest campsites managed by Camping in the Forest (CITF) under a licensing deal with Forestry England was discussed at a recent Verderers court meeting when Charlotte Lines, President of Commoners Defense Association, said the time had come to move them away from the open forest.
Highlighting the growing reports of conflicts between campers and commoner animals, Ms Lines warned that they “now threaten the continued practice of commoning in the New Forest.”
She said: “The New Forest Commoners Defense Association believes that to protect commoning in the future, the use of forest campsites needs to be looked at with some urgency. Ideally, we would like to see them restored in Special Zone of Conservation (SAC) habitats.
However, CITF defended its operation, telling A&T, “We are a responsible campground operator and care passionately about the wildlife and environment in which our New Forest campsites are located.
Amid the lockdown in 2020, he decided not to open the sites he manages in Hollands Wood, Setthorns, Holmsley, Ocknell, Long Beech, Ashurst, Denny Wood, Roundhill and Matley Wood.
The company has been widely criticized by local businesses and has been asked to reconsider by Forestry England amid fears of losing trades and illegally staying campers.
But Ms Lines said the closure had shown that there were many alternative locations for campsites away from the open forest, saying: ‘We are asking the verderers to use all of their powers to make this change to protect the commoning and the New Forest.
“In the areas of campsites there is a huge negative impact on grazing and an increasing urbanization of these campsites is changing the very fabric of the forest.”
Ms Lines said that with current knowledge of the issues around open forest campsites, none of the statutory authorities would give them permission to start operating now. She added: “The SAC plan recognized the consequences of campsites in 2001 and recommended closure, but nothing has been done. “
In response, verderers said they supported the idea of relocating CITF-run campsites, but warned that this should be undertaken alongside new camping opportunities to avoid an increase in wild camping.
The minutes of the Verderers court discussion noted: “The increasing pressures on the forest, both in the form of ecological damage and conflict with livestock, all indicate that the time has come for a radical rethink. camping arrangements in the New Forest.
“Unfortunately, the general public does not understand how easy it is to damage the ecosystem and many people have little or no understanding of the behavior of large pastures.
The verderers added that a way had to be found to satisfy visitors’ desire to camp in the forest, while greatly reducing the potential for conflict with forest cattle.
“People obviously want to enjoy the environment that the forest has to offer and it is perfectly understandable that some have a strong desire to camp here. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that mixing camping with livestock is no longer practical. “
A statement from Camping in the Forest said she was educating campers about the need to keep a safe distance from livestock and that in addition to sponsoring the Animal Safety Campaign on the New Forest Bus, she was also a member. of the Share Forest Business Group.
Offering to meet with both the CDA and the verderers, he added; “Camping in the Forest has operated ten campsites in the New Forest for over a decade and during that time our staff have gained considerable experience in managing sites with safety and the environment in mind.”
A spokesperson for Forestry England, which oversees the Crown land where the campsites are located, said: ‘We are committed to protecting the New Forest and the enormous benefits it offers both nature and people. . We would love to receive further evidence from CDA to substantiate their concerns and discuss the issues raised with the verderers. “
“Each campsite on New Forest Crown lands is supervised by a management plan, approved by Natural England. These define the environmental standards that the operator is required to comply with. The sites also directly educate and inform a significant number of visitors on how to help take care of the forest, including tips for not feeding or petting forest animals, and promoting the new forest code.
“Official New Forest campsites are an important way to run camping in a controlled environment, delivering benefits to the local community and economy, and supporting Forestry England’s work to improve forest habitats. . “
“When these campsites didn’t open last year, we saw a big increase in wild camping through the forest, including in many areas that are very sensitive for wildlife. This has resulted in extensive damage from discarded waste and equipment, and fire hazards from irresponsible barbecues. Any proposed changes to the location of these campsites should be carefully considered and planned.
“We welcome the opportunity to review the current position and work with others to find a lasting solution for the long-term protection of the forest. “