NEWS – History archive 2011
Forest of Dean Winter Forum – 7 December 2011
This evening meeting was attended by Erica Rye and Kathy Reynolds, representing the FOD Horse Riders and Carriage Drivers Assn. Thirty two other people were in attendance representing other interests within the Forest district. Kevin Stannard, Deputy Surveyor, was the main speaker.Conservation Proposals:
Consultations are in progress with reference to a trial grazing proposals in Crabtree Hill which it is proposed to return to a heathland site; Clearwell Meend is a community site and the most controversial and Mosely Green, which would be the easiest site to manage. The impacts and benefits of these proposals need discussions and agreements would need to be sought with local neighbours and the graziers, HM Verderers and Enclosure Commissioners because of proposed fence lines. The project is moving forward, but a long way to putting up the first fence. Cattle and ponies have different methods of feeding to sheep and when the land has been cleared the sheep will be returned. Hardy breeds of animals are needed for this job. The FC is to inherit 80 long horn cattle, which are to be run as a commercial venture.
The FC wants to work with the commoners to bring in new younger sheep badgers to run sheep and cattle to keep the tradition of grazing in the forest.Wild Boar Management:
The revised draft plan is in its final stage and is now with HM Verderers for their approval. The target to cull 150 was achieved in September, plus 6 road kill accidents. The cull figure was set in March based on the best survey available, but the FC does not know for sure how many boars are at large within the forest. Using night vision survey equipment, the first run through has been completed. The conclusion is that this survey technique system is not working, as only 16 have been detected this way. Two more surveys are to be completed, but the scientists say this system is not appropriate for surveying the wild boar! The current estimate is that there is between 300 and 350, although this number is strongly disputed by many and the population can treble every year. The FC is committed to transparency on this issue and an independent observer joined the survey in November. The results will be made public once the three surveys have been completed. The FC wants to manage the numbers so that the forest community do not suffer excessively by their presence.Recreation Strategy:
There are 150 car parking areas in the Forest, but only Mallards Pike, Beechenhurst, Cannock Ponds and Symonds Yat have parking areas to be paid for. Wenchford will also be added to this list, as toilets are provided and have to be maintained. There is an urgent need to get people to spend more money in the forest. There is discussion as to which areas do the FC invest in to employ people to encourage tourism? The signage at hub sites is to be refreshed as there are benefits of joining up the different marketing brands. This will be undertaken by the FC design team, thus avoiding expensive consultancy costs.FC Reorganization:
Reorganization has been necessary to meet the financial challenge the Government has set the FC. By 2015 the scale, remit and approach has to fit the amount of money the FC have in the future. Funding has been reduced by 25%. 2010/11 there were 872 full time employees; in 2012/15 this will be reduced to 661 by reducing management and admin staff. West England Forest District will be born on 2 April 2012, from Birmingham and Shrewbury to Land’s End. The main office will be based in Coleford with a sub-office in Exeter.Open Forum:
The meeting was then opened to the floor when further discussions took place on the above subjects.
The Government is under pressure from riding groups to equal the number of bridleways in the country (currently approx 20,000 miles) up to the same level as footpaths (approx 91,000) miles to help reduce horses on the road/accidents while promoting outdoor activity and safe use of the countryside for all sexes and ages.
This will only happen if people sign the online petition. Please go to http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/15341 to sign and help get riders equal rights to walkers/ramblers
There is now a web site for the Forest of Dean Greenways Project atwhich will give you all the current information concerning this project
Minutes of the Annual General Meeting held at The Apple Tree Inn, Minsterworth on Thursday 22 Sep 2011
Committee for 2011/12: There were no new nominations to the committee so the existing committee agreed to continue for the next year.
There were no further matters to discuss so the meeting closed at 20.30 and was followed by a committee meeting.
William Reddaway is planning a ride around England
The Challenge for him is to ride a horse across the country to four corners of England, going through towns and cities, visiting 30 cathedrals and abbeys on the way.
The Start Date for the ride round England will be in Spring 2013, and the ride will take 6 or more months.
Its a big task: 2,500 miles; six months riding
Follow his plans on www.rideroundengland.org
from the Newsletter
In the north of the district we have been working with the BHS to overcome a newly installed, dangerous gridded drainage system stretching across the whole width of a road leading to a pleasant stretch of off-road riding. At last we have achieved a compromise with Highways and money has been found by them to adjust their installation and so to give equestrians safe access.
We have also provided advice to a carriage driver on a particularly slippy stretch of road and to an endurance rider who had got into conflict with cyclists (she should not have been on the family cycle trail!).
The latest on the Greenways project.
We submitted our bid on 3rd July and in August had feedback that the Chair of the Local Action Group (hopefully our major funders) had some issues and requested a meeting, which was held at Coleford on 6 September. Ours is a big project both in terms of its scope and the finances required – at least in the eyes of the LAG. So asking for £216,000 is causing some ripples! At the end of the meeting we had reassured the LAG Chair on all the issues raised but clearly they are more used to dealing with smaller requests for money.
Three days later we were told that we could go ahead with our full bid document (yet to be written) and there were strong hints that a Cost/Benefit analysis would be welcomed. So if anyone reading this has experience of creating a CBA PLEASE, PLEASE let us know particularly if you have dealt with intangible issues such as health benefits.
It is also that time of year when we remind you that membership subscriptions are due for the year 2011/12. We are keeping these to £5 per person and we do hope that you will continue to support the work that we are doing throughout the district of the Forest of Dean. To make this easier you will find enclosed/attached a standing order form with our bank account details, which you can complete and send to Erica Rye (Membership Secretary) who will forward this to your bank. Your completed membership form should also be sent to her.
Increasing our membership base Please do tell your riding, driving, walking and cycling friends about the project we are working on as the more fully paid up members that we have, the better it looks when we are approaching organisations for funding. Don’t forget, The Greenways project is a multi-user route so it isn’t just equestrians who will benefit from it.
BBC Countryfile filming
On Tuesday, 18th January 2011, the film crew from the Countryfile television programme came to the Forest of Dean to film a local carriage driver in the woods. They were accompanied on the drive by Jenny Carling, Chair of the Forest of Dean and District Horse Riders and Carriage Drivers Association who was interviewed by John Craven on the subject of the possible sell-off of Forestry Commission land.
In response to John's question of how it might affect horse riders and carriage drivers Jenny said "If land is sold off then under current legislation we would have no rights of access unlike walkers whose rights are protected by law" She went on to say "Any loss of public safe off-road riding and carriage driving in the forests could be disastrous". Jenny went on to explain to John that the Association had developed a potential coherent network of routes from Dymock in the north of the District to Bream in the south. The routes are called "The Forest of Dean Greenways Project" and the work is supported by funding from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development. This network, with all its associated benefits of healthy exercise for walkers and cyclists, as well as equestrians, together with economic development opportunities for local businesses, could be severely damaged by any sell off as around 60-70% of the route goes over FC land.
The team from the BBC were also interested in learning about the good relationship that exists between local management of the FC and the Association in developing equestrian access. Not least they were impressed by the fund raising that had taken place to pay for clearance of The Pylons track on behalf of all users by the Association. The filming that took place during the drive and of the interview will form part of a larger item on the "Countryfile" programme to be broadcast on 30 January.
It was a beautiful day and we drove the carriage into the woods to meet the crew. Ben, the horse, got somewhat agitated at the hold up caused by the BBC parked cars on the track to start with but settled down as we got moving. We went into the forest for about half a mile then John Craven took position on the back step of the carriage alongside Jenny Carling, Chair of the Association, who was to do an interview with him.
Ben, the horse, stood patiently during the interview although he could not quite understand why he was not allowed to trot on! The film crew, consisting of five members, were all very efficient and friendly. After the interview with John Craven, the cameraman mounted the back step of the carriage to film as it was driven along the forest track. The whole process took about 2 hours and we drove the carriage back home very pleased with Ben’s performance!
Two of us went to the Forest Forum as a representatives of the Forest Riders Association. There were about 50 people there from all sorts of forest clubs and associations (anglers, commoners, sheep badgers, county council, bird watchers, butterfly conservation etc.) Kevin Stannard, the Forestry Commission man in charge gave a long talk about the boar, the forestry enclosure plans and the restructuring of the Forestry Commission heirachy. He spoke well and it was really interesting.
The Boar They now estimate that there are about 350 boar in the forest (that is a conservative estimate) and this population has risen from 100-150 boar in 2009
Enclosure planning There are now about 1000 free roaming sheep in the forest compared with over 3000 before foot and mouth
Forestry Commission structure The FC have to make 25% reduction in expenditure The Forest of Dean FC will become the South West FC covering from Shropshire to Cornwall
As you can see, a lot of information. We spoke up about horses reactions to the boar which is why he asked for all incidences to be relayed to the FC.
The independent panel appointed by the Government to investigate England's forestry visited the Forest of Dean and met with two groups of about 70 people each from all persuasions, on 12th and 13th June at the Speech House Hotel. The Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt. Rev. James Jones, was the Panel's Chairman, said he felt it important to meet the people who live and work here and to hear their story and to learn the importance of the forest to them.
The Forest of Dean Horse Riders & Carriage Drivers Association was represented by Erica Rye (Membership Secretary) on the Sunday, and Jenny Carling (Chair) on the Monday. Here are their reports:
Independent Panel on Forestry Workshop 13 June 2011 Report by Jenny Carling, 14 June 2011:
About 60-70 participants from across the SW covering a range of interests including (from those I spoke to) saw mill owner, landowner, cyclists, walkers, foresters and trade associations.
We were divided onto 7 groups and on my table which was facilitated by Sue Holden, Woodland Trust were:
David Moreton - landowner, farmer, motor sport forest user and member of Forest of Avon Trust
Mike Moser - FC Independent Adviser for the SW England, woodland owner and wood processor
Phil Morton - Manager FC SW area
Sue Bradley-Jones - Friend of Westonbirt Arboretum
Caroline Harrison - Trade Association rep for Confederation of Forest Industries
Sue Holder set the 2 areas for discussion
1) Vision/hopes for the future of forests (including private and public forest estate) and 2) Priorities to achieve and the challenges identified.
The key points arising out of the discussion were:
1. need for long term planning/strategy from government to secure the provision of timber for industrial use (the economics of forestry underpinned a lot of the discussions)
2. better protection of forests against encroachment from competitive use eg train tracks, housing development
3. need to engage the public and improve communication about the wider role of forestry
4. research needed into arboreal diseases and better management of grazing animals (deer and grey squirrels particularly)
5. rights of access for all users to public forest estate (some participants were unaware of the inequality between walkers and equestrians/cyclists)
There was considerable discussion about the future funding of forests and a local tax (like a tourism tax) was suggested where local authorities benefited from the amenity value of the public forest estate. There was no disagreement about equestrians having the same rights as walkers but some surprise from Phil Morton when I said that I felt the bias of the discussion and point 1 above focussed too much on the commercial aspects of forestry and too little on expressed public needs for recreation although Phil was very quick to say that he supported recreation and the health benefits that accrued from forest access. Caroline Harrison again stated that there would be no forests for the public to access if the industry was unable to sustain itself economically.
All the points raised by the various "tables" will be distilled and published online probably by Sept 2011.
Independent Panel on Forestry Workshop 13 June 2011 Report by Erica Rye, 13 June 2011
I attended the above workshop on Sunday Evening 12th June. In my group were reps. for orienteering, Dean Heritage Centre, John French of HOOF, Awre Parish Council, FOD Athletic Club, Littledean Parish Council and Bishop James's assistant. Our group project manager was Dr. Alan Knight, who I was impressed with - he kept the meeting flowing and gave everyone their chance to speak.
Very interesting and useful to hear the other participants views. Basically we were all in agreement about not selling off 'bits' of the woodlands and of course from our equestrian point of view we needed to make sure we had 'permanent access' otherwise our whole project would be at risk. They all agreed that if we didn't have secured access all other aspects of life/work in the forest would be affected too.
One of the main topics was of course, was how to finance 'keeping the forest basically the same and managed by the FC'. Ideas were to possibly expand the forestry timber business instead of buying from abroad as we do now. Permits were discussed for riders and cyclists, but all agreed could not be policed. Local carriage drivers have to purchase a yearly permit, as do visiting carriage drivers to gain access through gates and barriers. However, there are not many of these. It was suggested that income tax could be increased 'slightly' for us all to support 'community forests'. Also it was felt that the FC should be more open about what they actually do, as many of us do not know about the research and technical training and other activities they are involved in. It was felt that they generally do a pretty good job of keeping all users 'reasonably' happy and should get credit for this.
Dr. Knight was interested to hear about the feasibility study that the Association has been involved with and I have sent him a copy.
We have had our first meeting with the Manager of the Local Action Group (our potential funders for the next phase of our project) and it is clear that our Assoc. will have to contribute some money perhaps as much as £1,000. So we would really appreciate it if members could raise some funds for us. We know that money can be tight but perhaps a sponsored activity, a cake sale, a coffee morning, a bring and buy sale, tack cleaning for a fee........WE ARE SURE YOU WILL HAVE BETTER AND MORE IDEAS but we need your help to reach our target of £1,000. A cheque (payable to "FODHR&CDA") for any monies raised should be sent to Erica Rye at Rose Cottage, Church Walk, Viney Hill, Glos GL15 4NY.
54 mile long Forest of Dean Bridleway Project Moves Forward
Following hard on the 'Hands Off Our Forest' campaign, a group of local enthusiasts have successfully completed Phase One of a project that could create over 35 miles of new Bridleways across the Forest of Dean district.
The Forest of Dean Horse Riders and Carriage Drivers Association, using a grant from the Local Action Group, undertook this study in order to explore if the district's fragmented Rights of Way network could be improved, providing new and better access to the countryside for walkers, cyclists and horse riders alike.
The study, which took six months to complete, was carried out by the Gloucester-based Destination Marketing Group who worked with local landowners and the Forestry Commission to gain their 'In Principle' agreement to the project. If approved, this 54 mile long network of routes, which extends from Dymock in the north to Bream in the south, would not only provide greater access to the countryside but would also be significant for the economy of the district.
Jenny Carling, Chair of the project team, says, "We are delighted with the very positive outcome of this feasibility study. It shows the potential of the Forest of Dean as a national centre for outdoor recreation and equestrian tourism. "We are also very grateful to individual landowners, the Forestry Commission and the County Council for their help in taking this project forward. "The next step is to go back to the Forest of Dean Local Action Group and submit a second grant application for the implementation of the route. "This will not be low-cost and we do not know if additional funding will be possible," concludes Jenny, "But we do know that the economic importance of this project and the need for greater access to the wonderful natural environment of the Forest of Dean is recognised as a significant benefit to the community."
We would like to make it clear that horse riders and carriage drivers are permitted to use tracks in all areas of the Forest of Dean by the Forestry Commission unless the tracks have been specifically closed to horses (with signs). The Greenway route is in addition to those tracks already legitimately used by riders and carriage drivers.
Some horse riders have recently been accosted by members of the public insisting that they have no 'right of way' on the tracks. If this should happen to you - please be polite but firm in the knowledge that tracks are permissable on foot, on horseback and on bicycles unless there are signs up prohibiting this access.
We now have a continuous route from Queenswood, Dymock in the north to Bream in the south via Cliffords Mesne, Huntley, Longhope and Mitcheldean into the core Forest of Dean. Well, to be honest it is almost complete – there is a stretch through Spring Wood in Kilcot that is subject to a Definitive Map Modification Order and the owner has died, so we have to wait until probate is granted before the legal process can continue. Life is never simple!
When we last wrote to you in January we said we hoped to have some exciting news to share with you. Well we have! After intensive negotiations with the Forestry Commission (FC) and with support from Mark Harper, MP the FC has agreed to dedicate in perpetuity our spinal route from Dymock to Bream and agree to 10-yr licenses for our community routes. This means that whatever happens in the future we have secured public access for all equestrians on the spinal route once the legal process has gone through and we have the necessary funding in place. At the moment equestrians only have permission to access FC land unlike walkers who have legal right of access. Although the “heat” recently went out of the public debate over the future of our forests, we were still concerned that equestrians might get left out in the cold again. So we kept up our lobbying and meetings and were delighted with the recent FC response. We think that, given the scope of the route, this is a first in the UK involving the FC!!
We feel delighted on everyone’s behalf about the progress we have made in just over 6 months of the project. Now we need YOU to help us take it into the next stage.
The next stage is about paying for groundworks and gates etc. We desperately need someone or two to help us apply for funding – our current funders could in theory provide up to £100,000 but we need to find at least 20% of this from other sources. Completing application forms for funding can be time consuming and we need your help. Also, our project is being costed at the moment and could easily exceed the above figure. So do you have the time to do some research on our behalf? We need to find out about potential funders and their requirements etc – perhaps you have experience of this sort of work or can just spare a few hours to do some Internet searching and report back to us.
We really do need your help.
For further information tel.: 01989 720252
Donations to: Erica Rye, Rose Cottage, Church Walk, Viney Hill, Glos GL15 4NY
Cheques payable to “FODHR&CDAssn.”
Supported by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas