November 2010


Set up three years ago this enterprise attracts about 7,000 people each year. Mainly youngsters for birthday parties and badged groups. The idea of the game is to work in teams using state of the art infra-red weapons without any of the mess or pain of paintballing.

New site office and car park

New site office and car park

Due to the demand we have just doubled the car park area and brought in a site office for team briefings. The timber cladding is in the style of the Juniper toilets using Red Cedar felled and planked on site.

Every two weeks when the weather is cold the Park’s boiler needs feeding with a trailer load of chip.  The current stock comes from over 100 Beech trees which were felled alongside the A3 two years ago. These were removed due to road safety concerns  raised by the Highways Agency.

The  cut timber has to season for at least one year to reduce the moisture content to below 30%. At this point a contractor is used to chip a barn full. The boiler is an 85KW Froling from Austria. Each kW of heat requires approximately 1 tonne of woodchip per year. There is a standard specification of chip for this size of boiler that is expressed as a G50/W40. This means that the majority of chips will be 50mm in size and have a moisture content of up to 40%.

Loading chip store using trailer and elevator

Loading chip store using trailer and elevator

 Wood fuelled heating delivers  a very substantial CO2 emission reduction when compared to using fossil fuels, even when transport and processing are considered. The boiler has  automated ignition and ash removal. With good quality chip less than 1% of the dry matter is left as ash. This is the 4th winter that the biomass boiler has been providing all the heat and some of the hot water for the visitor centre, associated buildings and offices.

85KW boiler with 2000 litre buffer tank

85KW boiler with 2000 litre buffer tank

The abundance of beechmast ( the seeds of the Beech tree)  at this time of year brings together two bird species in huge numbers. The Chaffinch, one of our most common and familiar birds, with a resident population boosted by large numbers from the continent. And the Brambling, a winter migrant that breeds in more northern areas of Scandinavia.

Brambling

Brambling

Queen Elizabeth Forest with its 1,000 acres of Beech trees has become a vast bird table to the benefit of these and many other bird species.

On the 6th of November the Park was involved in two fungi walks which took place in the Buriton Chalk Pits Local Nature Reserve  on the eastern side of Queen Elizabeth Forest.

Local expert Simon Moore took  a total of 40 people down in to this old quarry  to see what they could find. These walks are for education rather than eating so no baskets, and definitely no frying pans were involved!

An earlier survey had located the Alder bolete  (Gyrodon lividus) a first find for South East Hampshire. This is classed as rare in the UK.

 The walks found over 30 fungi, two of which are highlighted below.

Collared earthstar (Geastrum triplex)

The Collared earthstar (Geastrum triplex) is found in the detritus and leaf litter of hardwood forests. This fungus can be found in Asia, Australasia and America and has a history of use in traditional medicines.

Artist's bracket (Ganoderma applanatum)

The Artist’s bracket (Ganoderma applanatum) is a wood decaying fungus seen here growing on a Beech tree. It is unusual in its ability to be used as a drawing medium by artists. When the surface is  rubbed or scratched with a sharp implement it changes from light to dark brown producing visible lines and shading.

Queen Elizabeth Forest

The fantastic autumn colours of late October and Early November have now been replaced by frosts and heavy mist with temperatures down to three below freezing.  The yellow and gold Beech leaves have gone and only the Birch remain. 

Butser Hill is at 270 metres the highest point on the South Downs and offers a 360 degree view of the surrounding countryside.

Looking west from Butser Hill

The BBC have taken advantage of the current full moon, and the view from Butser by filming part of a new documentary. The subject is an unusual one, ‘could we cope without the moon? How would the world be different?’  The programme will be released in the spring of 2011.

Looking east along the Downs from Butser Hill

Halloween  half term week saw over 300 children aged between 2 and 10 years old pass through the visitor centre. The programme involved craft activities, trailer rides and story telling..a little scary but everyone left in a happy frame of mind.

The Saturday night was a different matter for a smaller group of adults who ventured in to the Park after dark to take part in laser games, to hear scary stories and to see the preview of two horror films made by local film maker Gary Mancini. One featured streets in Portsmouth and Waterlooville, and the  other was made in QE Forest. The title ‘It’s My Party’  related to a rave with two  monsters as the uninvited guests .

It' My Party poster

Now that the first frosts have arrived everyone wants firewood. The ranger team are all chainsaw trained and have a tractor mounted  splitter to make the work easier.  Logs are produced by the bag or pick-up load providing necessary additional income derived from routine tasks  such as cutting back for fencing work, or clearing wind-blown trees. 

 Those familiar with the southbound A3  as it passes through the Park will have noticed a large clearance of Beech trees along the highway edge. These were removed at the request of the Highways Agency due to their height and proximity to the road edge. This wood has now been seasoned for 1 year and is ready for burning. As well as seasoned Beech green Ash burns very well and large quantities of both are used. 

QE Apprentice using chainsaw

Logging provides a safe opportunity for the Park’s new Rangers to practice their chainsaw skills. We have one on the National Apprentice Scheme which lasts for 12 to 15 months, and one on a years placement as part of a foundation degree. Both are signed up with  Sparsholt College who cover the formal training.

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