‘Inspiring and Enabling Local Communities – An Integrated Local Delivery Framework for Localism and the Environment’ (Short C, Griffiths R and Phelps J, 2010) – Abstract & Video

This paper was presented at the New Forest Knowledge Conference 2018 entitled: The Role of Commoning in the Maintenance of Landscape and Ecology: A New Forest, National and Global Perspective.


Jenny Phelps, Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group, South West


There is a widespread recognition that there have been dramatic changes across the countryside in the UK over the past 70 years. Currently environmental land management initiatives tend to be top-down, driven by large institutions citing national legislation, policy obligations and international Directives and Conventions. Local communities, including farmers, who may nevertheless feel protective of the natural assets within their vicinity (that may also make a considerable contribution to a local sense of identity), may feel alienated from the imposition of targets relating to these same assets from whose formulation they have been excluded. However, such communities frequently have essential knowledge, experience and a sense of pride and commitment to the future survival of such areas. Furthermore the range of national organisations, strategies and policy frameworks can sometimes end up working against each other in a particular area. This is particularly true of complex sites and issues that contain a wide range of legal obligations and other interests. In such multi-objective areas there is a real need for greater connectivity at all levels, local, regional and national, to enable a synergy to be possible on the ground. This lack of co-ordination, coherence and integration at the national (and even regional) level results in a series of confusing, disjointed and contradictory signals and mechanism for those who live and work close to these areas and, most importantly, have the capacity to assist in their management and governance.


While it is possible to see how these tensions have developed, largely through the shift in power away from productivist agriculture and towards measures aimed at halting environmental decline, the need to embrace a holistic multi-objective approach that inspires and enables farmers and local communities is pressing. The international institutions without the engagement of local people, who feel distanced and even disenfranchised from their own land as a result, undermines the environmental imperative. Within Gloucestershire, the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG) have been developing an integrated local delivery (ILD) model, implemented in a range of situations that utilises and enables those with local skills and environmental land management knowledge that contributes to the management of sensitive and key environmental sites.

The Talk

A Fairy Tale in the New Forest: A Tom Charman Exhibition

The original article written by Sonia Aarons-Green for ArtUK can be found here: https://artuk.org/discover/stories/tom-charman-a-fairy-tale-in-the-new-forest

The New Forest Heritage Centre’s collection of Tom Charman woodcarvings can be viewed at ArtUK: https://artuk.org/discover/artists/charman-tom-18631939/search/artistel:tom-charman-18631939/page/1/view_as/grid

Tom Charman‘s curious wooden carvings and mysterious, visionary works of art draw us into the enchanting world of fairies and elementals – revealing the legacy of a Victorian fascination for clairvoyance.

Brown wood carving of a pixie head
Woodcarving of the head of a pixie by New Forest Artist Tom Charman

Born in Horsham, Sussex on 14th March 1863, Tom’s parents ran a grocery, his father from a long tradition in farming, and his mother an educated woman with a love of literature. At the age of seven, Tom records seeing a fairy riding a brown rat in his bedroom although he was not to see another for 30 years.

Two children, Christopher and Danae Charman, sitting in a garden overlooking fields and trees
An idyllic childhood

Completing his formal education at the age of 12, Tom’s love of the extraordinary led him to visit the music halls; his secretive excursions were often concluded by a beating from his strictly Methodist father. When his mother fell ill and, as the youngest in a large family, he was asked to remain at home, he would often sit and read to her through the night, further advancing his education.

At five feet and six inches, Tom was described in his son’s memoir as ‘of wiry build, fair-haired with a handsome well-boned face; quite a dandy in his bowler hat, high wing collar and cane walking stick’.

Tom unsuccessfully tried his hand at several occupations, including a door-to-door sewing machine salesman. A natural showman, by 1887 his love of performing and the music halls were providing him with considerable success as a ventriloquist, mime artist and character raconteur; he travelled the home counties performing solo and in a vaudeville partnership with his friend Jack Pain.

Sepia portrait photograph of two men, one sitting one standing
Tom Charman and Jack Pain c.1887–1889

Meanwhile, his distinctive artistic flair, inspired by Aubrey Beardsley and the caricatures of Thomas Rowlandson, had already brought some success – an early illustrative commission of numerous drawings for Charles Roper’s 1895 book Whispers from Fairyland.

Black and white photograph of Tom Charman sitting on the floor outside a makeshift tent in the forest
Tom outside a wigwam in the New Forest in summer

By the turn of the century, Tom had joined a group of actors, artists and society eccentrics in search of an Arcadian lifestyle in the New Forest. They followed the fashionable trends for travelling in horse-drawn caravans and a passion for the natural world. Among his collection of friends was the Reverend James Leith Macbeth Bain, the spiritualist minister known as Brother James and famous for the hymn tune Brother James’s Air. It was such connections and experiences which would dictate Tom’s artistic future.

Still determined to use his natural gift for illustration, Tom decided to seek his fortune in America, funded by a small legacy following his mother’s death, where he worked briefly on a New Jersey newspaper as a cartoonist. It was an unhappy and lonely experience. Unable to create and persuaded he was being poisoned by his landlord, he soon returned to Sussex.

Tom’s proclivity to see fairies as an adult – and his aptitude for clairvoyance – were revived when he reconnected with the New Forest in a move to Nomansland, near Bramshaw. By 1911, the 49-year-old Tom had arrived to help his sister Sarah and brother-in-law William Halls in their post office, grocery and bakery. He had recently completed the illustrations for Henry Burstow’s Reminiscences of Horsham (1911) in which his father Michael is mentioned as a bell ringer, but he was struggling to make a living.

A painting of a red and brown bungalow surrounded by grass and bushes
The Godshill Pottery bungalow

While walking in the Forest, Tom met the amateur geologist, anthropologist and Quaker Ernest Westlake, who was to found the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry in 1916 and set up a ‘Forest School’ on land at Sandy Balls, near Fordingbridge. Ernest had built a small wooden bungalow on The Ridge in Godshill and was living there, following his wife’s death, with his daughter Margaret and son Aubrey. Ernest and Tom discovered they shared many passions.

Brown woodcarving of a stylised Figure Seated Cross-Legged with Large Ears
Stylised Figure Seated Cross-Legged with Large Ears by Tom Charman c.1919–1935

Inspired by the prehistoric charm and weird beauty of the New Forest, Tom produced literally hundreds of carvings, recreating the creatures and elemental spirits he perceived in the twisted roots, branches and twigs. He would also sit for hours drawing the ‘little people’ that appeared to him as he walked among the trees, and uncovering the images he believed they had created in found stones and flints.

Brown woodcarving of a Perched Bird with Folded Wings
Perched Bird with Folded Wings by Tom Charman c.1919–1935

As he became better known, the popular psychic magazines of the time looked on him as something of an authority and The Occult Review of February 1917 featured an article titled ‘A Seer of Nature Spirits’, on Tom’s discoveries: ‘a form of life which passes us by entirely in our normal states of consciousness’.

Close up of a light wood coloured business card with text: "Curio Carver Tom Charman Godshill Fordingbridge Hants"
Tom’s business card

An exhibition of Tom’s carvings and stones was held at Brighton’s Old Sterne Hall (under the auspices of the Brighton Spiritualist Brotherhood, chaired by Countess Verneuil and attended on occasion by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle). Some 1,200 items were displayed which included ‘gnomes, lizards, snakes of all sorts, an Indian sacred beetle, a sea snail, and other weird objects…’ The report in the Sussex & Surrey Telegraph goes on: ‘He has seen Indians, clairvoyantly in the woods, and has reproduced some of them with almost uncanny exactness.’

Margaret and Tom Charman on horseback in a field
Margaret and Tom Charman on horseback, early 1920s

In the early 1920s, Tom fell in love with Ernest’s daughter, the 22-year-old Margaret, an Oxford anthropology graduate. Much to Ernest’s consternation and despite his strong objections, the relationship blossomed and eventually Ernest relented, passing the bungalow to Margaret and Tom who would go on to set up the Godshill Pottery there, with the assistance and instruction of Denise Wren of Oxshott Pottery.

Tom and Margaret Charman with a wooden caravan in a field with two horses
Tom and Margaret Charman with a caravan in fields at Robin’s Bush, New Forest, 1927

Tom and Margaret’s honeymoon – nine weeks camped in the Forest, living apparently on dry lentils and bloaters (a type of smoked herring) and, at first, accompanied by Ernest – was followed by a period on the road travelling in a Gypsy caravan. Finally, they returned to Godshill where all three set up home together. Ernest was tragically killed in London in 1922, aged 67, when he fell from the sidecar of his son Aubrey’s motorcycle as it struck a tramline.

Modern photograph of Godshill pottery with 'open' sign
Godshill Pottery on The Ridge, Godshill, New Forest in its heyday (currently closed)

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle lived at nearby Bignell Wood, a large house at Brook, and was also passionate about the existence of fairies. Sir Arthur became a frequent visitor to the little house on The Ridge, along with others intrigued by Tom’s theories and experiences.

Oil painting of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in a suit with a dark red background
Oil painting of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 1927, by Henry L. Gates (1872–1943)

Tom was described by Conan Doyle in his popular book Coming of the Fairies (1922) as one ‘who builds for himself a shelter in the New Forest and hunts for fairies as an entomologist would for butterflies’.

Brown woodcarving of a humanoid figure sat holding knees
Stylised Figure Seated Bent Over with Arms on Knees c.1919–1935 by Tom Charman (1863–1939)

Tom’s haunting yet engaging wood carvings, decorated stones and flints, and strikingly spontaneous drawings – occasionally in charcoal but mostly in pen and ink, and watercolour – brought Tom recognition at London exhibitions in the late 1920s and 1930s. He and Margaret attended the annual Artist Craftsman shows (arranged by the Knox Guild of Design & Crafts) at Central Hall, Westminster from around 1929 to 1935. There he displayed and sold his work alongside other famous arts and crafts devotees as well as at gatherings of followers of the spirit world.

Brown woodcarving of a woodpecker perched on a branch
Woodpecker on Branch c.1919–1935 by Tom Charman (1863–1939)

It is a tribute to the late Danae Stammers (Tom’s daughter) and the Charman family that this collection is now in the care of the New Forest Heritage Centre in Lyndhurst.

The full story of the life of Tom and Margaret Charman and their children Chris and Danae is told in Christopher Pan Charman’s 2019 memoir In the Spirit of Godshill, published by and available from Millersford Press.

Black and white photograph of Christopher Charman making a pot out of clay
Young Christopher Pan Charman throwing a pot

A film of Chris Charman and his artist wife Kate – which includes Chris talking about his father’s carvings and how they revived Godshill Pottery – can be viewed on the Millersford Press website.

Sonia Aarons-Green, editor, writer and publisher at Millersford Press

A New Forest Christmas Tree

The New Forest is managed as a working forest by the Forestry Commission, this includes the commercial growing and harvesting of trees. Most of this happens away from public eye, unless you happen to stumble across works happening in one of the inclosures on your walk or bike ride. However one of the times you get to personally appreciate this activity and even take a part of the New Forest home with you is at Christmas time. Picking out and decorating your very own tree can be one of the highlights of the festive season.

The tradition of having a decorated tree in your home is a rather recent adaptation for Christmas; whilst evergreen fir trees have been used to celebrate winter festivals for thousands of years, the Christmas tree in its current guise has only been popular in the UK since the nineteenth century.

The first publicly decorated Christmas tree on record was in 1510 in Riga, Latvia. The tree was put up by men wearing black hats who proceeded to first dance around the tree, and then set it on fire.

The tradition of decorated Christmas trees spread from Germany to the UK thanks to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. German born Albert had often celebrated Christmas with a tree as a youngster, and was keen to share this childhood treat with his new wife. In 1848 the Illustrated London News published a drawing of the royal couple with a beautifully decorated tree, and within a few years the sight was common throughout homes in Britain.

Since then the popularity of Christmas trees has reached dizzying heights. The UK goes through around eight million real trees annually according to the Forestry Commission.

British Pathe has two videos dealing with the annual New Forest Christmas tree harvest.

Land Army Girls cutting Christmas Trees in 1948

Xmas Tree Harvest in 1966


All about the bounds. What medieval perambulations can tell us about the New Forest – Abstract

The following paper was presented at the New Forest Knowledge Conference 2017 entitled: New Forest Historical Research and Archaeology: who’s doing it? Below you will find the abstract of the paper and a video of the paper given if permission to film it was given by the speaker.


Richard Reeves

This paper first outlines the changes in the bounds of the New Forest using evidence from the Domesday Book, medieval and later perambulations.  It will consider the changes in and challenges to the perambulation that have occurred through the history of the Forest.  In particular, the period around the time of the designation of the Forest and subsequent reorganization of the Saxon hundredal boundaries to form the New Forest Hundred coterminous with the demesne lands of the Forest.  Also following the implementation of the Carta de Foresta of 1217 and the struggles for disafforestation surrounding it.  It will then briefly cover the formation of the Bailiwick and Walk boundaries into which the Forest was historically divided.

The second section will consider the individual bound-marks of the perambulations, particularly in reference to archaeological features, including prehistoric barrows, Roman roads and other route-ways, as well sites near contemporary with the bounds themselves, focusing on those relevant to the historic management of the Forest.

Lastly, the impact of the various bounds will be considered in terms of historic management, in particular commoning, with special reference to purlieus both outside and within the Forest, impacts on the jurisdictional history, specifically the interest of the various types of forest officers and legal history of the Forest, and what this tells us about the more widely about forest law.

In summary it will demonstrate how the designation of the Forest impacted on the development of the Forest and its hinterland, thereby creating the landscape we see today.

Ashley Walk Bombing Range Drone Tour

Discover the remains of a Second World War bombing site in the New Forest National Park from the the air.

5000 acres (equivalent to 2833 football pitches) of heathland in the North of the New Forest was  taken over by the Aeroplane & Armament Experimental Establishment (A&AEE) to become a training and testing range for all types of munitions fired and or dropped from British aircraft during WWII, except live incendiaries due to the fire risk.

The range consisted of several different target types including air to ground attack, mock ship targets, aircraft pens, gun emplacement, bomb fragmentation areas and the Ministry of Home Security target (known locally as the Sub Pens) as well as domestic facilities for crew, two small grass airstrips, observation shelters and towers. The range was split with one area for inert ordnance only. The site was also used day and night with one, the illumination target specifically for night raid practice.

On this site the Ashley Range Overview page has links to more detailed pages about the range targets, activities and stories from the people stationed here and the locals living nearby.

Ashley Walk Bombing Range: Drone Tour

Discover the remains of a Second World War bombing site in the New Forest National Park from the the air.

5000 acres (equivalent to 2833 football pitches) of New Forest heathland was taken over by the  Aeroplane & Armament Experimental Establishment (A&AEE) in 1940 to become its training and testing range. All types of munitions fired and or dropped from British aircraft during WWII were tested here first, except live incendiaries due to the fire risk.

The range consisted of several different target types including air to ground attack, mock ship targets, aircraft pens, gun emplacement, bomb fragmentation areas and the Ministry of Home Security target (known locally as the Sub Pens) as well as domestic facilities for crew, two small grass airstrips, observation shelters and towers some of which survive today.


On this site the Ashley Range Overview page has links to detailed pages about the targets, activities, archives and stories about the range.

Avon Valley Geophysics and the LoCATE project – Abstract

The following paper was presented at the New Forest Knowledge Conference 2017 entitled: New Forest Historical Research and Archaeology: who’s doing it? Below you will find the abstract of the paper and a video of the paper given if permission to film it was given by the speaker.


Mike Gill, Avon Valley Archaeological Society


The LoCATE project is a joint partnership between Bournemouth University and the New Forest National Park Authority, aimed at providing training in and access to advanced archaeological survey equipment.  AVAS members have been successful in applying this training to the investigation of a range of sites in the vicinity of the Avon Valley, with impressive results.  By describing these geophysics surveys, this talk aims to inspire local heritage groups in the New Forest area to add geophysics to their toolkit of landscape research.


There are literally hundreds of intact Bronze Age burial mounds, locally known as ‘butts’, in the New Forest including round barrows, bell barrows, and disc barrows. Locally, barrows were known to be ‘Burial Places of Giants’, with giants responsible for their construction and fairies or other supernatural beings known to be living within them. Seven barrows found together were known to be particularly associated with fairies. Some even had their very own legends about them, such as one known as Cold Pix’s Cave on Beaulieu Common, which is haunted by a spirit named the Colt Pixy.

Several Neolithic long barrows have also survived in the immediate areas surrounding the New Forest such as Giant’s Grave, a single 68m long mound found at Breamore near Downton. The mound is accompanied by the ‘Giant’s Chair’, bell barrow, not far from ‘Grim’s Ditch’ which, according to local folklore, was created by the devil (a word that from the 1200’s referred to ‘false’ gods i.e., the old gods and land spirits of the British Isles).

Another notable site is Stagbury Hill Barrow Cemetery, near Bramshaw. The Stagbury mound is likely to be a natural formation, but one that has been used by settlers for thousands of years for different purposes. There are four surviving burial mounds at the top of the hill (both round barrows and bell barrows, circa 1500-1100 BCE).

Vikki Bramshaw, author of the book ‘New Forest Folklore, Traditions & Charms’

What3Words Address: ///bossy.nourished.moved

Beaulieu Ice House

National park archaeologists are working with Beaulieu Estate to conserve and display an ice house that can be found on the estate grounds. This is one of the projects in the £4.4million Our Past Our Future heritage lottery fund scheme. As most of the structure is buried a laser scan of the ice house was commissioned creating a very detailed dataset to inform conservation work, but also provide an educational tool. You can see an animation created from the laser scanning below.

So what is an ice house? 

Brick underground ice houses can be found in the grounds of many large and not so large estates. In England, the first were constructed in the early 17th century by King James I who is credited with having one built at Greenwich in 1616. One of the earliest ice houses once existed in the grounds of the Queen’s House at Lyndhurst probably constructed before the end of the 17th century. They remained popular with wealthy landowners on their estates until the end of the 19th century when refrigeration was being introduced and ice was being produced commercially rather than being imported. Domestic refrigeration becoming more common from the 1920s onwards. The Beaulieu Ice house is a late example constructed in the 1870s.

The underground chambers provided a temperature controlled environment allowing ice cut from local fresh water supplies in winter or imported ice to be stored for long periods of time. The ice house typically contains a drain at its base that would have originally allowed waste water to drain away as ice melted. In many cases ice could remain in the ice house for anything between 12 and 18 months. The ice houses could also be used to store food at the same time as the ice thus prolonging it’s shelf life. As well as preserving food, ice could also be used to create a freezing compound in the ice house by combining it with salt. Placing a container within the freezing compound allows any liquid to be frozen and was the traditional method for producing ice cream.

The ventilator at the top of the internal dome of the Beaulieu ice house visible in the 3D animation below is an unusual feature and relates to its later use. During the Second World War the ice house became an apple store that allowed apples from the adjacent orchard to be kept many months after harvesting. Storing apples requires the space to be ventilated due to the CO2 they give off that would pool in the bottom of the ice house and be lethal.

The ice house is built from both red and also yellow (Beaulieu buff) bricks stamped ‘Beaulieu’ and made at the estate brickworks at Baileys Hard on the Beaulieu River (A similar project has been working to record the surviving kiln, which you can read about here: Beaulieu Brick Kiln). It is also worth noting that the Beaulieu ice house would have been covered by soil to increase it’s insulation, the soil has been removed at some point in the past.

Beaulieu ice house is a grade II listed building #1094424

Volunteers have been involved with cleaning and re-pointing the ice house and listed building consent will be sought to repair the break between the dome and the tunnel entrance.

Beaulieu Ice House Laser Scan Animation created by Archaeovision

Beaulieu Ice House 3D model for you to explore created by Archaeovision

Bogs and Spirits

The bogs of the New Forest are truly infamous, rumoured to swallow both walker and beast if given half the chance. Significant tracts of bog are marked on Forest maps as morass or mire, and many place names in the Forest include the word ‘more’ or ‘moor’ in their name, meaning ‘area of marsh’.

The bogs play a big part in New Forest folklore. Wet ground can be particular and known to be haunted by the Colt Pixy, a local trickster spirit that entices travellers into the bogs. A similar legend exists elsewhere in the UK, involving the trickster spirit Poake (Puck) who leads unsuspecting travellers to their demise. Once they are thoroughly stuck, he ‘sets up a loud laugh and leaves them quite bewildered in the lurch’. The traveller is said to have been ‘poake-ledden’ (Puck-led).

The Will-o’-the-Wisp (or ignis fatuus, Latin for ‘foolish fire’) is another such Forest spirit seen on the moors and believed to entice people towards the mire by impersonating a lamp. This effervescent pixie-light is often described as a fine, blue-white flame that draws a traveller towards it but then either becomes intensely bright or suddenly extinguishes, causing them to blunder into a bog.

The pixie William is believed to carry the ‘Wisp’ of light (i.e., ‘Will with a Wisp’). William also appears as the spirit Jack (Jack-o-Lantern) or Puck (Pwca/Pooka) who Shakespeare describes as transforming into fire.

Vikki Bramshaw, author of the book ‘New Forest Folklore, Traditions & Charms’

What3Words Address: ///transmit.caressing.crisp