The Coastline of The New Forest
At its June meeting the Club welcomed Sheila Ward of Friends of The New Forest. This organization otherwise known as New Forest Association was formed in 1867 making it the second oldest conservation body in the world. It is very well respected.
Sheila began with a concise history of our coastal area. Long ago it was not a safe place. The relatively few residents were be-devilled by invaders: Gauls, Romans, Anglo Saxons and then Vikings. Nor did it stop there, as the centuries rolled by the threat of French invasion was never far away - King Henry V111 had Hurst Castle constructed as part of a chain of South Coast forts. Come the French Revolution there were many refugees from France and elsewhere on the continent and once it was said that one third of the population of Lymington comprised refugees.
Nonetheless trade always featured prominently in this area with imports from and exports to the continent and much further afield. Ship building at Bucklers Hard took on national importance with its then deep water port and it was responsible for the production of over fifty wooden ships from 1744 including Agamemnon, eventually captained by Admiral Lord Nelson.
The salt extraction industry established in medieval times grew in significance as a major national export product to the extent that by 1800 five thousand tons of salt were being produced per year. This gradually declined due to other methods of extracting salt and was all but finished by 1865.
Smuggling was also big business and piracy was a problem through the centuries.
More recently the area was designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1967 and in 2005 the forty-two kilometres of coastline from Hurst to Calshot was included in the New Forest National Park. Within this coastline are several official nature reserves some on private estates. The varied habitats support a wealth of wildlife of national and international importance. However, the threats are no longer foreign invaders but the much more significant problems of rising sea levels, housing development, increased recreational use involving disturbance to wildlife and the “England Coastal Path Plan” also dieback of the spartina grass which holds large areas of the marshes together. All meaning unfortunately a difficult and uncertain future.