Natural England chief executive welcomed on first visit to the New Forest

Natural england visit news article

Published Thursday 17 September 2015

Natural England’s chief executive was welcomed by partner organisations on his first visit to the New Forest National Park.

James Cross met a number of local stakeholders to discuss working together to protect the area’s landscapes, species and habitat as part of a £19 million conservation agreement – the biggest in Europe.

He revealed that Natural England – which protects the nation’s natural environment – is recruiting 11 new staff members to help with conservation work across Dorset, the Isle of Wight and Hampshire, including the New Forest. 

James Cross said: ‘At the heart of Natural England’s new approach is a focus on real world outcomes, delivered in partnership with all of those that have an interest and it’s been really pleasing to see this morning just how well we are working together on the ground.’

Alison Barnes, Chief Executive of the New Forest National Park Authority, said: ‘We were all delighted to welcome James on his first visit to the New Forest. It was a very productive meeting and wonderful to see his interest in local matters.’

Partner organisations at the visit included the Forestry Commission, Hampshire County Council, Dorset County Council, New Forest National Park Authority, Environment Agency, Verderers of the New Forest, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, Dorset Wildlife Trust and the Southern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority.

The New Forest is part of a 10-year Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) agreement between the Verderers and Natural England which will help to safeguard traditional grazing methods, support commoning and restore important wildlife habitat. When the Verderers of the New Forest HLS was signed in 2010 it was the largest agri-environment agreement by area in Europe, covering 20,000 hectares, all of which is protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

During James’s trip he met the Verderers in the Verderers Court in Queens House, Lyndhurst. 

Diana Westerhoff (Natural England’s Appointed Verderer) said: ‘We were very pleased to meet with James Cross and explain to him how the Verderer’s Grazing Scheme works within the HLS.  He met with our Head Agister and our Grazing Scheme Administrator and was very impressed by the way the HLS is managed in such a unique place as The New Forest.’

James also visited Fletchers Thorns where a river, which had been deepened and straightened in the past, has recently been restored to its natural meandering position within the floodplain. He also heard about how Natural England advisers have worked with the many partners and interest groups within the New Forest to manage 29,000 hectares of unique habitats and rare species including Dartford warblers, nightjars, many species of bats and the rare smooth snake, not to mention the famous New Forest ponies.

The Wetland Restoration Programme is one of the main focuses of the Verderers of the New Forest HLS agreement, aiming to restore natural processes to around 4,000 hectares of wetland habitats which are degraded and declining due to previous drainage measures. By filling in drainage ditches in mires and wet heathland and reconnecting watercourses with the floodplain these once degraded wetland habitats will be able to sustain the extraordinary wealth of species for which the New Forest is considered so special, for future generations to enjoy. It also provides additional benefits, including:

•    reducing the material washed downstream through erosional forces
•    reducing the flood risk to communities from flash flood events as the flow is slowed and flood water retained in the floodplain
•    restoring forest landscapes such as streamside ‘lawns’ which become lost to scrub as they become drier due to drainage
•    revitalising floodplain fertility which is an important benefit to the commoners of the New Forest whose animals are the ‘Architects of the Forest’.

James Cross added: ‘This scheme is a great example of how Natural England advisers work within the New Forest to understand the often complex and varied interests of its stakeholders, helping to harness local passion to conserve the ecological and cultural qualities of this special landscape.’


Picture caption: Please find attached a photo of (front row from l-r); Mike O’Neill, Environment Agency, Alison Barnes, New Forest National Park Authority, Alison Field, Forestry Commission, Jo Heath, Hampshire County Council, Imogen Davenport, Dorset Wildlife Trust, Alison Potts, Natural England, Ian Alexander, Natural England, (back row from l-r); Phil Sterling, Dorset County Council, Fran Davies, Natural England, James Cross, Natural England, Debbie Tann, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, Robert Clark, Southern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority, Bruce Rothnie, Forestry Commission, and Graham Horton, Natural England.

Notes to Editors

1. The Environmental Stewardship Schemes is administered by Natural England, on behalf of Defra, and funds farmers and land managers throughout England to deliver effective environmental management on their land.

The objectives of Environmental Stewardship are to:
•    Promote public access and understanding of the countryside
•    Maintain and enhance landscape quality and character
•    Protect the historic environment and natural resources
•    Conserve biodiversity

2. The role of the Verderers of the New Forest is to protect and administer the New Forest's unique agricultural commoning practices; to conserve its traditional landscape, wildlife and aesthetic character, including its flora and fauna, peacefulness, natural beauty and cultural heritage;  and to safeguard a viable future for commoning.  The Verderers derive their offices, powers and responsibilities from an Act of Parliament in 1877 and subsequent Acts.  The Verderers Court comprises the Official Verderer, five elected Verderers representing the Commoners and four appointed Verderers: one each appointed by the Forestry Commission, DEFRA, the National Park Authority and Natural England. The post of Official Verderer is a statutory appointment made by Her Majesty the Queen. The Verderers work in conjunction with the Forestry Commission (which manages the Forest on behalf of the Crown), Natural England, and with owners of other areas of common land within the Forest, such as the National Trust.

3. The New Forest National Park Authority works with partners to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the National Park and to promote opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of its special qualities. It also has a duty to foster the social and economic well-being of local communities within the Park.

4. The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible for forestry in Great Britain. It supports woodland owners with grants; tree felling licences, regulation and advice; promotes the benefits of forests and forestry; and advises Government on forestry policy. It manages more than a million hectares (2.5 million acres) of national forest land for public benefits such as sustainable timber production, public recreation, nature conservation, and rural and community development. For more information, visit

5. Natural England is the government's advisor on the natural environment. Established in 2006 our work is focused on enhancing England's wildlife and landscapes and maximising the benefits they bring to the public.

•    We establish and care for England's main wildlife and geological sites, ensuring that over 4,000 National Nature Reserves and Sites of Special Scientific Interest are looked after and improved.
•    We work to ensure that England's landscapes are effectively protected, designating England's National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and advising on their conservation.
•    We run England's Environmental Stewardship green farming schemes that deliver over £400 million a year to farmers and landowners, enabling them to enhance the natural environment across two thirds of England's farmland.
•    We fund, manage, and provide scientific expertise for hundreds of conservation projects each year, improving the prospects for thousands of England's species and habitats.
•    We promote access to the wider countryside, helping establish National Trails and coastal trails and ensuring that the public can enjoy and benefit from them.

About the New Forest National Park Authority

Protect - Enjoy - Prosper

The New Forest National Park Authority’s statutory purposes are to:

• Conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the Park - Protect.
• Promote opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of its special qualities – Enjoy.

We also have a duty to:

• Seek to foster the social and economic well-being of local communities within the Park – Prosper.

The New Forest National Park was designated in March 2005. Its unique landscape has been shaped over the centuries by grazing ponies, cattle and pigs which roam free. Majestic woodlands, rare heathland and a spectacular coastline provide fabulous opportunities for quiet recreation, enjoyment and discovery.

Visit to find out more.

Media Contacts:

Sion Donovan, New Forest National Park Authority. Tel: 01590 646639 Email:

Graham Tibbetts, Natural England. Tel: 0300 060 2617 Email:

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