‘Secret forest’ becomes one of the RSPB’s most significant purchases

Martin Fowlie

Thursday 22 March 2018

The RSPB is delighted to take ownership of a new nature reserve in the north of the New Forest National Park.

Franchises Lodge, near Nomansland in Wiltshire, is a 386 hectare (almost 1,000 acres) woodland of deciduous and conifer trees that has largely been inaccessible to the public for many years. The national wildlife charity describes it as a “secret forest” that is home to a wide range of birds, invertebrates and plant life.

It also provides a unique opportunity to create a nature rich bridge between two already internationally important areas [Note 1], embodying the principles of 21st Century landscape conservation: “bigger, better, more joined up”.

The acquisition has been facilitated through a gift in respect of a settlement between the previous owners and HMRC [Note 2], a generous legacy, and support from the New Forest National Park Authority and the Friends of the New Forest. 

Mike Clarke, the RSPB’s Chief Executive said: “This is one of the most significant purchases in our 129 year history.  It is also our first nature reserve in the New Forest. We are delighted to take on the land from its previous owners who we know are passionate about the site, its woodlands and wildlife and we hope to build on their work over the years, safeguarding it for future generations.”

In its vision for the near 1000 acre site the RSPB will be focusing on maintaining the existing broadleaf woodland, enhancing areas of wood pasture and recreating open heath.

To date, the site has been under the careful stewardship of the previous owners.  Initial surveys confirm the site has a good woodland bird community, including wood warbler, hawfinch, spotted flycatcher, firecrest and redstart. These woods are also known to be fascinating botanically, with an internationally important lichen community. It’s also good for a range of invertebrates, from beetles to butterflies.  

Nick Bruce-White, RSPB Regional Director in South West England, said: “We think it might hold some real wildlife treasures. This is hugely exciting. While we know the sorts of things to be expected, and we know its potential, until we start exploring the site we don’t know for sure just what the site contains.”

Speaking about the public involvement in the new site, Mr Bruce-White said: “Naturally we want people to enjoy the site, but we have to understand much more about its nature and ecology and consider the views of local communities before making any decisions about access beyond the existing rights of way.”

Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre, Chairman of the New Forest National Park Authority, which contributed £200,000 said: “This is very good news for the Forest. The acquisition of this site by the RSPB is significant as it gives us the opportunity to undertake landscape-scale improvements to these habitats in a prime location adjacent to the Open Forest.

“We are pleased that RSPB is keen to work with commoners and other local people to ensure that the site is managed appropriately. This will bring the same benefits to a wide range of species as it does on the Open Forest and will ensure this important site flourishes for years to come.

“It has been a pleasure to work with the RSPB for five years on this very rare opportunity to secure the future of such a large area of the Forest. We look forward to collaborating further to develop this special place into an exemplar site for wildlife and commoning, as well as a tranquil retreat for people of all ages.”

Dr Clarke added: “The New Forest is truly a national treasure. We warmly thank the New Forest National Park Authority for its ongoing help and enthusiasm for this acquisition.  

“We know the site is already good, and parts of it have numerous designations. But we also know that there’s much still to be discovered as this site has been off the radar for years. This makes this acquisition doubly exciting. “

“This is a vision that isn’t ours alone, throughout we have worked closely with New Forest National Park Authority and Natural England to make the most of the unique opportunity to work at landscape scale.”

The RSPB is now working with partners on an ambitious 25 year vision for Franchises Lodge. 

To realise the site’s full potential for people and wildlife the RSPB will be launching a major public appeal in May. 


For further information, images, or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Martin Fowlie, RSPB Senior Media Officer, martin.fowlie@rspb.org.uk | 01767 693257

Last Updated: Tuesday 28 August 2018

Tagged with: Country: UK Topic: Birds and wildlife Topic: Conservation Topic: Reserves Topic: Species conservation