WOW – what a difference the rain has made. The Forest has really greened up, the rivers are flowing and the vegetation has really started to grow.

The Heath Spotted Orchids and vibrant yet delicate Bog Asphodels are in flower in the wet heath and bogs. The first Silver Studded Blue butterflies are appearing across the heather.

A species which is absolutely fascinating and a real New Forest specialist. The caterpillar hatches in the heather and quickly forms a close relationship with Black Ants.

The ants take the caterpillars in to their nests and feed them, rewarded by the caterpillar with a sugary treat. The ants protect the caterpillar from predation by spiders and from being parasitized by small wasps which try to inject their eggs in to the caterpillar’s body.

The butterfly emerges from the ants nest, climbing the stems of heather on a warm day and rests motionless, while its wings dry out.

The ants continue to protect the butterfly and the butterfly continues to feed the ants until it is ready to fly away to find a mate and a new ants nest where the female will lay her eggs.

Whilst we still have a few cows at home with the bull, the majority are either out in the Forest or in the fields, checking on them takes a little longer and sometimes we can walk for a couple of hours without finding them.

We have turned our attention to hay and silage making. After such a dry summer last year and the long winter the barns are empty.

In some years we have some to carry over but this year the pressure is on to make as much hay as possible. We try to make hay rather than silage, to reduce our plastic use, but the weather often dictates. You need four good hot drying days to make hay whereas you can make silage in less time and in cooler weather.

The ponies are looking well on the Forest and our foals are really growing. It has been a real joy to watch one of our mares, Vicar’s Saskia, with her first foal and fascinating how it has influenced her behaviour.

Until this year she always ran with her mother and was quite predictable in her haunt, meaning we could usually find her. But this winter she left her mother and shifted the area where she ran, moving slightly closer to our home.

At eleven years old she is quite old to have her first foal and in a more natural system where the stallion ran with the herd all year round it is likely she would have separated from her mother at three or four.

We must always be mindful that even the smallest of changes and decisions, made with the best of intentions, may have unintended consequences.

Enjoy the Forest this month, watch where you walk and keep an eye out for the delicate flowers which are appearing on the lawns. Use your zoom on your camera to reveal hidden beauties. I photographed a dung beetle this week, only realising another smaller beetle was crawling on its back when I looked at the photograph!

And a final plea… Please remind your friends and family to keep a safe distance from all forest animals. They are doing such an important job in maintaining the habitats and small changes, however well intentioned, such as food or water being left out, can influence their behaviour significantly.

Lyndsey Stride - Commoning Family

Twitter: @Cuffnells