Introduction to Orienteering

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North West Leicestershire

| Ashby de la Zouch | Bagworth Woodlands | Bardon Hill | Church View | Donisthorpe Woodland Park | Dry Brook and Gun Hill | Grange and Battram Woods | Hanging Hill | Lount Woodlands | Park Pale Wood | QE2 Diamond Jubilee Woods | Rough Park and Rising Wood | Sence Valley | Snibston Discovery Park | Spring Cottage | Spring Wood | Thringstone and Cademan Woods | Thringstone and Cademan Woods | whitwick | Wicket Nook and South Wood | Willesley |

Ashby de la Zouch

We have an urban map of this town. Its history has left us with an unusual layout with numerous back alleys making it ideal for our purposes. William the Conqueror granted the manor of Ashby, along with many others, to Hugh de Grantmesnil. The Domesday Book tells us Ashby was a small hamlet clustered round the Church Streets and Wood Street. And in1160 the manor passed by marriage to the Zouch family who were originally from Brittany. It is the Zouch family we have to thank for the market and Market Street. It is probable that the properties between Market Street and North and South Streets were divided up around the middle of the 13th century accounting for the long thin nature of the plots. The Zouch family were responsible for this planned town surrounding Market Street and the subsequent prosperity of Ashby as a successful trading centre. The Zouch family died out in 1399 and the manor eventually passed to James Butler, the Earl of Ormond, who lost his life in the wars of the Roses.

The manor then reverted to the king who granted it to William Hastings but after the death of Edward the 4th Hastings became an early victim of Gloucester’s ruthless campaign to become Richard the 3rd. He was arrested on a trumped up charge and beheaded in 1483.

William’s son George inherited the title, avenged his father at Bosworth Field and returned to Ashby. The next Lord Hastings became a favourite of Henry the 8th and was created Earl of Huntingdon.

From 1569 to 1643 Ashby Castle was to play a role in Royal history. Queen Mary was there in custody, James the 1st also visited and Charles the 1st at least twice, once on the run after the battle of Naseby.

The 6th Earl of Huntingdon retreated to the recently acquired Donington Park and remained neutral during the Civil War but his second son Henry turned the castle into a Royalist stronghold and for his support of the Monarch he was created Lord Loughborough. His activities were aggravated by his hatred of Thomas Grey of Bradgate, the leading Parliamentarian of Leicestershire. Ashby castle was under siege for more than a year before surrendering and whilst Henry was allowed the freedom to go abroad, the castle was made uninhabitable by explosives leaving the ruin as it is today.

Bagworth Woodlands

Royal Tigers and Centenary Woods
This is a Woodland Trust managed site consisting of 14 ha of woodland which was planted in 1993/4 through funds raised by the now-disbanded Royal Leicestershire Regiment. An arboretum containing 17 species of trees from countries in which the Regiment served (as the 17th Foot) lies at the bottom of the slope by the hedgerow.

A locally quarried memorial stone bears a regimental plaque. It is flanked by two Mercer’s Oaks, brought to the UK from the tree in Princeton (USA) around which the surrounded 17th Foot routed part of Washington’s army and bayoneted its commander (Mercer) during the American War of Independence in 1777. This adjoins Centenary Wood also owned by the Trust (27 ha) planted to commemorate the centenary of Bagworth Parish Council in 1994. Native broadleaved trees and shrubs have been planted on former farmland with wide rides and glades to create edge habitats and open spaces. At the northern end of the site, a public footpath takes you the short distance to Bagworth Church, a new church built on the site of the Norman church lost to mining subsidence. The arch from the Norman church has been built into the new church. Both Royal Tigers and Centenary Woods slope steeply uphill and are just across the road from the car park for Bagworth Heath Woods and all are mapped together for our purposes.

Bagworth Heath
The 75-hectare site is on the location of the former Desford Colliery and is owned and managed by the County Council. There is a range of walks and fine views to Thornton and Bagworth and for our purposes is mapped with Royal Tigers & Centenary Woods owned by the Woodland Trust

The site is linked to Thornton and Bagworth by the circular walk around Leicestershire, the 100-mile Leicestershire Round and Sustrans cycle routes cross the site.

It has been mapped and used for orienteering for a number of years and is maturing into a good area, with mixed terrain and vegetation and including lakes and several hills.

There are a number of nearby small National Forest Schemes which can be linked in by way of the footpath network.

Bardon Hill

This is the highest ‘B’ in Leicestershire. Standing above the lowland areas are four prominent hills, Bardon (the highest point in Leicestershire at just over 900 feet), Breedon on the Derbyshire border, Beacon to the east, and Burrough in the west. There are numerous other hills beginning with the letter B for no apparent reason.(Bardon, Billa Barra, Beacon, Bradgate, Burrough, Breedon, Budden, Billesdon Coplow, Blakeshay, Benscliffe, Burley on the Hill, Bomb Rocks, Broombriggs Hill and the hill on which Belvoir Castle stands.)

It was thought that there was an iron age hill fort at the summit of Bardon Hill but nothing of it remains indeed not much of the hill itself remains. In medieval times to ensure a plentiful supply of game for hunting purposes, the monarch and nobles established reserves called parks. These were areas of countryside that were considered to be on agriculturally inferior soil, often attached to a manor and which often contained woodland. Parks varied immensely in size, from a few acres to the size of the giant park of Whitwick Manor, which covered Bardon Hill and which extended over the surrounding area to over 1260 acres. However, by about 1427 it had been reduced to a smaller area around the summit of Bardon Hill but a small collar of woods on the southern flank is all that survives today.

Bardon has strong historical involvement in the life of the county up to fairly recent times. The 19th century development of the Leicestershire quarries of Bardon Hill owes much to the initiative and resourcefulness of the affluent local yeomanry of the higher class, as represented by the Ellis, Everard and Pochin families; nonconformist in their religious sympathies and liberal in their politics.

The earliest known printed reference to quarrying at Bardon Hill dates back to 1622. The commercial development of Bardon Hill stone, however, was made possible by the opening in 1833 of the Leicester and Swannington Railway, the first steam-worked public railway conveying both passengers and freight in the Midlands. The success of the line was largely due to the initiative and enterprise of the Ellis family of Beaumont Leys, who were active Quakers. George and Robert Stephenson were consultants in building the railway and at its opening the first train carried banners promising cheap coal and granite, warm hearths and good roads. The granite for the good roads was to come from Bardon and other local quarries. Ellis Park in Glenfield commemorates the Ellis family, Everards are still brewing and Pochin are well known in construction.

The Leicester and Swannington Railway prospered and in 1845 it was purchased by the Midland Railway and the Ellis influence expanded correspondingly. John Ellis became MP for Leicester, Mayor of the borough, and Chairman of the Board of the Midland Railway. Glenfield featured in the early development of the railway with the tunnel, opened in 1832, the then longest in the world.

The Everards made their home at Bardon Hill House. The affairs of the Bardon estate at this time were in some disarray, and in 1864 it passed into the hands of William Perry Herrick of Beaumanor who renegotiated the lease of Bardon quarry to Ellis and Everard. The quarry was now developed and mechanised and workmen’s cottages were built and a school provided, both at the joint expense of Ellis and Everard and the Perry Herrick’s. Eventually they added a parish church and John Breedon Everard, the architect of the school, houses and church became a partner in the firm of Ellis and Everard and was responsible for the design of the then magnificent Bardon Mill House.

Much of the money underpinning these families came from the quarrying which continues to this day and whilst the summit of Bardon Hill is protected not much remains of the north side of the hill. The summit area has been landscaped together with areas to the NE and a collar of mature woodlands gives the area some potential for smaller events.

There are plans afoot for a massive extension towards the east and as part of the pre planning consultation many were pressing for the area to be opened up for more access and for long term plans to create a Country Park. The quarry company do go to great lengths to mitigate the impact of their works and little of them can be seen from the road despite it being one of Europe’s biggest quarries. Their work on protecting the environment has earned them the Wildlife Trust Biodiversity Benchmark Award.

Despite the bustle of this massive complex extracting millions of tonnes each year there are peregrine falcons nesting on the ‘cliff’ faces and sand martins burrowing into the mountains of granite dust. The hole is bounded by are acid grassland with numerous unusual plant species and provides a habitat for small mammals feeding the resident buzzards and kestrels. Less than 1% of Leicestershire is made up of ancient woodlands and many of that is in badly managed small pockets so the wildlife relying on such habitat is struggling. Bardon’s mature oaks are a valuable oasis for birds of many species, butterflies and moths, bats and invertebrates. Heathland is being restored in the estate in part by a small herd of Hebridean sheep. Heather is recovering and bees and dragonflies abound. Bardon is also one of very few locations where the Charnwood Spider survives.

For more detail on how the whole Charnwood Forest area came into being and its history see the Charnwood Forest South entry.

Church View

This is former farm land sloping down to a stream where some water features were created and planted out in 2001 with help from the National Forest. Largely commercial poplar with some broadleaves, we are currently mapping it for use when it matures to be used in conjunction with other nearby small areas.

An existing but neglected field pond has been restored, a new one created and an avenue of rare black poplars planted. The site has been designed to afford views to the distant Swepstone Church

This large (100 acres) scheme is a most attractive scheme in terms of its wide range of woodland habitat types that will be created. It is 300 yards from the Odd House Pub which has a large car park and caravanning field and should be able to host events. The aims of the scheme are to enhance the landscape giving seventy acres of mixed broadleaved woodland, ten of commercial poplar, four of native wet woodland, an orchard (three acres) and a grassland area of a similar size. The site is visible from the Measham to Swepstone Road, two footpaths that bisect the site and from nearby Swepstone. They will allow access to 94% of the site, excluding the orchard and the grassland next to Valley Farm.

Swepstone itself is situated on a high point over looking the valley of the River Gilwiskaw from its confluence with the Mease. The church is situated on this high point and gives commanding views of the valley

Donisthorpe Woodland Park

A 36-hectare former colliery site in The National Forest where there are 20 hectares of mixed woodland and 3km (1.85 miles) of stone-surfaced paths, which are suitable for all users. There are links to the 6km (3.7 miles) Ashby Wold’s Heritage Trail and Moira Furnace and Plantation, along the towpath of the restored Ashby Canal.

The area has been mapped and used for orienteering for some time (originally know as The Heart of the Forest) in conjunction with Moira Furnace (owned and managed by N W Leicestershire District Council) and with the nearby Sarah’s Wood and Bath Yard the home of the National Forest Company.

The colliery dated back to 1857 and Moira Furnace is a restored blast furnace dating back to Napoleonic times. Nearby are restored old lime kilns. The area has recorded history going back much further. The name Donisthorpe suggests that the settlement be of Scandinavian origin. However, archaeological evidence suggests that the area was occupied much earlier. There is evidence of Neolithic and Roman occupation and it is probable that a Roman road from Leicester to Chester ran through this area.

The north-west of the parish of Donisthorpe is bordered by the open area of the Ashby Wolds and the Ashby Wolds trail runs through the area and is included on our map. The west of the parish is bounded by the Hooborough Brook which forms the country boundary and runs in the park. To the north-west is the Willesley and Hicks Lodge area and we have used Donisthorpe for a base from events there. The new area near Willesley that we know as Shellbrook actually reflects a small stream of that name which runs between Donisthorpe and Oakthorpe to join the River Mease to the south.

Donisthorpe is recorded in the Doomsday book which describes the land at Donisthorpe as waste, mostly in the ownership of Henry de Ferrers.

Along the south of Donisthorpe runs the Walton Way which, when it crosses the Shellbrook is known as the Saltersford – a clear indication that this part of the Walton Way was also used as Salt Way.

The park itself includes 20 hectares of mixed woodlands and the Hooborough Brook flows through the site between banks with mature willows.

Earlier versions of our map included the nearby Conkers which is now a pay-to-enter facility which is mapped in detail for orienteering. The Conkers area is now part of the Spring Cottage map. A start was made on a version of the map of Donisthorpe to include Saltersford Valley with its footpaths and lakes.

A permanent Orienteering Course has been created in the park including Moira.

Moira Furnace and Plantation
The plantation is about 13 acres and about half is mature woodland with many water features and a maze of small paths, and half again agricultural land crossed by a number of paths. Completing the picture is nearby local authority parkland and the area around the ancient blast furnace dating from Napoleonic times together with adjoining restored lime kilns.

It is owned by N W Leicestershire District Council and is mapped with their small park at Sarah’s Wood, and Donisthorpe Woodland Park owned by the County Council. A permanent orienteering course has been created across the areas with financial assistance from the National Forest .

Saltersford Valley
This is a 7 hectare site in The National Forest which has open water areas known as ‘flashes’. These result from mining subsidence that causes the Saltersford Brook to flood. There are sites planted with new native woodland and open areas managed as grassland, which feature wild flowers.

The site has been recently been designated as a Local Nature Reserve. It is being included on our map of the adjoining Donisthorpe Woodland Park.

Sarah’s Wood
This 25 acre woodland has been designed for children of all abilities and has tarmac footpaths. The site overlooks the Conkers Waterside Centre and is alongside the basin at the end of the restored Ashby Canal. It is included on our map of Donisthorpe Woodland Park and Moira Furnace.

Dry Brook and Gun Hill

Drybrook Wood runs down from the road near Mt St Bernard Abbey to the edge of Blackbrook Reservoir and we have mapped it and used it in the past. Current owners are not willing to allow us in and in any event, much of it appears to have become overgrown.

It also links to Gun Hill and then High Sharpley. We no longer use Gun Hill out of consideration of shooting interests so the link to Drybrook no longer exists so the use of the area is no longer on.

Grange and Battram Woods

This is now a sizeable site which we have used for orienteering for many years. It is in several ownerships.

The earliest plantings were in Battram Woods acquired by the Royal Forestry Society with assistance from the National Forest, North West Leicestershire District Council, Leicestershire County Council and the Rural Development Commission. It covers 48 hectares and was planted out over about 3 years from 1998 and is now maturing nicely.

These woods were intended to be a flagship showing how to create and run profitable woodlands for future generations in crowded lowland Britain. The site demonstrates best practice in planning, establishing and running woodland with wildlife conservation, landscaping, access and interpretation as integral components.

Over 80,000 trees were planted in a mixture of broadleaves and conifers, deciduous and evergreen trees, and native and introduced species. Fast growing poplars and cricket bat willows are grown on the wetter areas.

There are a number of unusual features including a group of 350 young English oaks and yews which form the Millennium Circle in the centre of the wood.

In 2005, the RFS joined forces with The Woodland Trust and the Marie Curie Cancer Fund to plant a new commemorative wood of 600 saplings with 10,000 wild daffodils

This is an ideal area for us given the variety of plantings and terrain. 20% is being left as open space, providing glades and paths which together with the existing extensive rides and footpaths provide 4km of pedestrian access routes. Cycle tracks link with other long-distance cycle ways such as Sustrans. The National Forest Way goes through the area.

This is only part of the story in that an even larger new development was undertaken next door at Ibstock Grange where are planted a variety of trees both sides of the stream running out of the RFS site. A whole variety of new habitats are evolving, enhancing the biodiversity. The ponds and stream are managed as wetland habitats and the power lines that criss-crossed the skyline, have gone underground for visual and safety reasons. A few poles remain as perches for birds of prey which do assist navigation. In Grange Wood alone, over 109,000 young trees have been planted mostly native hardwoods including Oak, Beach and Ash. Small areas of conifers have been included to shelter the native trees and provide interest and colour in the winter months. Over a mile of new hedgerows and numerous parkland and specimen trees have also been planted and numerous wetland features created.

A number of other National Forest Tender schemes adjoin the two larger developments and are included on our map. Common Hill Wood is to the north and adds 15 hectares and Farm Park Wood to the south west is slightly bigger. Bigger still is Workman’s Wood between Common Hill and Battram Woods. A further small development is known as Sparrow Walk and lies just over Pretoria Road from Common Hill Wood.

The whole useable area for our purposes is now over 600 acres.

Hanging Hill

This new area is owned by the National Forest Company in its many guises and is just north of Conkers. Hanging Hill has been acquired by the National Forest itself and has been planted up. It is flanked on one side by the mature Feanedock Covert and the other by the maturing Rawden East Country Park and Maybury Woods all of which have public access. We have done some preliminary mapping of the area which extends as far as the hamlet of Boothorpe and is about three times the size of Jubilee and Outwoods, with rolling hills, a stream valley and lakes.

Events can be staged based at Conkers.

Lount Woodlands

This large block is a mix of existing mature woodlands and new plantings linking them all together. The properties are in several different ownerships and managed by a number of different parties. Many of the older blocks are owned by members of the Blunt family.

We have been allowed to base events from Staunton Harold Hall. The hall is the home of John and Jacqueline Blunt and is near the border with Derbyshire and situated at the end of a long driveway off the Melbourne to Ashby Road. The hall, church, arboretum and lake have been a major attraction for many years but these areas are only to be visited with special permission and are not part of our event area. Behind the house is the Ferrers Craft Centre, which evolved from a pottery established here in 1974. There are also nurseries and a large garden centre where we are allowed to park, giving access to the area from the north.

Staunton historically means a stony place and the local stone includes sandstone and limestone, coal and iron, lead and copper and as such has been highly valued for many centuries. Staunton was mentioned in Domesday as being held by Henry de Ferrers (previously Ferraris), remaining in the Ferrers family until its sale in 1954. The first house at Staunton was built by Sir William de Staunton in 1324. In 1423 Margaret, sister and heiress of Thomas de Staunton, married Sir Ralph Shirley, Constable of Melbourne Castle and adopted Staunton as the family Home.

The house was largely rebuilt by Sir Robert Shirley, 1st Earl of Ferrers. He also built the church in 1653 which adjoins the house. Washington Shirley who became the 5th Earl Ferrers, rebuilt the Hall in the present Palladian style to which was added later the Georgian front as it is today, mellow brick with stone faced, pedimented, centre surmounted by figures of Minerva, Apollo and Ceres. It is a grade 1 listed building. When sold it passed into the ownership of the Leonard Cheshire and then Sue Ryder homes and then eventually to the Blunt family. The family from Melbourne in Derbyshire already owned the arts and crafts centre in the old stables behind the hall and had been associated with the estate for more than 100 years.

The sizeable area we have used is in several ownerships but is largely managed by the Forestry Commission and much is being developed with the assistance of the National Forest Company.

It is physically restricted at present because of high anti-deer fences but will progressively become an excellent area.

There are several mature copses owned by members of the Blunt family. New Plantation is owned by John and a parcel in the south by Jacqueline (which we have used for small training events for many years) and a further block immediately north of Jacqueline’s owned by Simon and used for shooting. Jacqueline’s in particular holds many complex landforms including many depressions probably old mining bell pits.

To the south east are areas known as Alistair’s Wood and Jaguar Woods managed by Forest Enterprise and it is said that Fords are involved as a means of securing walnut for the dash boards of Jaguars. Further north an area is owned by the National Forest itself possibly supported by the Alliance & Leicester Building Society but again managed by FE.

These later areas are all fresh plantings but now maturing nicely.

Quite apart from the larger blocks a number of small units are included on our map, many planted with the assistance of the National Forest. Lountwood Farm accounts for two blocks, totalling about 8 ha. Called Emily Jane Wood and Keeper’s Orchard, the planting is predominantly oak and ash with field maple, rowan, wild-cherry and native shrubs. 10% of the site is coniferous planting of Scots Pine, Corsican Pine and Norway spruce to give an early commercial return. The orchard, adjacent to Keepers Cottage, is planted with a variety of native species.

Unfortunately runners strayed into private areas at our last event staged here and we have been warned we are unlikely to be allowed back at least into the Blunt areas for the time being. As the areas in other ownership mature they would become useable by themselves but at that point it is likely we will approach Blunt again and try to make mutually acceptable arrangements.

Park Pale Wood

This site, supported by the National Forest, covers nearly 28 ha near Ashby-de-la-Zouch. It takes its name from the remains of the mediaeval pale (bank and ditch) that runs through the site, which formed part of the old hunting park, part of Calke Estate. The open meadow by the dismantled railway is part of the Lount Meadows Sites of Special Scientific Interest. It contains flowers of both dry meadow (common spotted orchid, devils’ bit scabious) and of marshland (lady’s smock, marsh thistle and brooklime). The existing wet woodland at the northern end of the site is known as Black Ditches. An area has been left to the south to allow natural extension of the woodland into the new plantation through natural regeneration. Too small in itself to interest us it is near to a number of other developments and may be useful in the future.

QE2 Diamond Jubilee Woods

This diverse and sweeping landscape covers 186 hectares (460 acres) of mixed fields, arable grassland and species-rich hedgerows. A beautiful lake is located in the east of the site and 7 hectares of ancient woodland remain in the north with 300,000 new trees being added. The club assisted in fund raising to acquire the area and it should mature into useful area for us. For event purposes it can be serviced from a nearby farm shop and café which has lots of parking capacity.

The area has a system of enclosures and drovers ways dating back to the Late Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman times. A Roman road once made its way across the site.

It lies between Normanton le Heath, Ravenstone and Heather and is a stones throw from Sense Valley. Just north of it are further National Forest Schemes around the Altons which can be mapped and used with it

Alton Garnge
Comprising Roecliffe & Breach Woods, situated on either side of busy roads and adjacent to existing woodland, these two blocks of mixed conifer and broadleaves make a significant impact on the landscape driving along the A511 into Ashby from Coalville. Nature conservation is a focus of the site. A large area of hay meadow has been created next to the road and a series of pools and scrapes created down the eastern edge of Roecliffe Wood. In Breach Wood, wet woodland consisting of willow and alder has been planted next to Demoniac Plantation. Parkland style planting next to Roecliffe Farm creates a more open feel to this part of the wood. It is relatively newly planted in areas and we have not as yet pursued any orienteering potential.

The area is about 75 hectares in size and has been created on former farmland.

Rough Park and Rising Woods

This area is part of the Staunton Harold Estate and is owned by one of the Blunt Family.

The area has been used for some time and is in several distinct blocks. There are mature woodlands both sides of the road which in places include evidence of early mining activity in the shape of a series of depressions which are almost certainly old bell pits. This area is known as Rough Park but surrounding an area of pastureland to its west is a circle of new plantings which are now maturing, interspersed with older copses and hedgerows. This area is known as Rising Wood and has numerous ditches and ponds. The area can get very wet in places and there are areas of dense undergrowth but others where the going is good. This is an area of differing terrain offering good opportunities for the sport, if used at the better times of the year.

Our mapped area also includes Lount Nature Reserve on the site of New Lount Colliery. In 1997, Leicestershire County Council completed restoration with financial aid from the Government and through European funding. Three wetland pools near the top of the tip were created in 1986 to safeguard plants threatened by nearby open cast mining. Marshland, grassland and waterside plants from that time have now established themselves well. Unimproved grassland which naturally colonised the site when mining ceased, is left as open ground and is a haven for grass snakes and bee orchids. Bats hunt over both water areas and the open grassland. The old tarmac areas of the sidings remain intact as a reminder of the site’s past – the last deep mine in Coleorton parish which, when closed, ended 500 years of deep mining in the parish.

The area is badly overgrown in many parts and can only be used in limited parts of the year. There are plans to create parking, tidy it up and open visitor facilities but it is also on the route of HS2

Sence Valley

This is a 60 hectare former open-cast coal site, which has been transformed with extensive tree planting and the creation of lakes interlinked with a series of paths. The Park is owned by the County Council but managed by the Forestry Commission who we are working with to create a permanent orienteering course with financial assistance from the National Forest.

After being planted with over 98,000 trees this site was opened to the public in September 1998 and contains woodland, lakes linking to the River Sence, grassland and a wildflower meadow. Thanks to the varied habitat 150 bird species have been recorded at the park. An artificial Sand Martin nesting wall has also been constructed alongside the Horseshoe Lake. Opportunities for recreation at the park include orienteering, fishing on one of the lakes, a bridleway, surfaced trails providing access for walkers, cyclists, and disabled visitors. There are numerous footpaths from the site linking to other small pockets of public access woodlands.

The park lies between Heather and Ravenstone. Ravenstone to the north of the park has seen a number of Roman finds. Suggestions are that a small Roman town (destroyed by open cast mining) was situated nearby beside the Roman road which ran from Leicester to Chester. Ravenstone is mentioned in the Domesday Book and is listed as waste. However, there is reason to believe that there was much human activity before this time.

In more recent times (1147) there was a treaty by which the Earl of Leicester agreed to destroy the castle at Ravenstone. Its location is a mystery but it may have been near Snibston.

The area is only a few hundred yards form the developing QE11 Diamond Jubilee Wood

Snibston Discovery Park

This is a 40 Hectare site created by the County Council on the site of the old Snibston Colliery. It contains a large exhibition hall and museum. We have used it for orienteering for many years and with financial assistance from the National Forest have created a permanent orienteering course there. The grounds are fairly extensive with small hills providing enough physical challenge and rewarding views and there is a good mixture of woodland, copses, hedgerows, ponds, steams, ditches and grassland areas often interspersed with gorse.

Spring Cottage

An extensive area which straddles the South Derbyshire border with a wide mix of terrain and possibilities of starting from several different places. There is mature woodland, some as yet immature plantings, water features and considerable land form complexity. It is close to Conkers from which larger events can be staged. The Conkers complex is on our map.

Included in the area are Tunnel Woods, Swainspark Woods, Gresley Woods and Pick Triangle There are cycle trails linking conkers to the area with pockets of public access land along the way with features suitable for orienteering.

Conkers
This is an award winning pay-to-enter attraction at the heart of the National Forest with a mix of indoor and outdoor experiences largely aimed at the family and school groups. It is mapped for orienteering and also has a Tree Top Walk in the Discovery Centre and numerous different indoor and outdoor activities: including orienteering, lakeside walks, sculpture & nature trails, an assault course, train rides, playgrounds & water play! It is a popular educational resource with lakeside restaurants, specialist shops and a plant centre.

It was originally included on the map of Donisthorpe Woodland Park but has been added to map of Spring Cottage as events there use the Conkers facilities. A large scale map of the pay-to-enter area has been provided to them.

The area adjoins the Hanging Hill area and the Donisthorpe/Moira Furnace area and events there can also be based at Conkers.

Spring Wood

This is a small part of Staunton Harold Estate where we have long had permission to map and use for small training events. It adjoins Staunton Harold Reservoir and is on the border with Derbyshire. Conflicting interests with field archery groups who use it has deterred us from taking this up.

Thornton Reservoir

Thornton Reservoir lies in a quiet, picturesque valley and was opened to the public by Severn Trent Water in 1997. This was achieved with support from the National Forest Company, Rural Development Council, Hinckley & Bosworth Borough Council and European funding. A surfaced track goes all the way around the reservoir and into the woodland on the north shore. The trout fishery is open to the public and the water is home to a variety of wildfowl. The new visitor centre resembles an upturned boat to reflect the fishing interest on the site.

Paths have been created through the woodlands and leave the site at several points but the overall area is too small and too remote from other woodlands to be useable for orienteering. There are however several National Forest funded pockets nearby and as they mature it may be possible to link them in via the footpath network to create an area big enough overall.

Thringstone and Cademan Woods

Thringstone Wood itself lies north of Warren Lane/Gracedieu Road and adjoining Gracedieu Woods. South of the lane are Broad Hill, Temple Hill, Cademan Woods and High Cademan. In the midst of these is an open area of rough acid grassland, and south of Broad Hill is a granite quarry known as Grimley’s Rock. For ecological purposes Thringstone, Cademan, Gracedieu and High Sharpley are all taken together and we have them mapped together for our purposes.

This fine wooded uphill area to the north of the village of Whitwick contains a number of natural granite tors and bosses, some of which peep above the trees and give good views.

Most of the land around Cademan Wood and Broad Hill is owned by DeLisle but Cademan Wood is treated by the local people as land over which they are free to roam, and ownership of this bit is unclear. Parts of Broad Hill are an extension of the parkland across the road in Grace Dieu Wood.

For more detail on how the whole Charnwood Forest area came into being and its history see the Charnwood Forest South entry.

Gracedieu Woods
This covers a multitude of owners not always too clear as to who actually owns what. One pocket known as Gracedieu Wood is owned by N W Leicestershire DC. It is one side of Gracedieu Ancient Woodland and was created with help of from the National Forest on what had been an arable field just outside Thringstone. This block is about 10 acres in size and has some rock features. Another block is Spring Barrow Lodge, much the same size and off Turolough Road again planted with financial assistance from the National Forest but in whose name is not clear. Some of the nearby existing woodlands and meadows are owned by Gracedieu School and more by the Gracedieu Estate.

The school in Grace Dieu Manor is set in 120 acres of beautiful rolling countryside and adjoins the woodlands. There is evidence of mans activities going back to Mesolithic times. On 25 July 1833, Ambrose Lisle March Phillipps de Lisle married Laura Mary Clifford and received a settlement of £1200 per annum and the Manor of Grace Dieu made to him by his father Charles March Phillipps of Garendon Park. Grace Dieu received its name from the Priory founded by Roesia de Verdun, c. 1240, and dedicated to Our Lady, ‘de Gratia Dei’, or in the Norman French of the period, Grace Dieu, and it is still so called to the present day. The Priory was dissolved in 1538 by Henry VIII, and the picturesque remains are greatly admired.

Grace Dieu Priory was an Augustinian nunnery founded around 1240. In 1377 there were 16 nuns and a hospital for poor people, yet during the Dissolution it was converted into a Tudor mansion. For the last few years, the land has been owned and managed by the Grace Dieu Priory Trust, which was set up to save the ruins. English Heritage has been working closely with the Priory Trust since the work began in 2003, to give archaeological, architectural and general technical advice, along with funding towards the project to ensure that the site is preserved for future generations to enjoy.

During the years 1833 to 1834 Ambrose deLisle built a splendid manor house at Grace Dieu; it was designed by William Railton in the Tudor-Gothic style. A small chapel was attached. But in 1837 Augustus Welby Pugin visited Grace Dieu; he was very impressed by what he saw, and greatly enlarged the house and chapel. Later, Sir Banister Fletcher, whose grand stair-case still stands, also enlarged the house. Grace Dieu Manor faces south and east. The windows are Perpendicular style, mullioned and transomed with arched lights. Acres of lawns, gardens, trees – the cedars of Lebanon were famous – surrounded the manor house which had a fine view of the rocks and wooded slopes of Charnwood Forest.

The school opened on 1933 when the Rosminian Fathers opened Grace Dieu as a Preparatory School for Ratcliffe College. During the war years the school grew in numbers: Grace Dieu was a safe and desirable place for parents to send their boys in those grim years. Since then Grace Dieu has gone from strength to strength.

The deLisle Arms was a popular inn on the edge of the Whitwick but perhaps a sign of the times; it is now an equally popular restaurant; Out of India.

The overall area is perhaps one of the best locally in that it covers a large block of land, has many different types of vegetation, and has considerable relief, water features and many dramatic rock formations.

For more detail on how the whole Charnwood Forest area came into being and its history see the Charnwood Forest South entry.

High Sharpley
Adjacent to Cademan Woods this is a politically sensitive area with ‘history’. It is a towering sharp ridge of miniature pinnacles surrounded by a field of boulders with the jagged summit commanding superb views. The location can realistically claim to be unique in the area and indeed pretty well anywhere. Despite being small it can be quite wild, especially when the undergrowth is over head high. The area is of small crags on and around a rocky ridge which runs from High Sharpley to Gun Hill where there is an old ruin. The rock is very coarse granite (Precambrian porphyroid) and the outcrops lie on the extension of the ridge through Cademan Wood just across the road and are thought to be part of the rim of an ancient volcano.

There is claimed to have been an access route through the site in the past and The Ramblers’ Association has sought to reopen it for many years and it has been the scene of mass protests. More recently the RA and LCC sought to have it included in the ‘right to roam’ under the CRoW Act. Early maps over the years support the fact that this is ‘Mountain, Moor or Heath’ as the maps demonstrate tree cover is self regenerating shrub only there because it has not been managed. The decision of the appeal however sided against open access to the ridge area but agreed that much of the rest qualified, but decided that this element had insufficient size to warrant inclusion. The Planning Inspector accepted that historically the public used this land for open recreation until the 1970’s but that was outside the scope of the appeal which was to decide land type definition and identifiable boundaries. As things stand at present the barbed wire, notices, and keepers make this a most unwelcoming location. The area is owned by the DeLisle, Gracedieu Estate but despite the ‘history’ occasional organised access by a reputable organisation is sometimes permitted. There is a shooting syndicate in the High Sharpley part even then visitors only use the area at agreed times of the year and in modest numbers and not into the Gun Hill part where breeding is organised.

Whitwick

‘The Friends of Holly Hayes Wood’, a Community Group who have set-up a social enterprise to maintain and improve Holly Hayes Wood, Coalville Meadows and Forest Rock Wood now own at least parts of this area. Amongst their aims is to provide a long term solution to the ownership of all of the woodland much of which is pretty vague. For our purposes this area is mapped to include the Hermitage Leisure Centre and the urban areas between. We have used the Holly Hayes Wood for many years but the actual ownership of parts of the area was far from clear. We did assist ‘The Friends’, and a solution to the ownership of all of the woodland should have suited us, but their protective sensitivities and misconceptions about the sport have produced a not very receptive attitude. A possible POC has had to be abandoned at least for the time being.

Whitwick known as Witewic in the Doomsday Book was partially owned Hugh de Grandmesnil whose name crops up in many local areas.

To ensure a plentiful supply of game for hunting purposes, the monarch and their nobles established reserves in areas of countryside that were considered to be on agriculturally inferior soil and often attached to a manor (in this case Whitwick Manor) and which often contained woodland. This was in fact a giant park, which covered Bardon Hill and which extended over the surrounding area to over 1260 acres. By the 1400s however it had been reduced to a small area around the summit of Bardon Hill and a few outlying pockets. The first direct reference to Holly Hayes Wood (or Hawley Hayes) can be found on a list of the medieval woods of Charnwood Forest. The earliest recorded record for the wood is believed to be 1240AD.

Holly Hayes is an ancient enclosed area of the Old Charnwood Forest, enclosed before the Enclosure Act of Whitwick 1805 when the wood is already mapped as an Ancient Enclosure and was attached to the award for enclosing Commons and Open Fields in Whitwick, Thringstone and Pegg’s Green. It also suggests that the area now known as Forest Rock Wood (sometimes Spring Hill Woods) was previously called Houghton Hill.

Ownership can be traced forward but gets more confusing when quarrying commenced in 1893. It would appear that the first quarry was dug at the site of Forest Rock Wood, reference to this name can be found during 1923, where the quarry was previously called Forest Rock Quarry. Some time later, circa 1929, a second quarry appears to have been commenced in Peldar Tor, which is the site of the existing quarry and is officially referred to as Springhill Quarry, Peldar Tor, Whitwick.

In 1911, the Coalville Times informs us that game birds had been stolen from Holly Hayes Wood, which then belonged to the Whitwick Granite Company. A William Berrington still lived there at this time and was still living here up to 1928. Various residents followed but actual ownership is less clear and still is today.

Hermitage Centre and Park
This recreation ground and parkland with lake, surrounds a leisure centre with facilities which make this a good location to base events from. Short courses can remain within the grounds but a combination of footpath networks and back streets can link this to adjacent woodlands.

For more detail on how the whole Charnwood Forest area came into being and its history see the Charnwood Forest South entry.

Wicket Nook and South Wood

Wicket Nook is a pocket of National Trust woodland and what was previously the gamekeeper’s cottage. This was built in 1830 and being situated on a quiet no-through road in an elevated position with stunning views over the Calke Estate is a popular let. South Wood is a continuation of the same block of woodland. Wicket Nook hamlet has the anomalous distinction of straddling the Leicestershire and Derbyshire border.

The whole pocket of woodland is of about 120 acres and is easily linked to our Lount map but given the commercial letting of the cottage the National Trust will not entertain public access.

Willesley

This is an extensive area and has been used for orienteering for many years now from a number of locations. The Willesley Woods area is owned by the Woodland Trust and the area also includes Dilworth Clumps of uncertain ownership but used widely by the public, Hicks Lodge and Shellbrook both owned by the Forestry Commission. Part of Dilworth Clumps with identified ownership has been turned into a nature reserve restricting our use but is up for sale so the situation is fluid.

Willesley Woods
When opencast mining finished on the Willesley site in the early 1950s it was returned to mixed agricultural use for almost 40 years. The soil is poor with a predominance of clay and shale above the shallow coal measures; mining spoil has been levelled in some areas giving particularly poor growing conditions and variable growth speeds. The lake was formed by mining subsidence in the early 1980’s and partially excavated to form a fishing lake.

As an interesting aside the woods are also known as Thortit Woods; the pit heads were so well hidden in the woods that the local volunteer group for these woodlands have taken their name from the local comment (who’d a thought it) and are known as ‘The Friends of Thortit’

There are many wetland areas in the bottoms. There has been some continuity of woodland cover on the Willesley site for at least 200 years and possibly longer but it cannot be classed as ancient woodland and in any event most of the area is made up of new plantings. Birds, butterflies and moths are taking up home with wild flowers coming into their own. This now very diverse terrain hosts nearly 100 different bird species including the fairly rare reed bunting.

Amongst the established trees in the copses black poplars have been found and this is the largest group of these rare trees anywhere in Leicestershire. Common spotted and pyramid orchids now abound and any course planning must give consideration to any sensitive areas if we are not to lose the goodwill of the landowners and other users.

The guelder roses and field maples turn these new woodlands into a blaze of colour at times of the year and are well worth a special visit.

To the east of the site is Willesley Lake (man-made in the eighteenth century) and parkland, which was formerly part of the Willesley Hall Estate. Although the hall has long since been demolished the parkland at the eastern end of the Woodland Trust site is a remnant of the former estate lands which stretch to the edge of Ashby, in avenues of lime trees. A large part of the old estate is now Willesley Park Golf Course. Willesley Lake itself is of serpentine design and was created to control water levels for power generation for the old hall. The small church was once the family church and the graveyard evidences mediaeval settlement.

This area includes a number of smaller ownerships including the Oakthorpe Picnic Site with 3 hectares and affording some parking which can be used for the larger area when holding small events. Olivia’s Wood adds 20 hectares and we have some use of Willesley Lakeside to bridge the Woodland Trust areas to new Forestry Commission plantings at Shellbrook and Hicks Lodge. There are some semi detached plantings across the footpath over the M42.

Shellbrook and Hicks Lodge
Shellbrook Wood is Forestry Commission and doubled the size of our area when added to the adjoining Willesley. The links between the two are not good and parking is a problem. The subsequent addition of the Hicks Lodge area with a new award-winning visitor centre with plenty of parking has further doubled agian the size of the area.

The Shellbrook newly-wooded area has been made into a cycling area with graded rides etc and the convoluted tracks make navigation tricky. The Hicks Lodge area is more open with lakes and small streams and some new plantings and adjoins the old Newfield Colliery site with a lake and mature trees and a path through to Moira Furnace