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Northamptonshire

| Badby Woods | Brampton Woods | Brookfield Plantation | Bucknell and North Hazelborough | East Carlton Park | Fermyn Woods | Fineshade | Geddington Chase | Grafton Park Wood | Harlestone Firs | Hunsbury Hill | Irchester Country Park | Lady, Souther and Titchmarsh Woods | Lings Wood | Old Dry Hills and Harry’s Park | Old Head Wood | Oundle Woods | Pipewell Woodlands | Rockingham Castle | Southwick Woods | St John’s Wood and Bedford Purlieus | Stanion Woods | Sywell Wood and Park | | Wakerley Great Wood |

Badby Woods

This small area is over the border into Northamptonshire near Daventry and we inherited the area when NVO folded. We still have the old map of the area but have not now used it for many years.

Badby Wood is ancient woodland – it has been growing there for over 700 years. It was designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1985. It mainly consists of native hazel and oak trees with ash in wetter areas as well as a mixture of birch, elder, honeysuckle, holly and rowan. Within the wood there are bracken glades, ancient earthworks and a stream. Bluebells carpet the woodland floor in May and June.

Other woodland plants to be found include wood anemones while wildlife inhabitants include badgers, foxes and pipistrelle bats, and birds such as the nuthatch, wood warbler and tree pipit. Badby Wood was imparked in 1245-6, creating a deer park for the Abbot of Evesham who had a Grange at Badby. The park pale (the boundary created to keep the deer in) still exists in the form of woodland banks around much of the wood.

Brampton Woods

About 200 acres in size between Market Harborough and Corby, this is a fairly uninteresting block of woodland for our purposes and whilst we are aware of it if we ever need another location in this area, it is very low priority at present.

Brookfield Plantation

At 500 acres or thereabouts this remnant of the Rockingham Forest has been eaten into by urban, transport and industrial development.
It lies along the southern scarp edge of the River Welland Valley and separated by grasslands from Rockingham Castle and Park.

The provenance of this area is problematical and early enquiries failed to ascertain who was responsible for it. Locals talk of informal access in the past but obvious entrances are now secured. It apparently has a diverse and successful ecology and has featured in numerous reports about the green infrastructure around Corby. From what can be deduced it seems to have good landforms with some history of quarrying and large redundant railway cuttings.

Given that we have numerous locations in the vicinity and that most Northamptonshire woodlands are very similar we have not pursued this possibility. If we loose any other areas in the district and have an influx of members living near enough to help service events there we may reconsider this prospect

Bucknell and North Hazelborough

About 400 hectares of Forestry Commission plantation, this is to the west of Silverstone. We inherited the area when NVO folded and the map is very stale. Given the distance and the number of similar woodlands we have in Northamptonshire we are not using this at present.

East Carlton Park

East Carlton Countryside Park is situated on the edge of the beautiful Welland Valley and is the walled estate of an old hall. The Heritage Centre is in the converted coach house and stables and houses a display featuring the history of Corby and the development of the iron and steel industry in the town.

There are numerous paths throughout the park, through fine mature woodland and grasslands. There are natural ponds which are being restored for use as fish hatcheries. They are fed by streams flowing down to the Welland.

Part of the Jurassic ironstone rock seam which extends from Dorset to Yorkshire and which accounts for the establishment of the local steel industry runs through the parkland.

Whilst small this area is quite intricate and we use it occasionally for small training events. There is a permanent orienteering course there.

Fermyn Woods

Fermyn (which means farming) is right at the heart of the original Rockingham Forest which was part of continuous ancient woodlands originally stretched from Peterborough to Oxford and this area is little changed since the 12th century. The area has an abundance of mineral wealth and has been comparatively populous back to the Bronze Age.

Even though Corby is an industrial monstrosity based on iron and steel works it is surrounded by many pockets of fascinating woodland many of which resemble Irchester with steep banks left from early iron ore extraction. This was a boom area during the iron-age with a thriving industry in the making of tools and weapons. The ironstone and a ready supply of timber for charcoal production account for most of this history.

This is largely coppiced woodland gone wild with the more diverse area of the original Brigstock Park founded on sand and gravel extraction quarries. The area we now know as Fermyn was until recently Brigstock Country Park and Fermyn Woods. These were joined together to form a new Fermyn Woods Country Park as a joint venture between Forest Enterprise and Northamptonshire County Council. Just south of Fermyn lies Lady, Souther and Titchmarsh Woods which we used to use and the combined area if available to us would cover 506 hectares of which 438 is owned by the Forestry commission. Just to the north are Old Dry Hills and Harry’s Park also Forestry Commission and we sometimes use this area by walking people in from Fermyn.

The former Brigstock Park area where the quarrying had been carried out is very detailed and the visitor centre regularly provides packs for the permanent orienteering course.
The is part of a continuous band of woodlands running for miles on the east side of the A6116 from Corby down to Lowick.

Fineshade

Fineshade is going through a period of considerable change. The alterations reflect much improvement work being done by the Forestry Commission under its Ancient Woodland Project. These woodlands are within the old Rockingham Forest area, named about 900 years ago by the Norman Kings who hunted there. There are miles of continuous woodlands in the area, many of which we have used, and this large block provides a haven for a healthy wildlife population including the magnificent recently reintroduced red kite. On a recent visit several types of deer, lizards, adders and numerous bird species were seen.

In medieval times this area was mostly pastureland. Westhay which is now part of the area we know as Fineshade was woodland way back but Fineshade itself was largely created by new plantings by the Forestry Commission in the early 20th century. This is slowly being removed and replaced with often self-regenerating native species.

Most of the forest lies over boulder clay making it largely unsuitable for agriculture which probably accounts for its survival. Even today Forest Enterprise has abandoned attempts to grow commercial conifers due to the waterlogged soils which we are all too familiar with.

Fineshade and the nearby Wakerley Great Wood make up a sizeable chunk of near continuous woodland with a number of interesting landforms. Given the large area of woodland with fairly small gaps between individual woods a healthy wildlife population thrives from the magnificent recently reintroduced red kite down to invertebrates and more unusual insects including many glow worms. There is evidence of medieval and roman iron smelting in the wood. Roman slag heaps still abound and can be seen in many fields in the area. Fallow deer abound in the woods and muntjacs are also there in considerable numbers.

Fineshade Wood is an ancient mixed broadleaf and conifer woodland with field maple or ash with a sprinkling of oak but there are rarer species about such as the chequer tree and small-leaved lime.

The wood is therefore deemed to contain rich semi-natural native woodland, as well as areas of conifers that are gradually being restored to site-native broadleaf woodland under the ‘Ancient Woodland Project’. The wood was coppiced for many centuries, and the remnant coppice banks can still be seen. The coppice was used in the past for charcoal making.

There has been massive development of the facilities in the recent past with lottery funding providing a café and toilets. Rainwater is used to flush the loos into a natural ‘sewage’ plant. This organic 5 tier cleansing system uses ancient technology. The 150 meter reed bed is self contained, odourless and is indeed beautiful. It is oxygenated by solar power. All that can outwardly be seen is any area of wetland plants surrounded by tall trees but all the output from the estate buildings, and over 500,000 visitors each year is ‘digested’ with the moisture being breathed out by the vegetation. Unfortunately the popularity of the area is making parking arrangements increasingly difficult for us to make and events often have to held with parking at Wakerley.

Geddington Chase

This is part of the Boughton Estate in Northamptonshire owned by the Duke of Buccleuch one of Britain’s biggest landowners. At about 600 acres, Geddington Chase is the third biggest ancient wood in Northamptonshire and was formerly part of the once extensive Royal Forest of Rockingham. The bulk of the Chase is now commercially re-afforested but an SSSI defines the biggest block of remaining semi-natural broadleaved woodland.

The site is a good example of the wet ash-maple woods of the Midland boulder clay areas, a type which has declined significantly in the county in the last 40 years. In places the original coppice-with-standards structure is well preserved and elsewhere oak-ash high forest provides a contrasting habitat.

The tree canopy is predominantly oak and ash over a mixed scrub and coppice layer of hazel, Midland hawthorn, field maple, blackthorn, dogwood and grey willow. The ground flora is typically diverse including wild daffodil which is rare in Northamptonshire, but occurs here sparsely. The whole complex supports a wide range of common birds and insects.

The area is crossed by numerous rides and rearing of pheasants and shooting takes place.

We have met with the estate manager in the past to explore possibilities but did not take it further as we have numerous other areas in the district which is remote from our heartland.

(See also Old Head Wood and Grafton Park wood)

Grafton Park Wood

This is part of the Boughton Estate in Northamptonshire owned by the Duke of Buccleuch on of Britain’s biggest landowners. This is just south of Brigstock and to the east of Boughton House itself and just separated from Old Head Wood by a minor road and a short stretch of farmland. Grafton Park Wood is about 400 acres in size and is open to the public. The two woods are also separated by a disused airfield which could be an ideal event base. It was in fact a base during the war for American bomber squadrons.

The House is 15th century and was modelled on the palace at Versailles and is home to the Duke of Buccleuch

The wood is by Grafton Underwood a charming little village of long standing. The village is referred to in the Domesday Book as Grastone, the name derived from Old English meaning “homestead in the Grove”.

The ‘Underwood’ was added in the 18th century, and possibly relates to the nearby Grafton Park Wood, which is a part of old Rockingham Forest.

Grafton is cut by numerous rides and is typical of most of the woodlands of that area. If we ever felt the need for another such event area it is one well worth considering if we could access Old Head Wood as well

Harlestone Firs

This is part of the Althorp Estate, much commercialised since death of Diana and access charges are now prohibitive. Our map is very stale given recent fellings. Some areas of heathland in the vicinity have not been planted over, mainly on the Northamptonshire County Golf Course, and patches of heathland survive among the conifer plantation of Harlestone Firs, both on the rides and emerging after blocks have been clear-felled. The re-emergence of rare woodland plants unrecorded for 100s of years, at Harlestone Firs suggests that there is a rich seed source still surviving under the plantation areas. There are also areas of mature woodland within the wood.

Althorp Park itself is also home to a number of splendid ancient oaks. Althorp, located seven miles west of Northampton and home to the Spencer family for around 500 years, is probably best known because of the late Princess of Wales. The house, which includes outstanding collections of paintings, ceramics and furniture, is set in 55 acres of undulating parkland. It is the Princesses final resting place.

Hunsbury Hill

Situated approximately 2 miles from Northampton town centre is a park of some 38 hectares in area, dominated by the crown of an Iron Age hill fort on the crest of Hunsbury Hill. We have an old map having inherited the area when NVO folded but have not used it for many years.

There is historical evidence about the site going back to Roman times and iron smelting was an early industry. In 1970 it was developed as country-type park, albeit within a built up area. It comes complete with an ironstone museum and trains and playing fields.

Hunsbury Hill Fort which is a scheduled ancient monument was a major focus in the early settlement of the Upper Nene Valley (Iron Age and Roman periods).

Irchester Country Park

Truly the most unusual location we use, it is a pity this country park is so small and at the extremity of our area.

Set in the heart of the Nene Valley, the park was formerly an iron stone quarry – the distinctive ‘hills and dales’ landscape a testament to its heritage, looking every inch like a ploughed field but multiplied many fold. The furrows can be as much as 30 feet deep.

When the park was opened in 1971, nature and the locals had reclaimed it for their own. However, its history goes back much further: the stunning ‘Wembley Pit’ shows geology dating back 165 million years – a real Jurassic Park!

The park contains a mixture of mature woodland and grassy open meadows. With its varied terrain overlying ironstone and limestone rocks formed all those years ago, Irchester Country Park is a Regionally Important Geological Site. Quarrying ended in the 1960s.

The planting of over 250,000 trees provides visitors with a chance to see a working woodland – managed for its timber, recreational use and of course for wildlife – from the green woodpecker to sparrow hawks.

The area has been mapped for orienteering for many years and there is a permanent orienteering course. It is one of the few areas where the best route from A to B which are 100 yards apart may be a half mile detour.

Lady, Souther and Titchmarsh Woods

The area was first used in 1977 but not for some years. It is under mixed ownership but all managed by Forest Enterprise, our access is resisted by tenants with ‘sporting’ rights and when lost to us we moved activities to the nearby Fermyn Woods & Brigstock Country Park. We have an old but out of date map.

The area is made up of typical rather boring ‘Northamptonshire’ plantations. The combined area if available to us and including Fermyn would cover 506 hectares of which 438 is owned by the Forestry Commission.

The is part of a continuous band of woodlands running for miles on the east side of the A6116 from Corby down to Lowick

Lings Wood

Lings Wood, which was common heath land in the 16th century, became deciduous woodland by the end of the 19th century and was subsequently changed in part to a conifer plantation. It is now managed by the local wildlife trust and is now designated a Local Nature Reserve. It is owned by Northamptonshire County Council and covers over 22 hectares in the Eastern District of Northampton itself and being now surrounded by residential areas, forms a valuable haven for wildlife in the borough.

The name ‘Lings’ dates back to the 16th century when it was common land of grass, heather – also known as ‘ling’ – gorse and birch. In 2000 the Wildlife Trust opened the Lings Environmental Centre, a purpose-built extension to Lings House.

We have an old map inherited from NVO when it folded but have not used the area for many years.

Old Dry Hills and Harry’s Park

This is a large block of largely typical Northamptonshire plantation woodland. It is probably approaching 200 hectares in size. The south east end where we normally start any events is actually Old Dry Hills and is of a different nature to Harry’s Park which makes up the rest of the area. Harry’s Park is a fairly tangled and very boggy plantation with a myriad of ditch systems. Whilst we have used it for larger events it is not very attractive woodland and logistically it is difficult as we normally have to walk people in from the nearby Fermyn Woods.

It is all owned by the Forestry Commission and at one time we approached C N Spencer Ltd (Sawmills) of Brigstock to add their adjoining Laundimer Woods as this would give us a link through to Stanion Woods but they were not receptive. We have also approached Fermyn Hall for a link in the opposite direction to Fermyn Wood CP but again without success.

Without links into other woodlands this site of only modest interest and we are unlikely to expend much money, time or effort in updating the map.

The is part of a continuous band of woodlands running for miles on the east side of the A6116 from Corby down to Lowick.

Old Head Wood

This is a part of the Boughton Estate in Northamptonshire, owned by the Duke of Buccleuch one of Britain’s biggest landowners. Just south of Brigstock it lies to the west of Grafton Park Wood and north of an abandoned WW2 US air force base. Not open to the public it is about 450 acres in size and could be used in conjunction with Grafton Park Wood if we wish to pursue woodland in this area

Oundle Woods

A typical Northamptonshire working woodland of 58 hectares owned by the Forestry Commission. Given the levels of support we have in these distant parts and the number of similar sites available to us this site has not been pursued since our original enquiry.

Pipewell Woodlands

Probably about 250 acres in size this is a typical block of fairly tangled Northamptonshire woodland and given that it is a distance from our heartland and we have a number of similar and larger areas in the district we have not as yet pursued this prospect. It is in the ownership of several parties possibly as many as 6. Part is leased by the Forestry Commission but they lease their area from one of the other smaller owner occupiers. We have his details and he would be the first point of contact if we decide to make enquiries

This is part of a continuous band of woodlands running for miles on the east side of the A6116 from Corby down to Lowick.

Rockingham Castle

On a hill previously occupied by Iron Age, Roman and Saxon tribes, Rockingham Castle towers above the picturesque village of Rockingham. Because of its location in the heart of the hunting grounds of Rockingham Forest, it was a popular retreat for royalty in medieval times and for Charles Dickens some time later.

Historic parks and gardens are characteristic of the Rockingham Forest landscape. Rockingham Castle itself is located on the upper slopes of the scarp; it overlooks the valley of the River Welland and is separated by grasslands, from Brookfield Plantation. Views from the castle extend across the Welland Valley and over at least four counties.

Rockingham Castle Park which is believed to date to the 13th century boasts over 200 species of trees and shrubs, many of which are rare and has a number of fine examples of veteran trees.

There is little settlement or development within the valley bottom and it retains a quiet rural character, with arable and pastoral farming the predominant land use. Areas of permanent pasture often contain remnant areas of ridge and furrow. Hedges divide the landscape into a neat patchwork, although within the floodplain, post and wire fences are often used to delineate individual fields. The steep scarp that defines the northern side of the valley, together with the extensive woodlands that extend across and at the top of the scarp, intercept and screen views to Corby and the large structures within the industrial districts.

We have a limited number of members in the area and as a result events are both expensive to organise and modestly supported so we have not as yet pursued this potential additional area.

Southwick Woods

This is large, leasehold Forestry Commission woodland of about 80W acres. Original enquiries determined that a shooting tenant does not welcome other users and given its distance from our heartland and the numerous other opportunities in the area we have not as yet pursued it. It has recently been purchased by the Leicestershire & Rutland Wildlife Trust who also bought some arable land nearby to link it to the nearby Short Wood. Eventually it is hoped to further extend this woodland block by linking it to the nearby Clapthorn Cow Pastures Wood. The Trust is often overly protective so we may still find it difficult to use this area. It is a pity as much of this ancient woodland site is very interesting although a good part of it was replanted to replace elm trees felled in the late 1960s following the spread of Dutch elm disease. It now contains a mix of deciduous species such as oak, ash, field maple and hazel. The developing woodland provides food and cover for a range of visiting species including willow warbler, coal tit, woodcock and tawny owl.

At the entrance, remnants of the original woodland with its large impressive oaks provide an important source of dead and dying wood for a wealth of insects and fungi.

St John’s Wood and Bedford Purlieus

This wood is amazingly varied, with many different wildlife habitats as the geology of the woodland changes from north to south. This makes it a fascinating place to visit. Bedford Purlieus is also full of archaeological features, such as wood banks, and the remains of a large roman dwelling place.

This large block of superb woodland is about 208 hectares in size and is owned by the Forestry Commission. It is partially mapped as they were happy for us to use it but the map was aborted when English Nature objected after the area was classified as a National Nature Reserve. It is actually just inside Cambridgeshire but not far from Fineshade.

Bedford Purlieus is an historic ancient woodland in the ‘Soke of Peterborough’. The wood was declared a National Nature Reserve by English Nature in 2000, in recognition of its importance as a species-rich semi-natural native woodland. The wood is home to more plant and insect species than most other woods in this country.

The wood is now open for quiet recreation which they seem to feel excludes us.

Stanion Woods

This is a fascinating smallish piece of woodland with a mysterious ownership. By itself it would barely do for a training event but could be linked through Laundimer Wood to Old Dry Hills if permission could be obtained.

It is a complex area of former iron ore extraction lines very much like Irchester, long neglected and now heavily wooded. It probably used to belong to British Steel and then possibly their residual authority but we have not been able to establish who owns it at present and neither could the Sports Development Officer at Corby which is close by.

Stanion Lane Plantation and the nearby South Wood are subject to threat from transport routes but are also being promoted for areas to be brought into properly managed woodland facility for Corby. Under the circumstances and given that we cannot get permission for Laundimer Woods we are just keeping a watching brief on these woodlands

The is part of a continuous band of woodlands running for miles on the east side of the A6116 from Corby down to Lowick.

Sywell Wood and Park

Lying peacefully between the Northamptonshire villages of Ecton and Sywell, Sywell Country Park is a mixture of mature woodland, sheep-grazed meadows and the enclosed waters of an Edwardian reservoir.

Built to supply water to Higham Ferrers and Rushden, The 236 million gallon (28 hectare) reservoir and waterworks opened in 1906. This use ended in the early 1980s but today’s country park still contains reminders of the reservoir’s working past. The waters and banks of the reservoir are a welcome wildlife refuge for birds such as terns, kingfishers and swans. Different habitats within the park are managed for the benefit of other wildlife; native butterflies in the butterfly Garden and wildflowers such as bluebells in Hayes Wood.

We have an old map of the area which we inherited from NVO when it folded but have not used the area for some time.

Wakerley Great Wood

This woodland was part of the Rockingham Forest named about 900 years ago by the Norman Kings who hunted there. Wakerley has little changed since the entry in the Domesday Book in the 11th century. It is much the same size although many examples of man’s fine tuning through the ages can be seen with a discerning eye.

Ditches and banks around the edge are actually evidence of the woodland boundaries and 13th century deer protections created by the then lord of the manor. In later years stone walls were added and the ruins of these can also be seen.

The only two stone-built cairns ever found in the area are in Wakerley and are bronze-age burial mounds.

There are also numerous holes in these woods which, despite rumours to that effect are not bomb craters made by planes ditching their unused bomb loads before coming in to land. Many are bell pits created by early ironstone miners and some are natural sinks where water has found a way through the clay and dissolved the limestone underneath. These potholes are not extensive enough to have any sporting interest and given the weight of the clay usually collapse before getting any real size creating these deep depressions.

Wakerley Great Wood is an historic ancient woodland. The car park is set amongst majestic larch and includes a large grassed area for games and picnics which is an ideal event base for us and is used for events both in Wakerley and in nearby Fineshade.

Wakerley is about 600 acres and has a diverse selection of wildlife perhaps one of the more unusual being crossbills