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Archived news (2)

News items published July-September 2015

Why survey for Dormice?

Saturday 5th September


In the area where Forest Holidays and the Forestry Commission intended to build a holiday village last year, there are now tubes like this, strapped to trees. These are Dormouse Tubes and they are used to determine whether dormice are present in the wood. (Details here, for example.)


Because Dormice are European-level protected species their presence or absence in any part of a wood is crucial for developers.  However, presence of dormice in Fineshade is already certain. They were seen and photographed a year ago: see here.


Potential developers would need a mitigation licence and the argument laid out by Mark Avery, makes it clear that a licence for a holiday camp type development would be an impossibility.  So why survey for Dormice?



Photo: Roger Eads

The final Flower of the Week - Small Teasel

Thursday 3rd September


Small teasel grows to about 120cm high and is another one of the Fineshade specialities that is not seen in many parts of the country. It has oval, fairly long-stalked leaves with spherical white flower heads on branched, prickly stems. It is much smaller that the wild teasel - the flower heads are only about 2 cm across. It flowers very late in the year - you may be able to find some still blooming in the area around the ancient ash-tree at Top Lodge.


And so as summer ends we also come to the end of this regular weekly feature - there have been 20 flowers altogether starting with the Wood Anemone on 22nd April, through six types of orchid, the broomrape, abundant species such as cowslip, and real rarities such as cudweed. We know that many people enjoyed and appreciated this feature - it's certainly been a good year for flowers in Fineshade! 


So, what next? Another weekly feature will replace the flowers as we move into autumn and winter.  
So next week we begin ???? of the Week!



"Shady plans at Fineshade"

Friday 28th August


This is the title of an article in the current edition of British Wildlife, the leading natural history magazine in the UK. This magazine has a huge circulation and is essential reading for both professional naturalists and wildlife conservationists. It has a reputation for high-quality, authoritative, well-researched and accessible articles on a wide range of subjects. (More information here).


Writing in the Conservation News section, Sue Everett's piece is a timely reminder of the furore amongst ecologists about Forest Holidays' previous attempt to develop part of Fineshade as a holiday camp.  She quotes from Mark Avery's blog (, choosing the sections which must have caused particular embarrassment to the Forestry Commission. For example. the proposal is described as "ecologically illiterate" and "a bad business decision", while the FC's head of recreation is said to have demonstrated "no ecological understanding of the importance of the site".


Such public accusations of ecological incompetence must be particularly galling for all those within the FC who work to improve the biodiversity of our woodlands. Comments like these from leading environmental figures certainly do the Commission no good at all, particularly when its own future is uncertain and it desperately needs friends.  Let us hope that the Forestry Commission will not lay itself open to such accusations in the national media in the future.

B Wildlife
Barbastelle Bat. Photo Phil Richardson

How NOT to survey for bats

Saturday 15 August 2015


Forest Holidays don't have their own ecologists, but AECOM are carrying out ecological surveys for them this year. Earlier this spring there were bird, amphibian and reptile surveys - the last of which came to an unfortunate end (see "How NOT to survey for reptiles"). Now a survey of bats is under way.


Yesterday evening was overcast and there was a fine drizzle but the surveyors went ahead and set up bat detectors to run overnight. The local Met. Office weather forecast (for Barrowden) was predicting either heavy or light rain for each hour from 10pm to 4am. All the advice suggests that bats are not out and about much on wet nights, so it certainly didn't seem the ideal night to carry out a survey ... unless of course ....

Bat survey
Photo: Douglas Goddard

Chalkhill Blue (F) - a first for Northants

Wednesday 12th August


Douglas Goddard, the Northants Butterfly recorded visited Fineshade accompanied by Andy Wyldes on this beautiful sunny day. They were very surprised and delighted to find a female Chalkhill blue near the railway bridge at Top Lodge. This butterfly is a chalkland specialist depending on Horseshoe Vetch on which to breed. There is a strong colony at Barnack Hills and Holes and it seems also to have become established in small numbers at Collyweston Quarries this year. The larval foodplant is found along road verges near Wakerley, so this female could possibly have been the product of local breeding. Individuals can fly some distance from known colonies and normally it is the blue males that are recorded. But the Fineshade individual was a female, the only time this gender has been seen in the county in modern times as far as Douglas knows. 

There were a number of Brown Argus with the Chalkhill Blue near the bridge and also along the main track past the caravan site. (Picture here)
The full list of sightings was as follows: Large Skipper 8, Small White 2, Green-veined White 5, Brimstone 20+, Common Blue 6, Holly Blue 1, Chalkhill Blue 1, Brown Argus 12, Purple Hairstreak 1, White-letter Hairstreak 3, Peacock 8, Comma 6, Silver-washed Fritillary 23, Speckled Wood 1, Meadow Brown 4, Gatekeeper 8, Ringlet 3, Small Heath (in the field) 1. (18 species).


Photo: Roger Eads

Recent reptile sightings

Monday 10th August


This is a good time of year to look out along the main walking tracks for all four of Fineshade's reptile species: Adders, Slow-worms, Common Lizzards and Grass Snakes.  The Adder shown on the left was seen by Roger Eads near one of the benches on the northern section of Dales Wood walk - very close to the area Forest Holiday's proposed to build a holiday camp.


In a completely different part of the wood, a Slow Worm was seen by Tony and Jenny Price on Friday evening. This one was right in the middle of the Smelter's Walk where it runs alongside Westhay Wood.  When reptiles are out on the track like this they can easily be run over by cycles and vehicles - please take great care not to harm these beautiful wild creatures.


We would be very grateful to receive details of any sightings (exact position, behaviour, photo etc) because we are anxious to ensure that Natural England and the Forestry Commission are made fully aware of the importance of Fineshade for reptiles.

Photo: John isherwood

The wood's awash with Silver-washed Fritillaries

Monday 3rd August


Take a walk in Fineshade on a day when the sun shines and there's no more than a light breeze and it's hard not to notice the large orange butterflies flying powerfully along the woodland rides.  Last year there were lots but this year the wood seems awash with them.  The name comes from the silver colour on the underside that can be seen when the insect closes its wings. Yet just 4-5 years ago there were very scarce indeed here.  


Not all of them are still in pristine condition and the one on the left looks as if it was lucky to survive an attack from a bird perhaps. The symmetry of the holes in the wings is remarkable and it was presumably attacked when its wings were closed together.


We're finding lots of butterfy species this year including White-letter Hairstreak, White Admiral, and of course the magnificent Purple Emperor. All these are pictured on a new butterfly page.  Please send us pictures and sightings to add to the page.




Another survey in another part of the wood

Monday 27th July


Recently two of the Friends of Fineshade were walking off the main tracks in a remote corner of the wood and were puzzled to see several of the strange devices shown here. They were large - perhaps a metre high and were suspended above the vegetation from cables slung between the trees.  On inspection they appeared to be insect traps and a label on the cover gave contact details for anyone curious enough to enquire about their purpose.


Soon after the enquiry a detailed reply came from Dr Daegan Inward, a Research Entomologist

working in the research department of the Forestry Commission (FC). It turns out that the traps

are specifically targetting bark beetles, part of a national study of forest bark beetle communities. The study hopes to answer important questions in an attempt to protect woods and trees from the anticipated adverse effects of these beetles as the climate changes.  (More details here)


It is good to be reminded that the FC carries out much important research aimed at protecting the woods - what a comparison with the Forest Holidays surveys where the sole aim seems to be exploiting the woodland. (See here for example).

Reptile survey

Reptiles possibly destroyed by grass cutting

Friday 17th July and comments 20th -23rd July


Many protected reptlles were recorded in Fineshade Wood by Forest Holidays' surveyors and there have been further surveys in other areas of the wood this year.  The survey method involves the use of felt mats to attract reptiles to the warmth and shelter provided.


We were appalled to learn that some of these refuges have been destroyed when the grassy rides were cut. A deliberate act, incompetence or negligence?
Read more here: How NOT to survey for reptiles. (including admission of mistake by the Forestry Commission.


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