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Archived news (4)

News items published January - March 2016

Car-parking charges set to rise

Thursday 24th March


Visitors to Fineshade Wood will have to pay more to park according to notices stuck to the ticket machines in the Forestry Commission (FC) car park. From the end of the Easter school-holiday period (11th April), the charge for most visitors will increase from £3 to £4. It will be possible to pay less for a short visit up to an hour: that charge rises from £1 to £1.50.  The alternative is to buy a yearly ticket, currently £28. The notice does not say whether that price is set to rise too.


At the moment there is nothing about the price hike on the FC’s website and nor was there any mention of it in the recent newsletter sent out by email just 3 days ago. That email comes if you respond to the invitation on their website to “get the latest news, information & offers” – but it clearly doesn’t include bad news.


The charge for parking in order to visit the Public Forest Estate at Fineshade Wood has been contentious over the years.  The FC say that “Money raised from car parking goes towards the maintenance of the visitor centre, the trails and the wider forest.”  But many visitors will be angry about what appears to be an unjustified price rise.


Perhaps Forestry Commission England will explain exactly why this price rise is necessary? And also will the cost of the yearly ticket be raised? We understand that similar increases will be imposed at Salcey Forest in south Northants. However, parking is currently free at other FC sites including Wakerley Wood, just 1 mile from Top Lodge, Fineshade (though the FC toilets there remain firmly locked!)


Updated 17th March


It is just over three weeks until Brian Laney will be leading another informal walk in Fineshade, on Saturday 9th Apri at 10:30am. 


Those who joined us for either of Brian's two walks last year will certainly want to come again to experience again his infectious enthusiasm and encyclopaedic botanical knowledge.  If you missed the walks last year, don't miss out this time. You can read accounts of what Brian found last March here: "All in a small corner of Fineshade", and in August here: "Flowers, flowers, flowers".


This time Brian will be concentrating on flowers, with one of Fineshade's special plants, the Yellow Star of Bethlehem, a probable highlight of the morning. However, Brian is the Northants recorder for reptiles and amphibians, so it seems unlikely that he will fail to point out these animals as well as the flowers.


If you would like to join us for what's likely to be another brilliant morning please send us an email to reserve a place. We will have to limit numbers so don't delay, book today.

Fineshade Wood wildflower walk

Brian's spring walk: 9th April 

Spring walk

Curtin&Co to stage a "community consultation"

Updated 12th March


Last February saw the culmination of a lengthy and thorough community consultation - otherwise known as the democratic planning process. Elected East Northants councillors voted unanimously not to allow an application for a holiday camp in Fineshade Wood. They listened to their constituents, to the hundreds of individual objections from across the country, to the opposition of all the local Parish Councils, to the warnings from all the main wildlife organisations. They listened for, but heard not a single voice of support for Forest Holidays' and the Forestry Commission's plan.  That was a true community consultation - it was decisive, clear and should have been final.


But now comes news that FH and FC are preparing another similar application, but this time they are also employing a sophisticated and, no doubt, astronomically expensive PR company. Based in London's West End, Curtin&Co claim that they "use a proven methodology that has won successful planning consents for over 20 years". They are said to be preparing a "community consultation", but you can see what this is likely to mean in practice here


So look out for the staging of a new performance: Fineshade's 2016 community consultation. Let's hope we all enjoy the show! Of course there will be a very big audience - the community who are interested in the future of Fineshade Wood and the Public Forest Estate extends far beyond Fineshade and even Northants. But always remember who are paying the actors for this performance - the paymasters who want to profit from the exploitation of the Public Forest Estate are the venture capitalists holding the controlling share in Forest Holidays.

Floods in Fineshade Wood
Flooded approach to Fineshade Wood

Fineshade's awash - again!

Wednesday 9th March


Very heavy rain overnight has brought water across the single-track lane to Fineshade once again. Local residents cannot remember a time when there was more water lying around. More pictures added to the Water and Mud gallery today.


Previous news Sunday 17th January


With much of the north of the country experiencing awful floods, the East Midlands has got off rather lightly on the whole. Fineshade Wood lies on a plateau above the River Welland and, while the meadows along the river are now underwater, the wood with its very heavy and flat clay soil, retains water. This means that there is an awful lot of moisture here at the moment and, where that gets trodden or driven on, conditions can become very difficult indeed.  Wellies are highly recommended!


The heavy clay soil that causes difficult conditions in wet weather was said to be one of the reasons for Center Parcs to reject Fineshade as a development site in the 1980s. Recently, when Forest Holidays proposed to build a holiday camp here, they gave scant regard to our warnings about the unsuitability of the ground for their purposes. Local Forestry Commission staff knew of course, but if they were listened to at all, their warnings must have been dismissed.


So we felt it would be helpful for potential future developers to see the sort of conditions they would have to cope with if they decide to try to create a holiday camp here and are compiling a gallery of pictures with a few carefully chosen words.  Warning: the pictures are not very pretty!

Mud in Fineshade Wood

Smart new reception 

Wednesday 2nd March


A very superior new reception desk has replaced the simple table and chair in the entrance to Top Lodge Visitor Centre.  Hand-crafted to the highest standards it is certainly a beautiful piece of furniture.  For the hard-strapped Forestry Commission to be able to afford such luxury is something of a surprise - but it is the time of year when money left over in budgets has to be spent or lost - even if it is actually public money. 


One visitor, on seeing the swish new desk, wondered whether this was to be the main location for the new "Community Consultation" (see above). It might make a good stage from which to consult day visitors to Fineshade. But if that were the case one might have expected Forest Holidays or Curtin&Co to foot the bill, rather than the public purse.  Perhaps they did?


Anyway, we will watch this space with considerable interest.



Saturday 20th February


This veteran Beech has stood for hundreds of years on the eastern edge of

Fineshade Wood and is called the Cathedral Tree by some Fineshade folk.

However, it is much closer to the village of KIng's Cliffe. There it is known simply

as "The Beech Tree" but it seems to have special significance and one hears tell

of solstice celebrations and of marriage rites being conducted under its arching
branches.  Walking under the tree in summer you enter a huge vaulted green space that seems very special indeed.


The tree is part of the national Ancient Tree Inventory where it was recorded in 2007 as having a girth of 6.25m, which means that it is probably over 300 years old.  However, girth measurements should be repeated every 5-10 years so we intend to make rather an occasion of this later this year. Perhaps a walk to the tree, a picnic, and a ceremonial measuring? If you'd like to join us please watch out for details.

Beech tree in Fineshade Wood
Cypress foliage

Last Tree of the Week 

Last tree
Councillors vote to refuse the application

One year ago tonight

Thursday 18th February


Do you remember where you were on 18th February exactly a year ago? For some Friends of Fineshade it was certainly a night to remember as the long struggle came to an end. We had been fighting for 15 months to ensure that the Forest Holidays/Forestry Commisssion application to develop a large privately run holiday camp on public land in Fineshade was rejected. And rejected it was - roundly and soundly!


Matt Shardlow, CEO of Buglife was there in the packed public gallery that night, and he wrote about it here. And leading environmental blogger Mark Avery was there too, and he wrote about it here. And local supporters were there in huge numbers - one wrote about it here. All these accounts are well worth a read.


There were those who will remember the meeting with anything but pleasure. FC Head of Recreation, David Williamson's speech to the councillors had gone down like a lead balloon and the FH planning team in the gallery left angry and defeated. But it was a great night for all who love Fineshade Wood and for the good councillors of East Northants Council.

Year ago
Fungis in Fineshade Wood

A very special fungus


Updated Wednesday 13th January


Lynda Peirce visited a particular part of the wood on Friday, 8th January, and was delighted to see one of her favourite species of fungus. It was at its regular site which she has been quietly keeping an eye on for nearly 30 years. This is the Magpie Inkcap (Coprinopsis picacea) and is really rather rare and special.  Lynda says that usually by November at the latest they have shed their spores and withered majestically back into the earth.  She was delighted to discover a pair of them on her January walk and wonders whether they're early or late?  Another of Lynda's pictures is here.


There is a good account of the species on the First Nature website.Research on the web suggests that the species is nationally rare. The Northants Biodiversity Records Centre has no other records apart from some spanning 1995-2004 in nearby Bedford Purlieus, a National Nature Reserve and SSSI.


The fungus seems to be well named:  like the much more common Shaggy Inkcap, the gills gradually dissolve into a black, inky fluid, leaving only the standing stalk, but its large black and white patches set it apart, just like a Magpie.   What a splendid sight for a wet winter's morning!   


Fineshade Wood at New Year

Look what's blooming in Fineshade!


Wednesday 6th January


With December breaking so many records for its mild weather,  it's not surprising that many plants are already coming into bloom. Over last weekend the Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland organised a New Year Plant Hunt and some of the Friends of Fineshade thought they'd better give it a go.


They didn't have any of the most expert botanists with them but even so in just over 2 hours they found 10 plants in flower. The most spectacular was a complete Blackthorn bush in flower along the Gullet and just underneath it was Spurge Laurel. Throughout the wood there were many Hazel catkins fully open and lots of the small Dog's Mercury flowers. In the orchard there were several Ground Ivy flowers, and elsewhere at Top Lodge they found Primroses, a single Cowslip, two Violets, Snowdrops and Common Mouse-ear.  


As someone said: "This is January - it's bloomin' crazy!'


Congestion at Fineshade Wood

Top Lodge at capacity during the holiday

Friday 1st January


It is not only summertime when Fineshade becomes very busy. During this mid-

winter holiday season the single-lane track has also become very congested,

even when the weather has not been ideal for a walk in the woods. As shown in

the picture which was taken at mid-day today, traffic frequently came to a standstill

outside the visitor centre and visitors were forced to queue for parking spaces.  Signs warning that the car park was full went up - again.  You can see more pictures of the congestion here.


It is worth remembering that when the Forestry Commission and Forest Holidays (FH) applied to build a holiday camp in the wood, they intended that the access route would be up the single-track lane and, incredibly, right through the existing car park. Had their application been successful there would have been hundreds of extra vehicles trying to gain access today, particularly since Friday is FH's change-over day.


What a good job that East Northants Councillors, unlike the Forestry Commission, saw sense and they rejected FH's application.  As regular visitors to Fineshade know, at peak times the wood and the entire access to it is at complete capacity.

At capacity
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