Archived news (10)
News items published in the second half of 2018
Yesterday a meeting took place at Top Lodge during which Paddy Harrop, the new Forest Management Director for Central England, said he had received an absolute assurance from the Forestry Commission national office that they now have no intentions to invite or allow Forest Holidays to resubmit a planning application here.
Fineshade has been taken off the so called “Exclusivity List”.
This brings to an end 5 years of uncertainty and threat that has hung over this part of the Public Forest Estate. It was caused originally when a Forestry Commission manager, seated in a distant office, made a disastrous and secret decision that Fineshade should be included in the list of sites offered up for exploitation by Forest Holidays. The Friends of Fineshade are delighted that at long last the mistake made back in 2012 has been recognised and remedied. We look forward to working closely with current FC local staff and regional managers in the future.
You can read more of the gory details of the Forest Holidays saga on this section of the website.
No further threat of cabin development
12 December 2018
Big changes ahead for carpark
26 November 2018
The Forestry Commission have erected posters at Top Lodge making clear the full extent of the tree felling that they intend to carry out in the New Year. As we reported in September, the numerous pink dots indicate trees that will be thinned, but there will also be major clearance work at the main carpark: all the tall conifers are to be clear felled.
A series of posters give the reasons for getting rid of the Corsican Pine. They were planted in 1972 at a time when the Forestry Commission was generally planting exotic conifers. Back then the main priority was producing cheap timber as quickly as possible and these trees are approaching maturity in less than 50 years. For years, much of Fineshade was covered in conifer like this but more enlightened forestry management has seen most of the non-native species removed in recent years.
What will replace the Corsican Pine around the carpark? The posters suggest that the clear felling gives FC the opportunity to plant different species of tree to make the forest even more diverse. Friends of Fineshade have been making suggestions for a variety of native trees that are proven to create a net gain for biodiversity. Will FC listen? - all the regular visitors to Fineshade will be watching with great interest. Watch this space!
Clearly rattled by the exchanges in the House of Commons last week, Forest Holidays and the Forestry Commission issued a statement that was reported by the Northants Telegraph today. The key sentence by Forest Holidays was:
“Following recent speculation and questions raised locally, we would like to make it clear that we have no plans to bring forward a further application."
The Forestry Commission statement included this:
“Forest Holidays have made it clear that they have no plans to bring forward a further planning application for Fineshade Wood while they focus on other priorities across England, Scotland and Wales and we understand and respect their decision." (Our italics)
These statements confirm only what was already known: there is no current plan for development while Forest Holidays are busy elsewhere. No plans, but what of their intentions? Unfortunately the statements provide no guarantee that FH and FC will not bring back a fresh application in the future. Has FH's long-standing interest in the site finally come to an end? And have Forestry Commission bosses removed Fineshade Wood from their "Exclusivity List", indicating that they now believe the wood is not suitable for this commercial development? Until the Forestry Commission make their own intentions clear, the threat to Fineshade Wood remains.
However, if FH have no interest in Fineshade there can be no reason for their keeping secret the wildlife data that they gathered 2-3 years ago - so we've asked them to release it .... yet again. See details and our request here.
Statement from Forest Holidays
1 November 2018
Questions about Fineshade in Parliament
24 October 2018
We are very grateful to Tom Purslove, MP for Corby and East Northamptonshire, who has raised questions about Forest Holidays and their interest in developing a site in Fineshade Wood. During Questions to the Defra Ministers he elicited a response confirming that a review of the governance and commercial arrangements between FH and the Forestry Commission was under way. This review was announced in July 2018 as we reported here. Tom then went on:
Local people in Corby and East Northamptonshire feel strongly that Fineshade wood, which is stunning, tranquil and extremely well used, must be preserved for generations to come. Will my right hon. Friend agree to meet me, and representatives of the Friends of Fineshade, to discuss what can be done to ensure that Forest Holidays’ long-standing interest in the site finally comes to an end?
Michael Gove's response was immediate.
My hon. Friend represents some of the most attractive woodland in the country. Not just Fineshade wood but Rockingham Forest make Corby and East Northamptonshire a place of pilgrimage for many who want seclusion and peace in a rural environment. I should be delighted to meet his constituents, and I think that his concerns are very well placed.
We are amazed about the reference to pilgrimage(!) but very pleased indeed to know that the Minister believes that Tom's and our concerns are well placed. It seems as if an interesting meeting is in prospect
At last we're able to see the true extent of Fineshade's Ancient Woodland. Back in 2014 Natural England (NE) decided to accept a change to the Ancient Woodland Inventory in Fineshade, as recommended by one of the country’s foremost woodland specialists, Neil Sanderson. This decision meant that a large part of Fineshade Wood was immediately protected from the first application to develop a holiday camp by Forest Holidays (FH) and the Forestry Commission. (Read more about the Sanderson report here.)
Since then, for four years, we've been regularly asking NE to publish the maps showing the new boundary as we were anxious to see the designated area in black and white. Well, last week it was finally done - not in black and white, but in a rather subdued green. As you can see, a large area of the wood to the north of Top Lodge is now officially recognised as "Ancient Woodland" - indicating that it has been continuously tree-covered for at least 400 years. And, as we reported in July, planning law has been strengthened making it impossible for another FH/FC to make another application anywhere near that area.
A newly drawn Ancient Woodland boundary
15 October 2018
We heard yesterday the excellent news that Forest Holidays (FH) have, for the first time, backed away from an attempt to develop part of the Public Forest Estate.
We reported in February that the Forestry Commission had announced their intention to allow FH to build a large holiday camp in Mortimer Forest, just south of Ludlow on the borders of Herefordshire and Shropshire. Very rapidly a group of committed local people came together to oppose that development and for six months they have fought tooth and nail in a very effective way. Now all that effort has been rewarded and Forest Holidays have announced that they have "encountered some challenging practical issues" and are not now going to bring forward a planning application. It seems likely that those practical issues may well include the practical impossibility of forcing through a scheme of this sort in the face of such determined local opposition. Perhaps the Forestry Commission became alarmed at the appalling effect this was having on their already tarnished reputation. Perhaps they were concerned about the 127,000 signatures on the petition to Michael Gove to "Save our Forests!" and the questions being raised in Parliament about the relationship between FC and FH, both of which came about because of the actions of our friends at Mortimer Forest. (Read more about that here.)
See what the local press wrote: Joy as cabins plan for Shropshire border woodland is axed
The Friends of Fineshade salute the Save Mortimer Forest team and send them our heartiest congratulations.
Another forest is saved!
30 September 2018
We were very pleased to welcome Justin Tilley to Fineshade this week. Justin is Natural England's Team Leader for Northamptonshire and he came to discuss a range of issues including the update of the Ancient Woodland Index (adding important areas of the wood), our request for designation as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, Natural England's interest in the forthcoming Neighbourhood Plan and, inevitably, the on-going threat to Fineshade from the holiday development proposed by the Forestry Commission and Forest Holidays. We were very encouraged by what Justin said about all these issues.
However, what was very positive, was Justin's vision of the wider Rockingham Forest area and how important he thinks Fineshade is this wider special landscape. You can read more detail about Natural England's thinking here.
A visit from Natural England
29 September 2018
Forest Plan promised for 2019
17 September 2018
We were pleased to hear from the Forestry Commission that they plan to consult on a new forest plan for Fineshade Wood next year. Carolyn Marshall, the Operations and Planning Manager for Central England Forest District has written saying that:
"The Fineshade plan will be renewed in 2019, a new Planning Forester has been appointed this month and he will be starting work on the renewal of Fineshade this year with a view to consulting on a draft in the first half of 2019, our timetable is to have the new plan in place by October 2019."
The previous plan ran for 10 years until 2016 and was extended, though we were unable to get hold of a copy of that plan. Click the green button below to see what the FC website says about Forest Plans.
What does this mean for Fineshade? Plans have to balance the needs of woodland users and wildlife with those of of the Forestry Commission. So will the FC need for income from leasing part of the wood to Forest Holidays, be part of the new Fineshade plan? What is not clear is how far FC Forest Plans take account of national, regional and local planning documents. In particular for example, the recently adopted North Northamptonshire Joint Core Strategy puts Fineshade Wood in the middle of an area of tranquillity, where a holiday camp would not be tolerated. There are all sorts of reasons why Fineshade is not a suitable site for that sort of development - see the 15 reasons to say No that we compiled last year.
Importantly, with the production of any Forest Plan, there is a consultation process, so Friends of Fineshade and all the other stakeholders will have the opportunity to have their say about how Fineshade Wood will be managed over the next thirty years. We will certainly be watching with great interest as the new plan emerges.
The greatest threat to Fineshade Wood as we know it probably comes from a fungus, Hymenoscyphus fraxineus. This is the one that is causing the disease called Ash Dieback which has spread rapidly across the country. Here it is has been affecting many young saplings and it can now be seen on mature Ash trees as well. (You can see what we wrote about this two years ago.) Since so many of the Ancient Woodland parts of Fineshade are predominately a mixture of native Ash and Oak the disease could have a devastating affect: in the worst-case scenario all Fineshade’s Ash could be gone within 10 years.
It is known that the strongest mature Ash trees are likely to have the best resistance to the disease, and this explains many of the recent pink dots that have been sprayed by the Forestry Commission on quite a few of the weaker Ash trees near Top Lodge. These have been carefully chosen and marked for felling during the coming winter. Beat Forester Scott Martin has explained that taking out the tall spindly Ashes will give more space for the remaining larger trees and reduce the competitive pressure for resources. Hopefully this will allow some of them to survive the fungal attacks. At the same time quite a lot of non-native Corsican Pine trees will be thinned - these also have pink dots. And there will also be some clear-felling of Corsican Pine and replanting too, particularly around the main carpark.
Ash Dieback and the pink dots
15 September 2018
So the Top Lodge area will look quite different next spring. If you would like to know more about the FC plans, Scott has generously offered to walk round a with a small group of people and point out which trees are coming down and why. . If there is sufficient interest we’ll organise a date with Scott.
In the courtyard at Top Lodge, refurbishment work is nearly finished and Fermynwood Contemporary Art will soon be launching The Arches, a project space and artist studio. This is part of their project "The Forest is the Museum", a programme of artists in residence here in Fineshade.
The opening night is on 14th September from 5-7pm, when the Fermynwoods team will be explaining their plans for the space and work by Edwina fitzPatrick, the first artist in residence, will be on display. Some of Edwina's work "archive of the trees" has been installed around the wood for some weeks and has been attracting lots of favourable comments. The digital prints wrapped around 11 trees combine tree records with historical archives, local anecdotes about the weather, and the images of each tree’s "secret interior archive" - core samples carefully extracted earlier in the year. These beautiful narrow cylinders themselves will be on display in the Arches and no doubt Edwina will be pleased to talk more about her work on the night.
The event is free and everyone is welcome.
Art in the Arches - and in the wood
28 August 2018
Neighbourhood Plan for the parish
25 August 2018
A large part of Fineshade Wood is in the Parish of Duddington with Fineshade - and it forms a pretty large part (approximately 40%) of the area of the parish. So when the Parish Council decided to proceed with the important task of creating a Neighbourhood Plan (NP) we knew this would be of great importance to the wood, and to the areas around it, including Fineshade Abbey and the FC visitor centre at Top Lodge.
Neighbourhood Plans give communities direct power to develop a shared vision for their neighbourhood and to shape the way in which their area is developed. In particular they can include planning policies that are subsequently used in determining planning applications. A call is going out to all residents of Fineshade and Duddington to get involved in this process, in particular by joining the new Advisory Committee which will drive forward the various stages of creating the NP. You can see the minutes of the first meeting here, and come to learn more and/or get involved at the next meeting on 10th September at 7:30 in Duddington Village Hall.
Photo of the shot Red Kite,
by Raptor Foundation
News about the shooting of one of Fineshade's best loved birds has been trickling out over the past week.
The Northants Telegraph published a short article on Tuesday reporting that police were appealing for witnesses after a Red Kite had been shot "in the area of Deene Park and Fineshade". We wondered why there was nothing about the crime on the Northamptonshire Police website, and just how the police were going about appealing for witnesses.
Then, yesterday, Raptor Persecution UK revealed that the injured kite had indeed been found by a member of the public and had been handed in to the Forestry Commission offices at Top Lodge on Thursday 19th July. The bird is now in the care of the Raptor Foundation and has been found to have had received three shotgun pellets, in the leg, the shoulder and the ear. It has been receiving treatment by a vet and is said to be making some progress. The Foundation's aim would be to release the bird back into the wild if at all possible.
Friends of Fineshade are horrified that such a fate has been inflicted on one of these beautiful birds. It is appalling to know that some shot-gun owner in the area has decided to take a pot-shot at a Red Kite, thus perpetrating a serious wildlife crime.
Red Kite shot nearby
4 August 2018
Yesterday the government published a revised National Planning Policy Framework, replacing the 2012 version. For the first time the new NPPF puts the protection of Ancient Woodland (AW) and Veteran Trees on a par with the best of our built heritage. Our friends at the Woodland Trust are jubilant - see here.
Here is part of Section 175 of the new document:
When determining planning applications, local planning authorities should apply the following principles:
development resulting in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats (such as ancient woodland and ancient or veteran trees) should be refused, unless there are wholly exceptional reasons and a suitable compensation strategy exists
With this new NPPF in place it is inconceivable that a holiday camp could gain planning permission in Fineshade Wood. Therefore we are calling on the Forestry Commission to remove the threat of that happening once and for all. (See "15 reasons for FC to say No".)
Enhanced protection for Ancient Woodland
25 July 2018
Changes at Top Lodge - Art and Meditation
5 July 2018
Security fencing erected in the courtyard at Top Lodge signals that work is about to begin on the refurbishment of the arches. The old farm buildings have housed a variety of retail outlets for short periods in recent years but have generally remained locked. Now the latest idea is to change them into artist studio spaces. Recently Fermynwoods Contemporary Art appointed Edwina Fitzpatrick as "Artist in Residence" at Fineshade Wood and her project, archive of the trees, will be exhibited in the new space in September.
Next week Edwina will be discussing perceptions of weather and climate change with Asher Minns, Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. This event will take place on Tuesday 10 July 7:00-8:30pm in the Little Barn. More details and booking here
Friends of Fineshade see the development of Top Lodge as a centre for art as very much in keeping with Fineshade's position within the new Area of Tranquillity. And in a further most welcome change of emphasis, the Kadampa Buddhist Centre in Peterborough are planning the first Woodland Meditation Retreat at Top Lodge on 18 August. Again you can find details and booking here.
It seems to be a very good year indeed for butterflies, especially in Fineshade Wood. There is news about a new species for the wood here, and the latest Wildlife Diary features the Holy Grail for butterfly enthusiasts - the Purple Emperor.
With that in mind the yearly guided walk with the local branch of Butterfly Conservation could be very good indeed. On last year's walk 20 species were seen and it could be even more this year.
The walk is open to all and takes place on Sunday 15th July at 10:30am. More details here.
Walk with Butterfly Conservation
28 June 2018