Back from the Brink, Roots of Rockingham
This page has reports of recent events and other news.
Contact Susannah O’Riordan, BftB Rockingham Forest Project Officer
Direct line: 01780 444067 Mobile: 07483 039324 (limited reception)
Based at: Forestry Commission Office, Top Lodge, Fineshade, Corby, Northamptonshire NN17 3BB
November 2020: Making spaces for Adders
The Coronavirus restrictions delayed work that was planned for early 2020 (described below) and then, during the summer, with reptiles out and about, the work had to be put on hold. Last week it was finally possible to get the clearance work done and a large yellow machine arrived to clear the trees and scrub from three areas of the wood, a total of 2 hectares
The machine was mounted on caterpillar tracks in order to minimise soil compaction and made swift work of the small trees and abundant bramble. The brash was all laid in "windrows"- lines running east-west across the three sites.
We are very hopeful that Adders will find these cleared sites next spring: monitoring work has shown that they often use nearby areas and in all likelihood they are currently hibernating nearby. The windrows should provide shelter and suitable basking spots as well as possible further hibernation sites.
The three sites can be seen from the track that runs through the centre of the wood past the houses.
March 2020: Habitat creation for bats
Veteranisation of trees is an interesting and fairly new idea. It is a technique whereby younger trees are deliberately damaged in order to more speedily create valuable habitats otherwise found only on very old trees. The aim is to bridge the generation gap between veteran trees that may be centuries old and those that have existed for just a few decades.
There is just such a gap in Fineshade so, with the agreement of Forestry England, the technique is being trialled here, hoping to provide great habitat for bats as well lots of fungi and invertebrates. Eight trees, Beeches and Oaks, in different areas of the wood have been veteranised. They are currently no more than 120 years old.
On the Beech, features resembling lightning strikes and vertical splits have been created, providing the sort of habitat used by Barbastelle and Brown Long-eared Bats. This work was carried out near an existing veteran, the Cathedral Tree in Buxton Wood.
The Oaks are beside the Kings Cliffe Bridleway, down in the old railway line. Some were also given lightning-strike features, others have holes resembling those bored by woodpeckers, and still others have "tear outs" - holes normally caused by the impact of snow or impact from a falling adjacent tree. Again the species most likely to benefit are bats, in particular Brown Long-eared, Noctule, Barbastelle and Soprano Pipistrelle. Our recent surveys have shown that all of these are present here in small numbers.
The work was carried out with great skill by Uppercut Arboriculturalists from Norfolk.
An oak with a new "woodpecker hole"
December 2019: Habitat creation for Adders
The detailed Adder survey carried out last summer, in and around Fineshade Wood, confirmed what had long been expected. There is a thriving population of these scarce reptiles here, and is it certainly part of one of Eastern England's most important reptile communities.
As a result of this Back from the Brink have agreed with Forestry England that there will be specific areas of the wood set aside for habitat creation that will suit Adders. FE's emerging Forest Plan promises to create new open habitats for the Adder.
This work begins in earnest very soon in four areas. In one, where Adders are believed to be hibernating, improving the surrounding area will be done carefully by hand. Volunteers are needed to help with this practical conservation work on Thursday 12th December here at Fineshade. Details are here - it's important to book.
Another three areas show great potential for Adders, and individuals were recorded there during the summer survey. These areas currently have thick scrub growing through a mass of brash left behind when a failing batch of conifers were cut down some years ago. Clearing these areas for reptiles will not be possible without machinery, and the plan is for them to be cleared towards the end of the winter when, hopefully, the ground will have dried out a little. Two
areas to be cleared extend to half a hectare and the other larger one will occupy a whole hectare. They will certainly contribute to the diversity of habitats that make up Fineshade Wood
Smiths Spinney in summer. One of the areas where glades will be created to benefit Adders and other reptiles
June 2019: Chequered Skipper success
On 28th June the following news appeared on the Back from the Brink website:
"Freshly emerged Chequered Skippers have been regularly spotted over the last few weeks at a secret location in Rockingham Forest, Northamptonshire, and it is hoped they will become the foundation of a new English population of the butterfly. The butterflies are the offspring of adults collected in Belgium and released at the Northants site last spring".
Furthermore another batch of adults have been brought from Belgium and released at the Rockingham Forest site to try to ensure that a large, sustainable population is built up by the time that the three-year project comes to an end.
There is a lot more detail on the Back from the Brink website here.
Also well worth looking at PhD student Jamie Wildman's twitter feed for pictures and videos of the 2019 English Chequered Skippers.
A female Chequered Skipper resting on Bluebells. Photo: Peter Eeles
April 2019: Do Adders multiply in Fineshade?
Last year's reptile monitoring across the Rockingham Forest woodlands revealed that the Adder's range may be very restricted with a single core population at Fineshade (and Kingscliffe). But just how many Adders are there? Getting some measure of the size of the population in Fineshade would be an important step in developing plans to ensure that they are protected.
Therefore some intensive surveying has been taking place since Adders have started to emerge from their winter hibernation at the beginning of March. Whenever the weather has been suitable, expert volunteers from across the East Midlands have been travelling to Fineshade and looking for Adders hidden away in suitable habitat.
The first ones, three males, were seen on 2nd March by Kevin Clarke from Nottingham. By 23rd March, numbers had increased to 12 adults with Kevin finding a group of 5 close together in one place (4 males and 1 female). This sort of information is vital as it indicates the sort of location that Adders prefer, both for breeding and for hibernation. Other observers have been finding them in different places in the wood, while others have spent lots of time looking in suitable habitat but without any success. It's important to know where Adders are - and where they are not!
On 5th April Kevin was back and spent the whole day in the wood, walking a total of 15 miles in the course of his search! He saw altogether 15 Adders (12 males and 3 females) together with 7 Slow Worms and 13 Common Lizards.
The location of each sighting is carefully recorded so that, by the end of the season, their distribution through the wood will be known and an estimate of population size will also be possible.
Update, June 2019
By early June, 90 records of Adders had been made. The survey was showing they are distributed throughout Fineshade and also at some nearby sites, particularly on the northern side of Kings Cliffe and at Collyweston Great Wood.
Male Adder in pristine condition. Its recently shed skin can be seen in the foreground.
Photo: Mike Gerrard
Update, July 2019
By July the Adder survey had attracted the attention of Radio 4. You can listen to an interview by Liz Morrison here. www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0006sps
August 2018: End of an eventful summer
This summer, Roots of Rockingham has largely concentrated on running training workshops and getting out and about to survey sites for our target species. As well as continuing with bird and reptile surveys, volunteers have been learning how to identify and record our bat and plant species, with some excellent training from Bat Conservation Trust and Plantlife. The impact of the hot dry weather on vegetation has meant that plant surveys have been a bit difficult to get off the ground, but our bat surveys were quickly up and running and have produced some great results already.
The main technique that we are using to survey bats involves walking the same route through a wood on 3 separate occasions, using a Peersonic detector to record all bats heard. Data is then downloaded and analysed using Call Analysis software. The great thing about this way of bat surveying is that you don’t need to be able to identify bats in order to get involved, although you can still listen to the bat calls as you walk along if you want to practice your identification skills. So far we have positive Barbastelle records from 3 of our sites, including Fineshade, which is fantastic news, and we’re waiting for results from 2 more of the woodlands to come through. We’ve also recorded Brown Long-eared at all of the surveyed sites, which has been encouraging as they can be difficult to pick up on detectors due to their quiet echolocation calls, hence their nickname of the whispering bat.
In addition to doing transects we’ve also had static bat detectors up at two of the sites. These are put up in strategic locations and left out overnight once a month from July to September, recording all bat passes between sunset and sunrise which can be analysed later. Putting them up along rides where we are planning on carrying out ride widening work will allow us to monitor the impact of this work, giving us ‘before’ and ‘after’ data.
Other exciting news from this summer has been the discovery of a healthy population of Wood White butterflies in one of the Boughton Estate Woodlands (in the south of the project area) – the first records for these species in Rockingham Forest for some years. It was also a fantastic year for Black Hairstreak, with record counts of this butterfly in many of our woodland sites.
Whilst the sunny summer was great for many species of butterflies, there are concerns about how the hot, dry weather may have impacted on larvae. If you’d like to read an update on the Chequered Skipper reintroduction, and the impact the dry summer might have, you can find an article I wrote on our main Back from the Brink website here.
We’ve got some great events coming up in September, including a Reptile Walk with Brian Laney at Fineshade, a Bat & Moth night and Meet the Moths event at Fermyn Wood and a Bat Call Analysis training workshop, so please come and join us. You can find out more details here
Project Officer, Susannah O'Riordan, describes the projects recent progress
Wood White butterfly in Boughton Estate Woodland
July 2018: Moth trapping results - hundreds of Concolorous
Volunteer Ron Follows has been carrying out an exhaustive survey of the moths in the southern part of Fineshade, known as Westhay Wood.
He has carried out 9 visits to different parts of the wood, using various types of moth trap, and he has caught, identified and released a total of 9884 moths of 262 species! 35 of these species had never been recorded before in Fineshade.
Ron's aim was to try to establish the distribution and numbers of Concolorous moths - one of the key Back-from-the-Brink target species. (More about Concolorous here.)
Ron's results are remarkable. He caught Concolorous on all but one occasion, showing that it is distributed right across the Westhay area. However, it is the number of individuals caught that was most surprising - a total of 277 making it the seventh most populous species for the site. On one night alone he caught and released 70 Concolorous moths.
Plenty for the Back from the Brink team to think about! And an amazing effort by one of the most dedicated of volunteers.
19th June 2018: The first release - an insider's view
On the Back from the Brink website there is now a fascinating account of the events leading up to the first release of Chequered Skippers and of subsequent sightings. It is written by Jamie Wildman a Ph.D. student who is studying the ecology of the Chequered Skipper and its reintroduction to Rockingham Forest. Jamie describes going to Belgium to help collect the adult butterflies and the trials and tribulations of monitoring them since their release.
You should read the whole article but here is just one pertinent quotation. Referring to the 42 adults that were released, he writes:
These brave trailblazers have lived short, silent, beautiful lives. From quaint, unassuming beginnings weightlessly fluttering down Belgian rides, they have survived the long journey to our shores in refrigerated containers, and been broadcast to millions on national television, gradually awakening from their induced slumbers on a frigid Thursday morning.
1st June 2018: Lots of monitoring going on
Despite all the excitement of last week's butterfly release, monitoring of other target species has been continuing in Fineshade Wood and other woodlands in Rockingham Forest.
It's the season when the threatened Concolorous moth is on the wing and Ron Follows has begun regular moth trapping along the widened rides in Fineshade to try to identify which parts of the wood are most favoured by the species. He caught two of the moths on his first of seven planned weekly visits. You can read more about the Concolorous moth here.
The reptile refuges that have been laid out are being checked monthly. 20 mats in the north of Fineshade were monitored during a sunny interval yesterday afternoon and no less than 7 of them had attracted reptiles. There was a Common Lizard, five Slow-worms and one splendid male Adder (right).
Elsewhere bird surveys seem to be rather less successful with many resident bird species (including Marsh and Willow Tits) adversely affected by the Beast from the East earlier in the spring. Many migrant birds, including Spotted Flycatchers, are also proving very hard to find nationally and locally.
Male Adder basking on one of the refuge mats
24 May 2018: First batch of Chequered Skippers released
Butterfly Conservation have announced that Chequered Skipper butterflies have been released at a "secret location in Rockingham Forest" today. According to their website adults have been brought from the Fagne-Famenne region in the south of Belgium where the habitat is very similar to that found here - the same flowering plants for the adults and the same grasses for the caterpillars to feed on. There is a remnant population in parts of Scotland but Rockingham Forest was the species' last stronghold in England before dying out in the 1970s.
Over the past few months volunteers have been helping to survey the vegetation in the various Rockingham Forest woodlands, including Fineshade, in order to find suitable places for the release to take place.
After this first release, the population will be closely monitored, again with volunteer help. It is hoped that there will be further releases at other nearby sites over the next three years. Hopefully, we will all be able to see Chequered Skippers flying in late May and early June in the local woodlands in the years to come.
You can read more about the release on the Butterfly Conservation website
10 May 2018: Surveying for Adders and other reptiles
Following some excellent training days in April run by John Baker of the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust (ARC), enthused volunteers have been out looking for and recording reptiles across Rockingham Forest. During the last couple of weeks of April Adders were emerging from their hibernacula (winter quarters) and raising their blood temperature by basking in the sun. With extra pairs of eyes looking for them in Fineshade, we were delighted to record them at no less than 14 sites spread right across the woodland complex. All the records are safely stored in an online recording system called Record Pool and we'd urge anyone who sees a reptile to make sure that their records are added too (or you can send us the details and we'll make sure they are not lost).
The next step for the project was to lay out mats made of light-weight roofing material which would be used by reptiles throughout the summer and will enable the populations to be monitored. Five rows of these mats have now been laid out in Fineshade Wood and others elsewhere in the neighbouring components of Rockingham Forest. Volunteers will be checking them regularly and the pictures below show Dan Archer recording a Slow Worm that he found under a mat during last Sunday morning's check. There were two other Slow-worms at different mats and also a Toad. (You can read about another puzzling find during that survey in the Wildlife Diary here)
Above, Dan Archer carefully lifts a mat with a stick - this one had nothing under it.
Below, not a reptile, but still well worth finding a Toad like this under a mat
John Baker (with the hat) leading a Reptile Training session at Top Lodge.
Dan confidently examines a Slow Worm in the way he had been taught
29 March 2018: A busy start to the year
It’s been a busy few months in Rockingham Forest, with lots of survey training workshops, volunteer work parties and the first meeting of the Chequered Skipper steering group. We had a great response to our bird survey training workshops in January and have had volunteers out and about in most of the 11 primary woodlands, looking and listening for Willow Tits and Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers. They’ll soon be continuing this fantastic work by carrying out surveys for the remaining 3 target bird species. Bat Conservation Trust ran an excellent Introduction to Bats workshop last week and this will be followed up with bat survey training in July so that volunteers can help with our hunt for Barbastelle and Brown Long-eared. Over the next couple of weeks we’re running a couple of Adder survey workshops, which there are still places on if anyone is interested in getting involved. Adders have already been seen out basking at Fineshade so it’s the ideal time to start getting a better idea of Adder populations within the project area. Plans are also in place for plant identification and survey workshops in June.
We had a couple more work parties this year at Castor Hanglands, completing the ride-widening work that we started there last year. The volunteers did a fantastic job and it has really opened up the ride to allow more light in. Big thanks to everyone who was involved, especially the Cambs & Essex branch of Cutterfly Conservation who provided all the tools, lots of support and the chainsaw-wielding Louise! We’ve had quite a lot of delays on starting our larger habitat work with contractors for various reasons, but have just managed to complete a section of ride-widening work at Southwick Wood before putting work on hold for the breeding bird season.
In February we had our first Chequered Skipper Steering Group meeting, getting representatives together from many different organisations to contribute ideas, advice and support to the proposed reintroduction of Chequered Skipper to England. It was a very enlightening meeting and the highlight for me was walking round some of the potential introduction sites with Dirk Maes who has great knowledge of the Belgian sites where we’ll be sourcing our butterflies from. The fantastic news is that we are planning on going ahead with the first reintroduction this year (as long as the weather is favourable) and I’ll post updates with more news on this as plans are finalised.
Lastly from me for the moment, don’t forget to keep an eye out for our public events over the spring & summer – bat & moth nights, moth breakfasts, wildflower walks and butterfly walks – more details on these will appear here and on the Back from the Brink website as dates are confirmed.
Bird survey training in Old Sulehay wood
An early Adder in Fineshade Wood
Photo: Dave James
24 January 2018: Surveying birds - successful first training event
Ten volunteers gathered in the Little Barn at Top Lodge yesterday to hear about the techniques that the project will use to survey bird species (for more details please see below.) After a welcome and introduction to the project, Jacqueline Weir RSPB's Woodland Biodiversity Advisor gave a fascinating presentation covering the five declining species that the project seeks to help. She covered how to identify the species by sight and, most importantly, by listening for their calls, songs and, in the case of the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, their drumming display. Jacqueline gave particular emphasis to the subtly different types of woodland habitat favoured by the various species. After lunch a walk around Fineshade Wood enabled us to see most of these habitat features and also to try out the particular techniques that will be used in the surveys later this year.
There will be another training day like this on 8th February at the Wildlife Trust Field Centre at Ring Haw, near Wansford. If you are at all interested in learning to take part in this survey please contact Susannah - details above.
On 6th February the first survey for Willow Tits took place in Fineshade - and two singing males were located. Details here.
29 December 2017: Surveying birds - volunteer help needed very soon
Plans are being drawn up to carry out surveys of as many as possible of the 31 Roots of Rockingham woodlands this spring, looking particularly for the five target bird species and assessing what suitable habitat is available for them. BftBrink is a partnership between Natural England and seven conservation charities and it is RSPB who, with the Project Officer, are taking the lead in organising these surveys.
The five bird species can best be surveyed at different times during the spring, with the survey for Willow Tits needing to start in February. It is then that males of this elusive species begin to sing to establish territories. The plan will be to walk pre-defined routes though woodland areas on two fine days in February and March. We'll be listening out for their distinctive song or call and, very briefly, playing a recording to try to encourage any males in the vicinity to respond.
Anyone with basic birdwatching skills should be able to help with this survey, and two training days are planned which will give a chance to everyone who wants to be involved to find out more. (Details of training days are here).
Following the Willow Tit visits, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker will be the next bird to listen and look out for during March-April. And then further survey visits will take place for all the target species during the main breeding season.
For more details, or if you feel that you may be able to help with surveying one or more of the project's woodlands please contact Susannah - details above.
Lesser Redpoll. Photo: Kurt Hellwing
Roots of Rockingham
Target bird species
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
Marsh Tit. Photo: Bob Bullock
Willow Tit. Photo: Bob Bullock
Spotted Flycatcher. Photo: Kurt Hellwing
30 November 2017: Castor Hanglands work party
A chilly start to the morning didn’t put off the hardy volunteers who turned up for our first Roots of Rockingham work party at Castor Hanglands NNR in November. Our aim for the day was to widen a section of one of the rides in order to allow more light to reach the woodland floor and so increase the amount of grasses and nectar sources for the Chequered Skipper. With loppers and bowsaws at the ready, everyone quickly got busy chopping down scrub and trees and the combination of sunshine and sawing soon warmed us up. Biscuits and home-made cakes at break times provided extra energy to keep us going and by the end of the day we had cleared a significant area, leaving only the larger stumps to be tackled with a chainsaw at a later date.
A big thank you to all the volunteers who came along and helped as well as members of Butterfly Conservation’s Cambs and Essex Branch who provided lots of pairs of hands along with the tools. We’ll be heading back there in the New Year to finish off the work we started, so keep an eye out for the date if you fancy joining us.
Tea break in the sun
Two pairs of shots showing widened rides - before (above) and after (below)
7 October 2017: Barbastelle and other bats roosting on Fineshade's border
Barbastelle above and the well-named Brown Long-eared Bat below. Photos: Phil Richardson
There are two species of bat included in the list of 15 target species for the project - the Brown Long-eared and the rarer Barbastelle. We are unaware of any recent bat recording in Fineshade, apart for the survey carried out by Forest Holidays in 2015 - the results of this survey are still a closely guarded secret, with even the Forestry Commission being kept in the dark. (See here)
So, with no known recent records in Fineshade Wood itself, it was good to hear that these two bats are being recorded in nearby Collyweston Great Wood. The news came in the regular newsletter produced by Augean, the company running the East Northants Resource Management Facility (ENRMF) - the hazardous and low-level-radioactive waste disposal site which lies no more than 200m from the eastern edge of Fineshade Wood.
Augean are committed to the long-term restoration, landscaping and ecological management of the site and in a bid to increase biodiversity in 2014 they installed bat boxes on trees at the edge of Collyweston Great Wood on the northern boundary of ENRMF. Bats require somewhere to roost close to habitat where they can forage for food. and specially designed boxes can provide a suitable place for them to rest and also raise their young. Already five species of bats have been recorded roosting in Augean's boxes: as well as Barbastelle and Brown Long-eared, there are also Common and Soprano Pipistrelles and also Leisler's Bat. (There are no records of Leisler's in Fineshade.)
Some of these boxes will be no more than 200m from Fineshade so it is very likely that the bats are foraging in both woods. Perhaps it will be possible to put up roosting boxes along the eastern edge of Fineshade too? And maybe, in the longer term, the habitat creation associated with the Augean site will help to re-establish links between Collyweston Great Wood and Fineshade, joining once again these two fragments of Rockingham Forest.
1 September 2017: Vegetation surveys
During this month work on the ground is getting underway, in particular surveying the vegetation along the rides in some of the woodlands. In England, historic records show that the Chequered Skipper butterfly was associated with a particular type of grass - False Brome (Brachypodium sylvaticum) – on which it lays its eggs, and on which the caterpillars feed. This grass is widespread throughout Fineshade and the other Rockingham Forest woodlands but there is much more of it in some places than in others, so mapping its distribution is important in deciding exactly where the butterflies will be released as well as where to prioritise habitat management work this winter.
At this time of year False Brome and other grasses are flowering, so it a relatively easy job to locate it. A simple sampling method is being used to record this grass and other food plants that the larvae use, including Tor Grass (Brachypodium pinnatum), Purple Small-reed (Calamagrostis canescens), and Wood Small-reed (Calamagrostis epigeios), which is also the food plant of the Concolorous moth. The height of the vegetation is recorded using a drop disc (see the picture), along with the presence of food plants, encroaching scrub or bare ground. The adult butterflies also favour particular flowers from which to gather nectar, so there will be further surveys next spring when the flowers will be in bloom.
Are you able to help with these vegetation surveys? If you know a bit about grasses you’d be particularly welcome but, if you are keen to learn to identify just 3 or 4 grass types and have some spare weekdays during the coming month, Susannah would love to hear from you. There are a lot of rides to survey, not only in Fineshade but also in woods near Southwick and Geddington.
3 August 2017: Susannah gets started
It has been great to meet the project officer Susannah O’Riordan who is now based in the Forestry Commission Offices at Top Lodge. She has already been out and about getting to know Fineshade Wood, as well as the wider area of Rockingham Forest, and took part in the Butterfly Conservation Field Trip to Fineshade last Sunday.
I’m really pleased to be starting work on this exciting project and very grateful to the Forestry Commission and the Friends of Fineshade for making me feel so welcome. There’s a lot to learn about the local woodlands and the priority species, and there's lots of planning to be done.
I really hope that the local Rockingham Forest communities will feel that this is their project too - there will be all sorts of opportunities to get involved and find out more about what we’ll be doing, and I’m looking forward to meeting lots of you. If you see me out and about in Fineshade or any of the other woodlands please do come and introduce yourself.
Another of the target species has been recorded in the last couple of days. A Spotted Flycatcher was seen during Butterfly Conservation's Field Trip at Top Lodge and then a young bird was photographed at the Wildlife Hide.
Update. Another sighting of a Spotted Flycatcher was recorded on 25 August at Dumb Bob Spinney.
These sightings, together with reports from late May indicate that the rapidly declining species is probably still breeding here.
1 August 2017: Spotted Flycatchers in Fineshade
Photo Kurt Hellwing
14th July 2017: Appointment of Project Officer
We are pleased to be able to announce that Susannah O'Riordan has been appointed as the project officer. Susannah has considerable experience of running lottery-funded woodland projects, working with various Wildlife Trusts.
She will be based at Top Lodge and will be starting work on 23rd July. We are very much looking forward to welcoming her to Fineshade and to working with her over the coming few years.
11th June 2017: Rediscovery of the Concolorous moth
One of the project's target species, the rare Concolorous moth, was rediscovered at Top Lodge Fineshade today.
Photo Barrie Galpin
8th May 2017: List of target threatened species
Brown Long-eared Bat
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
The Project Officer's job specification lists 15 priority woodland species on which the Rockingham Forest part of the project will concentrate. As well as the re-introduction of the Chequered Skipper there are three other species of butterfly, one moth, five birds, two bats, two plants and one reptile, the Adder.
The list of species on the right shows all the species and indicates the nine that have been recorded in Fineshade Wood in recent years.
However, the comprehensive surveys of bats, birds and reptiles which were carried out by Forest Holidays' surveyors in 2015-16 remain unpublished and, we understand, have still not been sent to their partners the Forestry Commission (FC). (More details here.)
Since we understand that FC are committed to the Back from the Brink project, we expect those data will soon be released into the public domain.
Note: Nightingale was added to the list in November 2017
25th April 2017: Recruitment of Project Officer
The national project will help save species that are on the brink of extinction in the UK. As we reported in December 2015 one of the areas of particular interest for the project is Rockingham Forest - the fragmented woodland landscape between Peterborough and Corby. Here the aims will be to re-introduce the extinct Chequered Skipper butterfly and to improve the habitat of a number of key woodland sites for threatened wildlife.
31st March 2017:
Project funding confirmed by Lottery Fund
It's been a long wait but the announcement by the Heritage Lottery Fund has certainly been worth waiting for!
Male Chequered Skipper .
Copyright Peter Eeles
Butterfly Conservation are now advertising for the Back from the Brink Rockingham Forest Project Officer.
Full details can be found here: http://butterfly-conservation.org/56/jobs.html
The Project Officer will be based at the Forestry Commission Top Lodge office at Fineshade
Appointment will run from July 2017 to February 2021.
Applications closed on 11th May.
Person appointed will work for Butterfly Conservation and with local delivery partners including Natural England, Forestry Commission, BCN Wildlife Trust and Boughton Estate.
The project will run from 2017 to 2020.
Butterfly Conservation will oversee the Rockingham Forest project and a project officer will be appointed very soon.
Fineshade will be a key location for the project.
Habitat management work will take place within Fineshade Wood and 10 other woodland areas.
The Chequered Skipper will be re-introduced from 2018 onwards.
The project here will also aim to improve the woodlands for other special threatened species such as the Barbastelle Bat, Adder, Willow Tit, Fly Orchid and the Concolorous moth.
There will be opportunities for community engagement with the project, including public events, species monitoring, and habitat management.
Friends of Fineshade very much welcome this announcement having been involved in making the case for the project to operate in Fineshade Wood.
(See details here.) Many Friends have expressed the view, via an on-line survey, that they will be very supportive of the project.
The Friends' raison d'etre is to enjoy and protect Fineshade Wood and we see this project as contributing to both. The project recognises the significant biodiversity value of the wood and will be a means of managing the habitat sensitively so as to benefit threatened species. We are sure this will increase our own enjoyment of the wood, both because we hope to enjoy the volunteering opportunities and because of the pleasure of experiencing more wildlife - not least a rather special butterfly.
Also we believe that the project will help to protect the wood from inapppropriate development. Surely Forest Holidays will realise that the establishment of such a high-profile conservation project here will make it even less likely that they will be granted permission to build a holiday camp? If their application was defeated so resoundingly in 2015, there is no way it could succeed in the future. To take one example, the Back from the Brink Project will seek to enhance the habitat for Adders, but a Forest Holidays development would degrade it by criss-crossing the reptiles's space with many more vehicle tracks.
So the Friends of Fineshade very much welcome this news and look forward to working with the other project partners, including the Forestry Commission, to ensure the project's success.
Female Chequered Skipper.
Copyright Peter Eeles
An Adder crossing a track in Fineshade
Photo Roger Eads
The Project will enhance habitats: Forest Holidays' plans would degrade them
The Chequered Skipper
In October 2016 a research project was published which will be essential reading for all those involved with re-introducing the Chequered Skipper.
We are most grateful to Peter Eeles, editor of dispar, for permission to reproduce the excellent pictures from his paper.
Statement in September 2016
Following a period of consultation in which both the Friends of Fineshade and the Forestry Commission played a part, in September 2016 the Project Development Officer, Simon Phelps, issued this statement:
"The Back from the Brink Rockingham Forest project has reached the final stages of the development phase. The second stage funding bid documents are currently being prepared, based on the information obtained during the development phase. The bid will be submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund in November and we will hear back from them early next year, around March. If we are successful in securing the funds the project will begin sometime from April onwards, and will run for 4 years.
"The project has focused on three main areas during the development phase: detailing the habitat management actions of the project, planning the Chequered Skipper reintroduction and engaging with community/volunteer groups. Considerable progress has been made on all of these areas. The project will carry out woodland management works in 11 woodlands across the Rockingham Forest area, which includes Fineshade Wood. The focus of this management will be on managing the rides and glades, to ensure the sunny, open habitat there is retained and in the best condition for the woodland species that use it. The project will also work with its national single-species partners, such as the RSPB and Bat Conservation Trust, to look at management works it can do in these woodlands for their target species. Consideration has been given to the best sites to reintroduce the Chequered Skipper to, and how best to do this. Plans are still at a very early stage and are subject to change as the project progresses and local conditions develop, but we are confident that it is viable. The first reintroduction is scheduled to take place in the summer of 2018, and there is a lot of work to be done before this can happen.
"Lots of different groups have been engaged with during the development phase. These include: both the Cambs & Essex and Northants & Beds Branches of Butterfly Conservation, Northamptonshire reptile group, BCN Wildlife Trust, Outdoor Tribe, River Nene Regional Park, Geddington Brickyard Garden and the Friends of Fineshade. The project plans to put on a series of talks, guided walks and bat/moth nights, both aimed at members of the public and volunteers. These will enable people to learn about the target species and find out how they are being conserved. For those that wish to join in with the conservation work of the project, there will be a series of volunteer training workshops delivered, which will give people the skills to help with the surveying and monitoring of the target species. We will also be looking for volunteers to help us with some of the winter woodland habitat management work on some of the projects sites. The project is also going to work with some of the local schools, educating children and young people about the wonderful woodland wildlife in the area.
"Fineshade Wood will be a key location for a lot of this work, due to its location, accessibility, visitor facilities and its diverse woodland habitat, which hosts many of the target species. A special thanks goes out to all the members of the Friends of Fineshade network who completed the online survey.