Latest news from Fineshade
Augean extension now underway
6 February 2023.
Updated 3 August
In January the proposed extension to the East Northants Resource Management Facility Western Extension was granted planning permission by the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. The extension will occupy the fields shown pink on the map and will extend the life of the facility until 2046. By August work was well underway in the field adjacent to Fineshade Wood
Augean have guaranteed that once work is complete they will create the type of rich habitat that will allow the site to be adopted as a Local Wildlife site, meeting several of the Northamptonshire Biodiversity Action Plan habitat creation targets. They are proposing to phase operations so that the northern field will be the first to be worked and restored. Their current projection is that restoration there will be completed within 7 years of the
start of excavation work.
There is much more detail about the extension and the affect it will have on Fineshade Wood on this page of the website
Measuring the Cathedral Tree
30 December 2022
On a wet day just before Christmas an intrepid group of us walked from Top Lodge to Fineshade's famous Cathedral Tree and measured the distance around its trunk (its girth). I was an amazing 6.43 metres, measured at chest height. The Woodland Trust record the oldest and most important trees in the UK using their Ancient Tree Inventory and we entered the data we had collected on that website. The tree had been (roughly) recorded before but in a slightly wrong position (in the middle of a nearby field!) and it's girth then had been recorded as 6.25m, which may have been an estimate.
You can read more about the Cathedral Tree here and see pictures of the tree throughout the year..
17 November 2022
We've been organising guided walks across Rockingham Forest this year and in December we have planned two guided walks in Fineshade Wood.
On 3rd December, Charles Cuthbert will be helping us identify some of the trees that can be found here. The shape of trees in winter along with other clues such as buds, catkins, bark and fallen leaves can all help to decide which species we are looking at. Just a few places left on this walk.
Then on the shortest day of the year, 21st December, we will be meeting up for a social walk and taking advantage of the refreshments on offer in the cafe. It weather and ground conditions permit we might even get to measure Fineshade's famous Cathedral tree pictured here.
For more details and to book please go to the events page of the new Rockingham Forest Vision website.
Two more walks in Fineshade
Removing the Ash trees
13 October 2022
Today Top Lodge rang out with the sound of high powered saws followed by the crashing of mature trees falling. This signalled that work had begun on the removal of the Ash trees in order to make the way-marked trails safe. Back in March we reported on the meaning of the pink dots that had been sprayed on all Ash trees that are close to the paths (Click here)
Many of the pink-dotted trees are showing signs of Chalara, or Ash Dieback, but others may be suffering without showing obvious symptoms and there is a chance they could shed large branches without warning. Work is likely to continue for several weeks and we are asked to keep well clear of any felling works. At times some of the trails will be closed.
There is more information in Forestry England's leaflet: "A changing landscape at Fineshade Wood". You can download it here or pick up a copy from the reception desk in Top Lodge.
Rockingham Forest Vision news
23 September 2022
Today we launched a new website for the project that we have been working on since 2020. Rockingham Forest Vision aims to connect landscapes, people and wildlife in the former Rockingham Forest. Until now this Friends of Fineshade website has provided a temporary home for news about this wider area, but from now on www.rockinghamforest.org.uk will be the go-to address for everything concerning the wider forest area. There are features about the history of the forest and its wildlife. There is a section on the various landscapes of the forest ( transferred from here) and also an expanded page of coming events. There are details of volunteering opportunities and community groups operating in the forest.
You will also find a page describing a new project "Building the Links for Rockingham Forest" which has just received a large sum from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.
All this means that this Friends of Fineshade website will be gradually slimmed down, concentrating eventually only on "enjoying and protecting Fineshade Wood" .
There ARE still Dormice in Fineshade
7 August 2022
Yesterday, the team of volunteers who have been monitoring tunnels for Dormice footprints were delighted to find clear evidence that some of these rare and elusive animals are present here in the centre of Fineshade Wood,
This is great news for the project that started before the Covid pandemic. Many Friends of Fineshade contributed to a crowd-funding appeal to purchase the necessary equipment but Covid delayed the full implementation of monitoring using tunnels until this summer. Dormice have not been recorded in this part of the wood before and this shows that they may still be present in a variety of different habitats across the woodland.
You can read full details of the project here:
Glamping decision goes to appeal
30 June 2022. Updated 31st August
We heard at the end of June that the owner of the meadow in front of Top Lodge had appealed against the council's decision to reject their plan for a Glamping and Camping site. The Appeal was heard by a Planning Inspector using the "written representations procedure". We had just one month to read and assess the grounds for appeal and to make further objections.
A group of Friends came together to work on this. More individual objections were submitted, a strong response went in from Duddington with Fineshade Parish Council and a petition asking the planing inspector to refuse the appeal attracted over 550 signatures in under three weeks.
The Inspector's decision came very speedily. Inspector Dean comprehensively dismissed the appeal and supported all four of the council's reasons to reject the planning application. More details here.
Funding for new website
18 June 2022
Friends of Fineshade are delighted to announce that we have been granted Community Funding to create a new website for Rockingham Forest Vision. Formed in 2020, a steering group of the Friends has been gradually working on a plan to restore the former hunting forest that stretched across the region and of which Fineshade Wood is the largest remaining fragment. Until now this Friends of Fineshade website has provided a platform to publicise the Vision (e.g. here) but we are now ready to create a separate website and social media presence.
We are very grateful indeed to North Northamptonshire Council for accepting our application for funds and granting a sum of £2030, which will provide initial set-up costs and maintenance for the first year. We hope to have the new site published later this summer - please watch this space!
On 6 June the project to try to track down Fineshade's elusive Dormice restarted after a two-year delay caused by Covid. In the central part of the wood, fifty tunnels were set in the bushes with ink pads and cards carefully placed inside. We hoped that, if inquisitive dormice explore the tunnels, they would leave their footprints behind on the card - and that would confirm that they are using that part of the wood.
The cards will be checked every 10-11 days through the rest of the summer and a team of 4-6 people is needed. Could you join the team? No experience is necessary and it's a great opportunity to help monitor Fineshade's wildlife and experience one of the wilder parts of the wood.
Tracking Dormice project restarts
6 June 2022
Daily guided walks to see butterflies
18 May 2022
For the first time ever, a daily series of free guided walks are being offered in Fineshade Wood. From now until Sunday 12th June Butterfly Conservation staff will be leading visitors around the wood particularly searching for three species of small butterflies known as Skippers. Notoriously difficult to see, Dingy and Grizzled Skippers are two of the target species but the real prize will be a glimpse of the Chequered Skipper, which has been reintroduced here as part of the previous Back from the Brink project.
The walks, about 6km long, start every day at 11:00am, weather permitting. They often last for 2-3 hours. There is no need to book, just turn up on the day. More details about the walk here on the Butterfly Conservation website.
A Nightingale sang in Fineshade Wood
6 May 2022
On Tuesday this week there was very welcome news from a visitor who had heard a Nightingale singing once again. Most years this charismatic visitor can be heard in remote parts of the wood but this year a male bird has chosen a location right in the middle of the wood and alongside one of the busy way-marked trails. It seems to like the dense Blackthorn thickets there and although we haven't actually seen the bird, its delightfully varied song has continued at intervals for the last four days and nights.
You can share the experience if you are following the Dales Wood Trail. About half way round the trail turns sharp left and that is where you stand a good chance of hearing the bird. The area is marked on the OS map as "Dumb Bob Spinney", so we hope Bob is enjoying the company of his noisy neighbour!
UPDATE 17 May: Still singing in the same location
Neighbourhood Plan for the parish
15 March 2022
Duddington with Fineshade Parish Council began work on the Neighbourhood Plan nearly 4 years ago. After a long gestation period the plan has now gone out to public consultation and all the documents can be downloaded on the PC website. The plan itself is also available for download here together with a copy of the comments form.
One of the key policies in the plan is to designate the meadow in front of Top Lodge as a "Local Green Space". This would mean that there would be no further possibility of the field being developed for glamping, camping, static caravans or anything else. (See page 28 Policy ENV 1).
There are other sections of the Plan that that are of importance and relevance for Fineshade -including among others:
Wildlife corridors (page 37, Policy ENV5),
Woodland Creation (page 40, Community Action ENV2),
Notable Trees (page 42, Policy ENV6),
Rights of Ways (page 44, Policy ENV7),
Aspirations for New Foot and Cycle Paths (page 45, Community Action ENV3)
Dark Skies (page 48, Community Action ENV4)
Traffic Noise (page 49, Community Action ENV5)
All stakeholders including both residents and visitors are being encouraged to comment on the draft plan. The closing date for comments is 18th April .
Pink dots and Ash Dieback
8 March 2022
It is said that the coming of Chalara, or Ash Dieback disease, to Europe will probably devastate many of our forests with an estimated 80% of our native Ash trees likely to succumb. Such a catastrophic disease will, of course, change woodlands like Fineshade for ever.
We are beginning to see some of the immediate effects and recently Forestry England have been marking those affected trees that could fall across, or drop branches on, the main walking tracks. Over 250 such trees have now been marked with pink dots and the plan is to fell all these later this year. Timber will be removed and where possible will be sold to the firewood or biomass markets. Unfortunately, in a couple of locations this will involve almost all trees being taken down, including where tracks pass through the Ancient Woodland area just north of the carpark. Here the plan will be to replant and protect new growth with deer fencing.
In other parts of the wood, away from the main visitor tracks and where it is safe to do so, the infected trees will not all be felled, but left to provide dead wood that will benefit wildlife. FE have estimated that across the whole wood, including the clearfell areas, approximately 2000 Ash trees may eventually need to be felled, but it is worth remembering that the total number of trees in the wood is, very approximately, 1.5 million.
It is good to hear that Butterfly Conservation (BC), the organisation behind the re-introduction of the Chequered Skipper butterfly into England, have today revealed the location of the release site: it was here in Fineshade Wood! Since the national Back from the Brink project started in 2017 we have been closely involved with the Roots of Rockingham part and have reported on progress, always referring to the release site as being within Rockingham Forest (see here for example www.fineshade.org.uk/bftb-achievements) It is therefore quite a relief to be able to own up to the fact that the butterflies can actually be seen here in Fineshade Wood during their all-too-brief flight season!
We are also delighted that Butterfly Conservation have received lottery funding to continue their work here. The project entitled "Chequered Skippers - Taking Flight" will continue to be led by Susannah O'Riordan supported by two seasonal rangers and the BC volunteers.The best place to read details of their plans for the next phase of their work is on the BC website here
Revealed: "secret location" of release site
27 January 2022