Latest news

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Grizzled Skipper

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.

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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

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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 .

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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

Chequered Skipper release

Revealed: "secret location" of release site

27 January 2022

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Winter Walks exploring Rockingham Forest

8 December 2021

The Rockingham Forest Vision project is being driven by a small group of the Friends of Fineshade. Have you responded yet to their questionnaire? The plan is to get 2022 off to an exhilarating start by organising a series of guided walks and visits to lesser-known and fascinating areas of the Forest.

Each walk will be led by locals who know the area well. The walks will operate under strict Covid-related government guidance.  Very contrasting walks are planned

- for example, one is in the remotest part of Fineshade known as the Assarts and  another in a wooded gem in the middle of urban Corby.

Read all about the walks and other events on this new page of the website. Please book your free places now and look out for news of forthcoming walks in the series.

Where would you like to go walking in Rockingham Forest in 2022?

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North Northants Climate Conference

17 November 2021

Yesterday our new unitary council - North Northamptonshire Council organised a very interesting and stimulating virtual conference on Climate Change

This took place in the wake of Cop26 and particularly highlighted initiatives in the local area aimed at mitigating the effects of changing climate. The whole conference was recorded and can be viewed on YouTube but the afternoon session entitled "Celebrating and Nurturing our Environment" has particular relevance to Fineshade and the wider Rockingham Forest.  The first speaker in the session was Graham Garrett taking about the Wilding Project now underway on the Bulwick and Harringworth Estate to the south-west of Fineshade. You can read more about the estate on the landscape pages of this website.

It was very good to hear mention of the embryo Rockingham Forest Vision in several of the conference sessions including a highly recommended talk by Rebecca Jenkins on the Corby Woodlands.

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Rockingham Forest Vision - latest

Updated 1 November 2021

The Rockingham Forest Vision Steering Group (a part of Friends of Fineshade) have now been working for over a year to advance the aim of establishing a funded Nature Recovery Network in the northern part of Rockingham Forest. A lot of that "working" has actually been talking with a range of interested parties, laying the foundations for a significant first funding application in the very near future.  Before the end of this month there will be a meeting of potential partners at Top Lodge, Fineshade, which will firm up the details of a bid to connect local communities to the forest's natural and cultural heritage. You can read more about Rockingham Forest Vision on this section of our website.

Before the partnership meeting, you can help the Steering Group immensely by taking the time to answer a few questions: What's your view of Rockingham Forest

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Proposed Augean site expansion 

26 October 2021

Augean PLC operates the East Northants Resource Management Facility landfill site close to the northwest corner of Fineshade Wood. The site handles hazardous waste materials and low-level nuclear waste, burying them in the clay. Augean are currently seeing permission to extend the site closer to Fineshade Wood.

 

Following a public consultation in which many Friends of Fineshade took part, the company has now moved to the next stage of the lengthy planning process by making an application to the Secretary of State for a Development Consent Order. All those who contributed to the earlier consultation should have been informed by email. There is now a further two month period to "Register as an Interested Party" before an examination of the proposal is made by a planning inspector. That examination could take six months and possibly include a public hearing. The inspector will then make a recommendation and the final decision will be taken by the Secretary of State, probably in the second half of 2022.

More details of the proposal are here.

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The new view of Tixover

Updated 23 September 2021

Regular visitors to Fineshade who follow the purple signs of the Dales Wood trail will know that, after the very pleasant downhill section from Top Lodge, there comes a long straight uphill part - a considerable slog that some folks refer to as Heartbreak Hill!  Now there is a real reward when you get to the top - not just a picnic bench but a magnificent view to the north.

30 years ago this vista was one of the highlights of that walk and the hilltop was known as Tixover View. But over the years trees and scrub grew up and gradually the landscape was obscured. So in 2019 when the new Forest Management Plan was being drawn up, Friends of Fineshade suggested that the view should be re-instated. Local Forestry England staff listened, agreed and wrote it into the plan. Earlier this year the scrub was cleared, and this month some further tree felling has been done.  Specimen trees such as Wild Service and a remarkable erect Crab Apple have been left to frame the view 

So when you reach the top of the hill, while you recover your breath you can savour the view across the Welland Valley towards Tixover and away into Rutland at least as far as South Luffenham Heath on the skyline.  Great co-operation between Forestry England and local people has brought this about, allowing us all to appreciate this part of the Rockingham Forest landscape.

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Council say NO to glamping 

27 August 2021 and updated 3 September

The planning officers of the new North Northamptonshire Council have rejected the latest planning application for Change of Use to the fields at Top Lodge. This is the fifth application made by the current owner of the fields. All have been opposed by Friends of Fineshade, many of whom added their objections via the planning portal.  In all, there were 126 objections from members of the public.

 

Other significant opposition to the plans came from the Wildlife Trust BCN, Forestry England, the Local Highway Authority, Duddington-with-Fineshade Parish Council, Kings Cliffe and Collyweston Parish Councils, the county Senior Conservation Officer, the Northants Bat Group, Butterfly Conservation, Amphibian and Reptile Groups UK, the Campaign for Dark Skies, the Ecology Advisor for NCC, the County Archaeological Advisor, and the Community Safety Officer.

Many objections pointed out that the development of the fields were contrary to North Northamptonshire's planning policies for open countryside, particularly as the fields are a Local Wildilfe Site and will soon be designated as Local Green Space by the Neighbourhood Plan.  So strong was the case for rejection that officers ruled it did not even need to go to committee.

You can see full details of the application here.

There you can also read the Council's Decision Notice including their 4 reasons for refusal.

So what next for the meadow? Friends of Fineshade hope that the current owner of the fields will now realise there is no hope of any possible development, and will allow the meadow to be made into a local nature reserve with restricted public access. 

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Nature-rich land for sale at Fineshade 

21 July 2021

An unusual opportunity has opened up to acquire land adjacent to Fineshade Brook - two fields that are already rich in wildlife and have great potential for further habitat creation.  The 56 acres are advertised on the Richardson Estate Agent's Website and the asking price is £420,000. 

We think the land has been in long-term set-aside schemes for at least 20 years and there is considerable natural regeneration already taking place. The A43, with wide protected verges, divides the land into two. It is bounded to the southwest by the dis-used railway line, long recognised as an important wildlife corridor. To the east is Fineshade Brook with its alder carr and there's lots of potential to create new wet areas along the length of the field. To the northwest there is a remnant piece of Ancient Woodland with veteran lime coppice.

 

This represents a brilliant opportunity to more closely link Fineshade and Wakerley Woods, part of our Rockingham Forest Vision.  Friends of Fineshade are very keen to ensure that the fields fall into safe hands: it would be such a shame if they were to revert to arable use, or if it were bought as a "development" opportunity (though all the local planning policies would need to be overturned in order to make that happen!).  If anyone would like to embark on small-scale rewilding or woodland regeneration this could be a great opportunity and would attract enthusiastic community support.

Update: The agents called for sealed bids by Friday 13th August. Nothing further is known at this stage.

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Final event for Back from the Brink 

11 July 2021

The Roots of Rockingham, Back from the Brink Project has come to an end with outdoor social gatherings for the many key volunteers who have been involved. 

 

Also, on Friday, the former county butterfly recorder, Doug Goddard, led a walk looking for some of Fineshade's special species. There were plenty of recently emerged Marbled Whites and Silver-washed Fritillaries as well as White-letter Haitstreaks around the elm trees at Top Lodge. A total of 18 species were seen, Doug's record so far this summer. Also on the walk was Project Officer, Susannah O'Riordan, who has done so much to ensure the considerable success of this project

You can read more about the achievements of the Back from the Brink project in Rockingham Forest of this section of our website.

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More Elm news 

14 June 2021

Despite the cold spring this year Fineshade's Elm trees seem to be thriving. Many of the mature trees appear to have had a very heavy crop of seeds and most of the young trees planted in 2019 are putting on good growth inside their green protective tubes.

Today samaras were gathered from the very healthy group of trees at the far northern tip of Fineshade Wood. These are the Huntingdon Elm species, Ulmus vegata, and show no sign at all of being susceptible to Dutch Elm disease. Some of these samaras will be sown and planted here in Fineshade, but many were also delivered to be grown in a tree nursery in nearby Ketton. We hope to have a lot more seedlings available for planting out next year.

You can read lots more about Fineshade's elms here www.fineshade.org.uk/elms

An entire community of people has come together to oppose the plan to convert the meadow at Top Lodge into a camping site. Objections have been surging in to the new North Northants Council from people who visit Fineshade regularly - both those who live nearby and from much further afield, from people who live and work here, from those who value its rich biodiversity, from those for whom Fineshade has become an invaluable green lung in difficult times.

There have been really important objections from official consultees, particularly from local Parish Councils, the Wildlife Trust BCN, the Northants Bat Group and the Campaign for Dark Skies, but also from the county's Ecological Adviser and Community Safety Officer. The Back from the Brink Project have objected strongly and there have been 126 public comments opposing the plan.

We now await the Planning Officer's report and expect that the application will be decided by councillors of the new North Northamptonshire Council at a planning committee meeting no earlier than 19th July.

Please see full details of the application and how to object here.

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Opposition to "Change of use"

20 May 2021 and updated 17 June

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Proposed glamping pods - again!

9 April 2021

It seems that the field in front of Top Lodge is again under threat as the owners try to exploit it as a holiday camp. This is the 5th planning application they have made since 2012 - the previous four were either defeated or withdrawn in the face of strong opposition, not least from the East Northamptonshire Planning Authority.

This week our local parish council heard of the latest application, though no public announcements have yet been published. The application may be viewed here .

Enter the reference number NE/21/00388/FUL

There you will read about the 15 glamping pods, a warden’s caravan,  an unspecified number of camping sites, a car park and new roadway, no toilets, (!) etc.

Friends of Fineshade are opposing the application once again. If you feel able to help please Join the Friends and you will be sent updates and details about how you could help.