Rockingham Forest landscapes
- woods and fields
This is the edge of Fineshade Wood above the abbey. Taken from the Jurassic Way footpath, this picture shows the mix of woodland and grazing that is thought to have been typical throughout Rockingham Forest centuries ago. (OS grid reference SP9797)
A typical view inside one of the large remaining sections of the former forest, (Bedford Purlieus, TL0399). This is nationally important ancient lowland woodland, noted for its great diversity of herbaceous plants and associated fauna. With almost 500 recorded plant species, the wood's high level of biodiversity is attributed to the varied underlying geology which has given rise to a rich mix of soil types.
A few other extensive areas of Ancient Woodland still remain, scattered across the former forest area. On the left is a ride through Southwick Wood (TL0092) which is privately owned and managed by Forestry England. This is a magnificent area of Oak high forest.
On the right is an ancient coppice stool. The Small-leaved Lime trees in the Easton Hornstocks National Nature Reserve (TF0100) have been coppiced for centuries and under Natural England's management, that continues today.
This picture was taken from a footpath that runs 4 miles south from King's Cliffe, eventually ending in the village of Southwick (TL0093). It shows the northern side of Southwick Wood which is designated as Wood Pasture, woodland that is lightly grazed by cattle.
This is Great Watkinson, part of Westhay Wood, in the southern part of Fineshade (SP9998). It is classed as "Plantation on Ancient Woodland". Most of the planted conifers have now been cleared here, and the woodland has largely been left to regenerate naturally. The picture shows one of the widened rides that have been recently created there.
There are significant sections of Ancient Woodland belonging to private estates. This photo shows part of the 32ha Spanhoe Wood on the Bulwick Estate where the woodland is managed with great sensitivity. (Details on the estate's website here.)
On the same estate there are areas of recently planted woodland too, This shows a 1.5ha site planted with native species and fenced to prevent deer damage in 2014. Notice the broad irregular rides - a far cry from what we often think of as "plantation woodland".
You might not expect to find Ancient Woodland in the centre of Corby but the area known as Thoroughsale and Hazel Woods is the largest urban AW site in the UK. Thanks to the foresight of town planners when Corby was expanding, this and other fragments of Rockingham Forest remain and provide a green lung in the middle of the town. They are cared for by active "Friends of..." groups and are part of the Corby Woodland Project now run by the new unitary authority, North Northamptonshire Council.
Bedford Purlieus - a wooded island
Bedford Purlieus is one of the largest remaining areas of high-canopy deciduous woodland and is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and also one of Rockingham Forest's three National Nature Reserves.
However, as the aerial view shows, it hardly blends into a forested landscape: Its boundaries are ruler-drawn and it is almost surrounded by arable farmland.
In just a few steps, you move from species-rich woodland into barren prairie.
It is not only around Bedford Purlieus that the former woodland has been cleared to grow crops. Today, large parts of the traditional forest are enormous arable fields, with only small fragments of remaining woodland. This is a bridleway north-east of Apethorpe with Bushrubs Wood (9.5ha) on the right. (OS grid reference TL0296)
Further south towards Deene (SP9891) another bridleway provides good access through the fields of grain. There are wide fields margins (the land is in Higher level Stewardship) but there are few trees, mainly confined to the fragments of woodland on the higher land.
Wymond Hill Wood is on the right and Burn Coppice in the distance. This is part of the Brudenell Estate.
On the Blatherwycke Estate a public right of way crosses the fields up towards Bushey Wood (SP9893).
These areas have come an extremely long way from the traditional Rockingham Forest landscapes.
Is there any going back?
Use the boxes below to see other important landscapes and habitats in Rockingham Forest
Rockingham Forest Vision:
landscapes for the future, inspired by the past