What's happening on the ground?
Planting a micro wood in Corby
Evolving landscape of Rockingham Forest
One of the aims of Rockingham Forest Vision is to create enriched biodiverse landscapes, eventually connecting the remaining wooded areas. We're aware of lots of exciting plans being made for nature recovery and here we will report when those plans begin to come to fruition on the ground.
If you know of interesting habitat creation that is going on - please send us an email so that we can share the good news!
A new "micro wood" in Corby
1st March 2024
Last week a whopping 760 trees were planted in a green space along Dunnock Road in Corby! North Northants Council have been at work in a move that should, in time, help to prevent flash flooding. The mature trees will intercept rain before it reaches the ground and help to slow water flow but, more importantly, their roots will make the soil more permeable helping water infiltrate deep into the soil.
The trees were planted by lots of local residents and the 7th Corby Scout Group. They seemed to be having a great time!
This came about thanks to the well-named RAIN project - Resilience and Innovation Northants, funded by the Environmental Agency’s Flood and Coastal Resilience Innovation Programme. Running until March 2027, it is one of 25 projects nationwide developing new approaches to improve flood resilience and manage flood risk.
The green spaces on Dunnock Road were identified as an area of opportunity for "Sustainable Urban Drainage" - an approach to managing rainfall runoff which mimics natural processes, while improving the biodiversity in the area and making it better for people too. The pictures show just how wet this area can be at the moment
It was decided to create what is known as a "micro wood", a method pioneered by Japanese botanist Dr Akira Miyawaki, and which is used to rapidly create miniature woodlands in urban areas. (Read more here).
Typically more than 600 native trees are planted on an area about the size of a tennis court. This dense planting promotes competition between the trees, resulting in faster growth, higher survival rates and resilience of the woodlands. It should produce a rich, dense and efficient woodland within 20-30 years.
Dunnock Road micro wood contains 760 trees from 21 different native species including: alder, silver birch, hawthorn, crab apple, English oak and rowan.
Feeding the birds
We reported previously (see here) on areas of farmland that have been planted with a seed mix to benefit wildlife including small seed-eating birds particularly finches and buntings. Now, in the depth of winter, large flocks can be encountered taking advantage of this food resource in the fields. For example, flocks of several hundred birds can be glimpsed near the Wakerley-Fineshade junction with the A43 at the moment. Land owners who are in the government's Countryside Stewardship scheme are paid handsomely for planting these crops that provide such environmental benefits.
Another part of the scheme can pay landowners to distribute grain and seed across their land to provide supplementary food when the grown crops are exhausted. Just as many of us scatter seed in our gardens, so some farmers are doing the same, but at a much larger scale. The pictures here are from the Bulwick Estate where nearly 12 tonnes of seed will be distributed this winter!
Bucketloads of grain and seed being distributed to supplement a former wild-flower mix. The birds are loving it!
Part of a much larger flock of, mainly, Linnets and Yellowhammers. We think there are about 165 birds in the picture here.
Significant changes on the Bulwick Estate
Last year Bulwick Estate announced exciting plans to enhance 1000 acres of land between Harringworth and Bulwick under a new Countryside Stewardship scheme. This followed years of planning and consultation, with eventual approval by Natural England of a 700-page feasibility study and master plan. The estate will be creating hay meadows, wood pasture, infield plots, miles of field-edge strips and hedgerows along with a programme of educational visits, information boards etc.
The estate's website has begun to lay out the details of the plan.
Part of the plan involves converting some previously arable land to grazed areas, so fields like this one, which butts right up to Wakerley Great Wood have had stock fencing erected for the first time. A public bridleway crosses the field and high-standard gates have been erected to ensure that public access is still possible.
The master plan says that here there will be:
Natural colonisation of woodland. Grazed open scrub with soft woodland edge boundaries managed for denser vegetation to north and east and more open habitat to south and west.
As there is established woodland close by, it is likely that trees will spread naturally, but an extra 100 will be planted to speed natural processes by encouraging seed-eating birds to rest and deposit seed further out in the field.
Elsewhere on the estate there are already areas where native scrub has been allowed to regenerate as this second picture shows.
The master plan says that the aim in this area is to allow:
Regeneration of native scrub to open canopy wood pasture.
Since this field is some distance from established woodland, natural regeneration from seed is likely to be slow. Therefore a number of single specimen trees are going to be planted and these will need to be very well protected from the grazing cattle. You can see small new exclosures like this in other areas across the estate and, next winter, native trees will be planted inside.
There are numerous permissive paths and rights of way across the estate from which it is easy to see and admire the environmental enhancement that is taking place.
Planting trees for the King
There was lovely weather for the new trees that went into the ground in the middle of Corby on 27th November, though the planting team got pretty wet! Leading the way and getting well stuck in to the thick Northants clay, was King' Charles III's representative in the county, the Lord Lieutenant, James Saunders Watson. He was ably and enthusiastically supported by children from Studfall School, each of whom planted their own smaller tree. It was good to see North Northants Councillors there too, including Harriet Pentland, the Executive Member for Climate and Green Environment and Barbara Jenney the Council's chair. They too could be seen wielding a spade and getting hands and boots muddy!
Look out for the new big Oak tree alongside the A427 on the edge of Hazel Wood near the boating lake. The children will be coming back to check on "their" trees too - a mixture of about 40 Birch, Rowan and Hawthorn along the side of an existing piece of mature woodland nearby. What did they think about it I wondered?
“I loved helping to plant the tree”
“I felt really proud”
“I planted my first tree”
“I really enjoyed being outside”
Congratulations to Rebecca Jenkins (NNC's Woodland Manager) and her team who organised the event with efficient good humour so that we all enjoyed ourselves, despite the weather.
Native tree planting in Fineshade Wood
Great to see a mixture of native trees being planted in Fineshade today (26th October). This is the area close to the carpark that was clear-felled last winter to remove the large number of Ash trees suffering from Ash Die Back. This area had been deer fenced in the last month and today was being planted out with trees spaced 1.6m apart.
"What species are you putting in?" we asked. Much to our surprise and delight the answer was a mixture of Hornbeam, Oak, Birch and Wild Service trees - all native species. It looks as if the ground has been prepared for planting other areas nearby. These will be outside the deer fence but presumably will have tree guards until they get established.
Establishing woodland on the Deene Estate
A public bridleway crossing the Deene Estate runs between two established but isolated woodlands, Rough Close and Burn Coppice. In 2019-20 an area of about 10 acres between them (shown in pink here) was planted with native trees and shrubs, seeking to benefit woodland wildlife by connecting the separate woodlands. Three other areas on the estate were planted at the same time.
The pictures below show the new trees in 2020 and as they are today in 2023. Tree growth is always slow on our heavy clay soils but already the new woodland is establishing, protected as it is by substantial deer fencing. The green plastic mesh was put in place to prevent birds hitting the fencing.
Tree planting at East Carlton
On 5th October an event was organised by Gary Chisholm and the ranger team at East Carlton Countryside Park to mark the 50th anniversary of founding of the Corby and District Lions club. 50 trees were planted: 48 small sapling whips and two larger Oaks. The trees were planted beside the woodland at ECCP to create a new habitat structure along the edge. The species of trees included Rowan, Birch, Oak and Crab Apple which should provide new habitats and attract birds and pollinators as they establish. More information and photos can be found in this article in the Northants Telegraph.
Flowers in the fields for birds, insects and "bumblebirds"
Have you noticed more fields or parts of fields that have been planted with flowers this year? We have. Some areas have been growing mixtures of flowering plants all summer while quite a few have been sown more recently. Often the planting has been done in strips growing alongside traditional arable crops. The pictures below have been taken from public paths or bridleways on different farms and estates across the Rockingham Forest area. So what's going on? Why are farmers planting wild flowers instead of conventional crops?
We think that landowners are taking advantage of substantial government funding that is now available under the Countryside Stewardship scheme. It is possible to be paid £768 per hectare for planting a wild bird seed mixture during spring or summer. The flowering plants benefit insects including bumblebees, solitary bees, butterflies and hoverflies. Then in autumn and winter the small seeds provide important food resources for farmland birds. We've already seem sizeable blocks of Goldfinches and Linnets taking advantage of some of these fields. Details of the scheme are on the government's website here. Well worth a read!
Another similar scheme rejoices in the name "Autumn sown bumblebird mix"! Details here.
On a field above Duddington and overlooking the Welland Valley this bird-food mix includes Dwarf Sunflowers
Another strip of wild-bird mix that many people will have seen. This is beside the Jurassic Way as you leave Top Lodge, Fineshade. Look out for flocks of finches here as the winter closes in
There's Millet in this mix on the Bulwick Estate. The field has been sown like this regularly over recent years
There are similar strips sown with Wild Bird mix on the Deene Estate. This strip has loads of Teasel and Wild Fennel seed