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Nene Valley

The project area encompasses both the flood plain and valley sides of the Nene, from Weedon to the County boundary at Wansford and beyond into Peterborough. The low-lying grasslands, with extensive ditches and marsh areas, would have been common in the past but have gradually been lost to mineral extraction and agricultural intensification, so that very few flower-rich grasslands now survive. Water-filled gravel pits are a dominant feature of the valley and many have recently been acknowledged to be of international importance for birds and wetland habitats.

Working within the The Nene Valley the Trust aims to create a regionally-important community and biodiversity resource, providing a major component of the much needed Green Infrastructure for the area. The Wildlife Trust is working with the Environment Agency, Natural England and other land managers to enhance wetland habitats through habitat creation and reconnection of the river with its floodplain. Habitat creation will focus on wet and marshy grasslands and wet woodlands whilst existing open water habitats will be enhanced.

The Wildlife Trust manages 12 nature reserves in this area, in both urban and rural locations and will take the lead on large-scale habitat creation by expanding from our reserves at Wellingborough, Rushden and Thrapston.

Summer Leys, near Wellingborough, was restored for conservation after gravel extraction and is one of the top bird watching sites in the region. Work with the River Nene Regional Park and local landowners should enable expansion of the reserve and enhancement to surrounding areas over the next few years. Ditchford Lakes and Meadows and Wilson’s Pits near Rushden cover over 60ha of gravel pit and grassland. Work with landowners local authorities and developers will seek to provide access and biodiversity links from Wellingborough with Stanwick Lakes, building from these existing reserves. Titchmarsh is one of the Trust’s oldest nature reserves and at 72 hectares supports large numbers of wintering birds and the largest heron colony in the county. Opportunities for reserve expansion and floodplain-wide management are being explored.

Northamptonshire Limestone

Oolitic limestone geology lies close to the ground surface in north Northamptonshire and where it is exposed, naturally or through mineral extraction, it supports some fine calcareous grassland. Many of the wild flowers present are rare in this county and include dyer’s greenweed, wild thyme and viper’s bugloss. Habitat enhancement opportunities are associated with old quarries and ironstone gullets, where bare ground favours heat-loving invertebrates such as the bombardier beetle and grizzled skipper butterfly.

Local community, businesses, Natural England and the County Council have assisted the Wildlife Trust to purchase Old Sulehay Forest in 2001 and Ring Haw in 2002. Old Sulehay Nature Reserve is made up of a mosaic of limestone quarries, grassland, woodland and wetland habitats covering over 85 ha. 12 ha of ex-arable land, on Sammock’s Hill, is being transformed back to its original limestone grassland and should provide a local seed-source for future restoration projects in the area.

Beyond the reserve boundaries the Wildlife Trust is working with landowners and local authorities to identify important limestone grassland areas and promote sympathetic management and habitat creation.

Daventry Acid Grasslands

The Wildlife Trust is working with Natural England, The Grasslands Trust, district councils and local landowners to restore and reconnect ancient grasslands and woodlands in areas where underlying sandy soils can support acid loving species. Desktop mapping and habitat survey work has identified areas where there is the greatest possibility of recreating these lost habitats. Survey work completed in the summer of 2006 focussed on permanent pasture as well as arable areas as it appears that these areas still support some acid grassland species and may offer improved habitat creation potential.

Major opportunities for acid grassland and heathland creation lie between the Dallington and Harlestone area at the northern edge of Northampton. Although much of this area has been planted with conifers, periodic felling of these trees has shown that important plant and animal species still survive within cleared areas. With the intended growth of Northampton town, these areas will become increasingly important “green lungs” to local people and the Wildlife Trust will work with the local authority and developers to ensure the most is made of these opportunities.

Boulder Clay Woodlands

Large concentrations of ancient woodlands in Northamptonshire are associated with fragments of the ancient royal hunting forests of Rockingham and Yardley-Whittlewood, extending from Wansford to Kettering and from Brackley to Bozeat respectively.

The Wildlife Trust is working with the Forestry Commission, local authorities, landowners and the River Nene Regional Park initiative to build up-to-date information on the state of these woodlands and identify opportunities for woodland creation through natural succession. The Forestry Commission is leading an ancient woodland project, which seeks to restore planted ancient woodland sites through gradual removal of plantations overlying ancient sites.

The Wildlife Trust manages three important woodlands within the Rockingham Forest which are relatively close together. Covering 76 hectares in total these three woodlands are separated by as little as 300 metres and so opportunities for woodland linkage are clear. Glapthorn Cow Pastures and Short Wood are SSSIs and contain ancient woodland and scrub habitats supporting violet helleborine, black hairstreak and nightingale. Southwick Wood is a Local Wildlife Site within which extensive felling of elm took place but which still supports ancient woodland fragments with wood melick and butterfly orchid.

In October 2007 The Wildlife Trust completed the first step in linking these woodlands together by acquiring the freehold of Southwick Wood and the arable field linking this site to Short wood. Restoration of the field started in 2008 and the Trust continues to discuss opportunities for linkage and buffering of these woods with landowners and aim to promote natural regeneration of woodland and ride-side habitats.

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