What is the Roots of Rockingham habitat?
Rockingham Forest covers more than 200 square miles and has long been part of the natural and cultural heritage of Northamptonshire. It was designated a hunting forest by William the Conqueror back in 1086. Much of the once-vast ancient broad-leaved forest remains, but in separate woodland patches, dotted through the arable landscape. These are wonderful places, where nationally rare plants, bats, birds, reptiles and butterflies can still be found.
Why is this habitat at risk?
Over much of Rockingham Forest, the traditional management that maintained diverse wildlife and a variety of habitats has ceased. The increasingly fragmented woodlands have been badly affected by increasing numbers of deer, which browse and nibble any new seedlings, regrowth and other vegetation. The nature of the woods is changing too as a result of climate change and nutrient enrichment from atmospheric nitrogen, caused by traffic and agricultural fertilisers.
How we aimed to help Rockingham Forest’s species
This Back from the project aimed to reverse the fortunes of 14 priority species (including butterflies & moths, bats, plants, birds & reptiles) within the nationally important Rockingham Forest landscape, and reintroduce the Chequered Skipper butterfly back to England, where it had been extinct since 1976. Conservation management was undertaken at 16 sites across the landscape in order to create a network of suitable habitat to ensure the recovery and longer-term viability of these vulnerable species. Volunteers and partners delivered incredible survey coverage for the target species, greatly increasing our knowledge of their distribution and abundance across Rockingham Forest.
So, how did we do?
The Chequered Skipper was successfully reintroduced to Rockingham Forest in 2018, with the first sighting of an English-born adult in 2019. Emergence of Chequered Skipper for three consecutive years following the reintroduction indicate that the habitat is in good condition and the butterfly can once again complete its lifecycle in its former stronghold of Rockingham Forest.
Targeted management, including 7.2km woodland ride widening and 23ha of vegetation management has resulted in the creation of more open space within woodlands, improving conditions for Lepidoptera, Adder and plants as well as providing foraging habitat for target bat and bird species. 326 amazing volunteers have contributed an incredible 806 days of volunteer time to the project. The identification, engagement, and development of a loyal group of volunteers was one of the project’s great successes and created enjoyable, rewarding experiences for local people to get involved in their local heritage.
And, not forgetting Rockingham Forest’s community - 3908 people have directly engaged with their natural heritage through the diverse array of events and activities that the project has delivered, including talks, survey training workshops, guided walks, family activities, work parties and creative workshops.
If you would like to find out more about the work that we did then check out our project report.
Back from the Brink Innovations Conference Presentation
Species Recovery and Management - Ancient Trees and Woodland