Saving England's most threatened species from extinction

Roots of Rockingham

Restoring life between the trees

The Rockingham Forest network has
woodland sites
Chequered Skipper extinct since
in England
of woodland butterfly and plant species have declined

What is the habitat for Roots of Rockingham?

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 will bring back Rockingham Forest’s species

This Back from the Brink project, led by Butterfly Conservation, will restore and manage a network of woodland sites across the Rockingham Forest area, creating more habitat in which vulnerable species can thrive. We will introduce more diversity in the woodlands, increasing the complexity of the forest structure and creating more open space and habitat niches, such as dead wood. We will involve local people, helping them to get closer to the extraordinary wildlife of the forest, and working with volunteers to manage and monitor it.

Once enough suitable habitat is available, we will reintroduce the Chequered Skipper Butterfly, extinct in England since 1976. We will monitor the effects of all this work, and best practice advice will be disseminated to woodland managers to ensure the forest remains healthy.

What we’re aiming for

By the end of the project, we aim to have restored and managed this network of sites, ensuring the recovery and viability of the forest and the species that depend on it. We also want to see the Chequered Skipper on the wing in England again.

We want everyone to be able to discover and enjoy these precious woodlands and find a way to connect, help and protect the species going forward. Members of the public of all ages are invited to join us to spread the word about our species and discover ways they can promote the conservation of important woodland habitats and species.

Opportunities to survey species are available for experienced and novice volunteers alike. Guided walks and training sessions give people the specialist skills they need to monitor and conserve these species. Friendly networks of highly skilled, expert volunteers support one another and newcomers to the project.

We want people to feel empowered to monitor, protect and share experiences of butterflies including the Chequered Skipper, moths, reptiles like our Adders, birds, plants and other wildlife. In addition to survey and habitat management work parties, creative events enable people to explore their connection with nature and to express and share conservation messages in a variety of ways.

The next generation are the woodland stewards of the future, so we want to work with as many schools and educational groups as possible to help young people discover, enjoy and stand up for woodland habitats.

We are delivering school workshops to KS2 primary classes, home education groups of a range of ages. We are also promoting conservation career opportunities to young people and providing specialist project management talks to further and higher education organisations upon request.

How to get involved

Can you help us by getting involved with surveys, or with the management for Rockingham Forest? Find out more at our talks, walks and free events.

If you know of a school or community group that would benefit from connecting with our project, please get in touch. Do you have an idea for a fun, engaging event that could help a new audience connect with nature? we are always keen to hear new ideas!

You can get the latest news, and find out about upcoming events, by following the links below or email

Project contacts

Susannah O’Riordan

Project Officer
01780 444067

Liz Morrison

Community Engagement Officer
01780 444067

Project timeline

August/September 2017

Habitat quality assessments for chequered skipper reintroduction at primary woodland sites

Winter 2017

Woodland ride widening and management begins

March 2018

First training sessions for volunteers on how to survey and monitor key target species – butterflies, bats, reptiles, birds and plants

May/June 2018

Reintroduction of chequered skipper at first woodland site (weather permitting!)

Spring 2018

School eduction workshops begin, to engage the next generation with the plight of woodland species living in the Rockingham Forest

Spring 2019

Monitoring the first emerged Chequered Skipper butterflies to fly in the Rockingham Forest in over 40 years

Summer 2019

A program of species themed events launched to connect people with nature. From guided walks , to family days, photography courses to fanzine creation workshops, there's something for everyone

Autumn 2019

Concluding the second year of Adder monitoring by volunteers in and around key woodlands in the Rockingham Forest landscape to safeguard a regionally important population

Winter 2019-20

Launch of the final year of engagement, training, information dissemination and celebration events to inspire people to connect with nature and get involved with elements of the project's mission

Spring 2020

The third and final Chequered Skipper reintroduction to take place alongside the monitoring of newly establishing population of butterflies emerging as a result of 2 previous introductions

May 2020

The final landowner workshop will take place to share the knowledge gained form the project with woodland managers and stewards

Summer 2020

The final year of volunteer led Adder monitoring to continue, particularly focussing on walkover surveys of foraging areas now winter hibernation sites have been identified

August 2020

Roots of Rockingham Woodland Celebration Festival taking place in Fineshade Woods to share and celebrate the project’s amazing achievements with members of the public

November 2020

Roots of Rockingham Woodland Conference at University of Northampton’s Town Square will bring together volunteers, professionals, academics, to share lessons. Calling to stakeholders across sectors to take forward the safeguarding of priority species in the Rockingham Forest landscape

Winter 2020-21

The fifth and final winter of woodland ride management completed with future management operations being built into landowners’ 10-year habitat management plans

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Bringing them Back From The Brink

We are working with some of the most endangered species in England. With your help we can do even more to save them.

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