Top Lodge (2006-2008)
19 Nov 2008
Top Lodge at Fineshade Woods is an exciting, innovative project designed to celebrate the cultural heritage of Rockingham Forest and deliver a high quality, sustainable green infrastructure asset for the people of Corby, north Northamptonshire and further afield. Covering 208 square miles of undulating ground in north Northamptonshire, the Forest has at its centre Grade II listed farm buildings completed in 1771, and the ancient woodland of Fineshade Woods.
The project has four overlapping dimensions:
1. Environmental Education and Lifelong Learning:
This will provide a major new learning centre incorporating a joint Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and Forestry Commission field teaching programme that will deliver national curriculum targeted programmes to local school and college students. An adult education centre will also be available for local businesses for training and other uses. This is to be coupled with the successful Red Kites @ Rockingham Project hosted from Top Lodge, which looks to bring back the majestic Red Kites to the area. These themes will be linked together through the practice and demonstration of rural crafts which will also support the following dimension of the project;
2. Rural Crafts and Rural Products:
The project will provide a centre of excellence for the showcasing of local crafts and craftspeople with:-
- A new rural craft marketplace in the courtyard at Top Lodge, making productive use of the old cattle stalls for a co-operative retail outlet.
- A suite of workshops.
- A rural café in the main barn. This will be an exemplar local food café, linked to local farms with seasonal wholefoods on the menu.
3. Access to the countryside and healthy living:
A new family cycle route, 2.5 mile all-ability path and a longer distance walking trail, are to be created to complement the existing horse-riding facilities and Dales Wood walking trail. Walking and cycling will be key attributes of the centre drawing visitors from the wider community. A new structure celebrating green oak will cross the landscape feature within the wood known as the ‘Gullet’. New public toilets are also to be constructed.
4. Conservation and enhancement of archaeological and ecological assets in Rockingham Forest:
The project will provide the next step to interpret and promote the Forestry Commission’s nationally important Ancient Woodland project and the Red Kite Re-introduction project, both based here. The archaeology of the forest will also be celebrated with careful restoration of parts of the ancient woodbank and coppice system. The coppice system will supply traditional products for charcoal burning, and will provide the woodchip to power the modern and sustainable woodchip heating system installed in the summer of 2005. The project will create a sense of place for the new communities growing up within the boundaries of the Forest, notably around Kettering and Corby.
The site is proving to be a very popular visitor destination, and numbers are expected to grow over the next few years. Further improvements to the site have been triggered by the initial project, including the creation of a bird garden by the RSPB, and the local village community have taken over an area of ancient orchard. The adjoining Caravan Park is full and the woodland has many walkers enjoying spectacular views of the red kites.