Neglected country park under new management

A neglected nature reserve near Twywell will have some investment to prevent it from ‘being lost altogether’.

Tuesday, 30th April 2019, 5:13 pm
Updated Tuesday, 30th April 2019, 5:18 pm
The park is a former quarry site and was acquired from British Steel by the council in 1994.

Over recent years Twywell Hills and Dales Country Park has had a number of problems, including dog attacks on livestock, which led to the Wildlife Trust stopping livestock grazing the land and so it became overgrown.

The Wildlife Trust gave notice to the owners East Northamptonshire Council last September and now the authority, which has owned the former quarry site since 1994, has appointed the Land Trust to take over the management of the site with a 100 year lease.

The council is pumping in some investment to the park, which has a Site of Special Scientific Interest status, and will spend £55,000 over the next five years in improvements and another £50,000 each year to run it.

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If the authority had not made improvements it would have been at risk of losing the SSSI status. The nature reserve is a haven for butterflies and is home to three declining species, the Dingy Skipper, The Grizzle Skipper and the Small Heath.

The new management also aims to set up a friends group and re-engage with the local community. And unpopular fences put up to prevent dog attacks on livestock will also be remodelled.

East Northamptonshire Council leader Stephen North said: “I’m pleased we have found an organisation that, like us, appreciates how important Twywell Hills and Dales is to the district. We’ve had many enquiries asking about the future of the site, so after months of uncertainty, this news is very welcome.”

A council report at the end of last year said the 54 hectare park had fallen into decline. The Woodland Trust manage part of the site and have plans to restructure the woodland and improve public access.

It said there have been: “historical factors which have lead to the current situation, including lack of investment, lack of cohesive site management, existing use, the dominance of dogs, lack of community engagement and increasing visitor pressure.

“The site is well placed to act as an important area of strategic green space; it is of heritage interest and a valuable habitat and, if managed correctly, it is large enough to take on a greater number of visitors.”

A report put together by the Land Trust said dog walking activities had taken over the park.

It said: “With a decline in strategic direction, we can see the increasing dominance of dog walking as the primary use. Whilst being a perfectly reasonable use of the site in it’s own right, we can also see that such an occurrence if allowed to go unchecked runs the risk of further reducing the site’s appeal to attract a wide user demographic and thereby the ability of the site to cater for a more diverse range of communities and interests.”

The report also said that dog walkers from Kettering are also using the site which is off junction 11 of the A14, as green space in the town is at a premium.

Immediate actions will include removing broken picnic furniture and there are also plans for new signage and dog ambassadors who will enforce rules such as dogs on leads in certain areas. The new management company will also apply for lottery funding.

Chief executive of the Land Trust Euan Hall said: “We look forward to working with the local community and council to unlock the site’s vast potential and enhance their physical and mental well-being, as well as creating economic and social value.”