Corby's Urban Woodlands
A major part of the Our Woods festival was an invitation for local people to discover, explore and celebrate the rich heritage of Corby’s urban woodlands and royal forests stretching back to pre-Roman Britain through to the present.
The project examined the past, using it as a tool to inform and understand the present, creating interest and momentum within the local community. Our aim was - and continues to be - for this rich heritage to be more highly valued, more frequently used, and better maintained for the future.
The strength of the project revolved around the involvement of local experts with in-depth knowledge of this heritage. Together, they worked with local people, informing them about the rich natural landscape around them, collaborating with them to draw out and document their developing understanding of this unique heritage.
Central to this process was Ben Waddington, whose company, “StillWalking” (https://twitter.com/stillwalkers), aims to engage the world through walking. Ben’s approach was the perfect vehicle, not only for helping our local experts evolve their own methodologies, but also ensuring a coherent and consistent design to the activities.
Our local experts were:
- Peter Hill has an amazing breadth and depth of knowledge about the ancient Rockingham Forest within which Corby sits
- Jeff Best has extensive knowledge about Kings Wood (managed by the Wildlife Trust) in Corby, its heritage and history, how to manage the woodland, and about the flora, fauna and arboriculture
- Ian Wilson works for the Wildlife Trust and manages Kings Wood
- John Haughton is an active volunteer within Kings Wood and an expert on local fungi
- Jo Blake Cave is Northamptonshire’s most talented and experienced storyteller with an in-depth understanding of the county and its local tales.
The activities these experts ran gave people a new appreciation of these woodlands, through both heritage and natural heritage, a better understanding of how and why the woods are managed in the way they are, combining to inspire the people of Corby to experience, celebrate, take ownership and explore their woodlands on a regular basis.
The woodlands covered by our project were:
• Kings Wood
• Hazel Wood and Thoroughsale Woods
• Rockingham Castle Woods
They are all a striking part of Corby’s historic natural heritage and of national significance. We explored this in the context of Rockingham Forest (within which Corby itself is situated), itself a royal hunting forest, and Rockingham Castle, nestling on the edge of Corby town. Together they form part of a rich and varied landscape that includes farmland, open pasture, villages built from local stone, interesting and unique fauna and flora.
Corby is well-known through its steel industry and the diaspora communities (e.g. Glaswegian, in particular) that have migrated to the area. With the demise of that heritage there is a need to support local people in connecting with a more ancient and pervasive heritage not only pre-dating the industrial era, but also remaining in place today and which needs to be maintained for all to enjoy in the future.
Corby Borough Council is actively regenerating the area and there are plans to increase the population of Corby by 100% over the next 30 years. Over the last 20 years it has had the highest new house sales in the whole of the UK. Consequently, there will be waves of new people arriving and an increasingly diverse population at that. This increases the urgency for our project, not just in terms of the activities and events we will deliver, but also the legacies left behind and the impact on an expanding community.