National Character Area 92

Rockingham Forest - Key Facts & Data

Landscape and nature conservation designations section contains a map

Note that numbers and figures in the body of the text are based on the 2014 profiles, unless otherwise stated. The maps contain live frequently updated datasets.

There are no National Parks or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in this NCA (Natural England, 2011).

Designated nature conservation sites

The NCA includes the following statutory nature conservation designations (Natural England, Special Protection Areas; Special Area of Conservation; Ramsars; National Nature Reserves; Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Local Nature Reserves, 2021):

Please note: (i) Designated areas may overlap (ii) all figures are cut to Mean High Water Line, designations that span coastal/marine areas below this line will not be included.

Condition of designated sites
All designated sites within England are covered by Sites of Scientific Interest (SSSI) units. The condition to these SSSI units within the NCA are as follows (Natural England, Sites of Special Scientific Interest Units, 2021):



Landscape and nature conservation designations map for NCA92

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Landform, geology and soils section contains a map

Note that numbers and figures in the body of the text are based on the 2014 profiles, unless otherwise stated. The maps contain live frequently updated datasets.

Elevation

The NCA is a lowland area. The lowest parts of the county (below 10m Ordnance Datum) are situated along the base of the Nene Valley where the river runs through the parishes of Yarwell, Nassington and Fotheringhay close to the border with Cambridgeshire. The glacial clay plateau of Rockingham Forest NCA is a maximum of around 130m in height (Natural England, 2010).

Landform and process

Rivers have cut into the glacial clay plateau to form the valley of the River Nene to the east and the River Welland to the west, both of which contain river sands and gravels. The area is defined in the north-west by a steep scarp slope which overlooks the Welland valley and decreases to much more gentle landforms around the northern edge of the Soke of Peterborough. To the south-east it is bordered by the Nene valley and, to the east, by the urban edge of Peterborough. In the south-west it ends against the open clay vales of Northampton and the town of Kettering (Rockingham Forest Countryside Character Area Description).

Bedrock geology

The scarp and ridge which forms the Rockingham Forest area is mainly Jurassic limestone of the Great Oolite, including Blisworth Limestone and Cornbrash. Along the river valleys, the Lincolnshire Limestone and Northampton Sand of the Inferior Oolite are exposed or near the surface. The Northamptonshire Sand contains substantial deposits of ironstone (Rockingham Forest Countryside Character Area Description; Rockingham Forest Natural Area Profile).

Superficial deposits

The plateau (and highest point) of NCA is capped by glacial boulder clay. To the north the land slopes into lower ground where the Jurassic limestones are exposed and river gravels are present towards Peterborough and the Nene valley (Rockingham Forest Countryside Character Area Description; Rockingham Forest Natural Area Profile).

Designated geological sites

The NCA includes the following geological sites (Natural England, Geological and Mixed Sites of Special Scientific Interest, 2021):

wdt_IDNCA_IDNAMENCAAreaHaInterest typeArea (ha) 2021Percent of NCA (2021)Count
2361NORTH NORTHUMBERLAND COASTAL PLAIN37,669.6Geological6.80.01
2371NORTH NORTHUMBERLAND COASTAL PLAIN37,669.6Mixed1,029.52.75
2382NORTHUMBERLAND SANDSTONE HILLS72,694.6Geological45.40.14
2393CHEVIOT FRINGE51,591.3Geological17.10.02
2404CHEVIOTS36,487.9Geological165.00.52
2414CHEVIOTS36,487.9Mixed3,488.99.61
2425BORDER MOORS AND FORESTS127,155.9Geological85.70.18
2435BORDER MOORS AND FORESTS127,155.9Mixed35.80.01
2446SOLWAY BASIN98,350.4Geological7.20.02
2456SOLWAY BASIN98,350.4Mixed5,569.25.74

Soils and Agriculture Classification

There are 7 main soilscape types in this NCA; lime-rich loamy and clayey soils with impeded drainage, covering 28 per cent of the NCA, slowly permeable seasonally wet slightly acid but base-rich loamy and clayey soils (23 per cent), shallow lime rich soils over limestone (19 per cent), freely draining lime-rich loamy soils (10 per cent), restored soils mostly from mineral operations (8 per cent), freely draining slightly acid but base-rich soils (7 per cent), and slightly acid loamy and clayey soils with impeded drainage (4 per cent). The lime-rich loamy and clayey soils with impeded drainage (28 per cent) are calcareous soils with some natural resilience and enhanced workability. These soils are at risk of topsoil compaction and poaching requiring careful management of weak top-soils to maintain good soil structure, including through minimum tillage and addition of organic matter. The slowly permeable seasonally wet slightly acid but base-rich loamy and clayey soils (23 per cent) may also suffer compaction and/or capping as they are easily damaged when wet. In turn, this may lead to increasingly poor water infiltration and diffuse pollution as a result of surface water run-off. The shallow lime-rich soils over limestone (19 per cent) are typically shallow and droughty while the freely draining lime-rich loamy soils (10 per cent) are typically of moderate depth and droughty. Both soils have a degree of natural resilience due to their calcareous nature and can be valuable for aquifer recharge, requiring the maintenance of good soil structure to aid water infiltration (aided by enhanced organic matter levels) and the matching of nutrients to need to prevent groundwater pollution (Natural England, 2010, National Soils Research Institute Soilscape maps).

The main grades of agricultural land in the NCA are broken down as follows (as a proportion of total land area) (Natural England, Provisional Agricultural Land Classification, 2019):


Landform, geology and soils map for NCA92

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Key waterbodies and catchments section contains a map

Note that numbers and figures in the body of the text are based on the 2014 profiles, unless otherwise stated. The maps contain live frequently updated datasets.

Major rivers/canals

The following major rivers/canals (by length) have been identified in this NCA (Natural England, data informing the 2014 National Character Area Profiles, 2010):

wdt_IDREF_CODENAME_1NameLength (km)SumOfShape_Length
11NORTH NORTHUMBERLAND COASTAL PLAINRiver Aln7.67,587.2
21NORTH NORTHUMBERLAND COASTAL PLAINRiver Coquet5.55,516.0
31NORTH NORTHUMBERLAND COASTAL PLAINWhiteadder Water2.92,904.9
410NORTH PENNINESBlack Burn11.911,853.4
510NORTH PENNINESCroglin Water10.010,042.3
610NORTH PENNINESCrowdundle Beck4.34,337.4
710NORTH PENNINESDevil's Water20.520,464.6
810NORTH PENNINESHarwood Beck9.79,740.2
910NORTH PENNINESRiver Allen4.94,889.0
1010NORTH PENNINESRiver Derwent15.315,268.4

Please note: other significant rivers (by volume) may also occur. Tidal stretches of rivers are not included, which may include some major rivers.

The River Nene forms part of the upper Nene Gravel Pits SPA, and forms the east and south boundary of the NCA. Only a short section of the river passes through the NCA. The River Ise and Harper’s Brook cross the southern part of the NCA and join the Nene in the Northamptonshire Vales NCA. The River Welland forms the west and north boundary of the NCA. Both the Welland and the Nene pass across the Fens and into the Nowh, which is designated SPA, Ramsar and SAC. The River Nene flows through the Nene Nowhes SPA, SAC and Ramsar into the Nowh. Willow Brook, arising near the steep north-west escarpment, winds across the area to the Nene, to which shallow streams also flow within the Soke of Peterborough.

Water quality

Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs) are areas designated as being at risk from agricultural nitrate pollution. These can impact surface water (waterbodies and waterways located above ground) and groundwater (water bodies and waterways located below ground).

Waterbodies such as lakes can also be designated as “eutrophic waters” if the enrichment of the waterbody by nitrate pollution causes accelerated growth of algae, impacting the quality of the water and the balance of organisms within it.

The following NVZs are located within the NCA (Environment Agency, Nitrate Vulnerable Zones Designations, 2021):

Water framework directive

River basin management plans cover river basin districts and describe the challenges that threaten the water environment and how these challenges can be managed and funded. The plans include the classification of water quality of surface waters and ground waters.



Click on the Water Framework Directive layers on the below map to view the corresponding river names.

Key waterbodies and catchments map for NCA92

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Trees and woodlands section contains a map

Note that numbers and figures in the body of the text are based on the 2014 profiles, unless otherwise stated. The maps contain live frequently updated datasets.

Total woodland cover

Ancient woodland is any area that has been wooded continuously since at least 1600 AD. National Forest Inventory (NFI) woodland includes all forests and woodlands (0.5 hectares and over). The total woodland cover within the NCA is as follows (Natural England, Ancient Woodland, 2021; Forestry Commission, National Forest Inventory, 2020):

Distribution and size of woodland and trees in the landscape

Extensive areas of ancient woodland are a strong unifying characteristic of this NCA. The highest points of the NCA are capped by glacial till and it is here that the surviving ancient woodlands lie, emphasising the relief. Extensive woodlands like Wakerley, Geddington Chase and Fermyn are prominent features on the skyline. Many of these woodlands are of high nature conservation interest and are attractive landscape features in their own right. They were formerly extensively coppiced and small-leaved lime is a particular feature of the eastern woods. Large woodlands are located on higher ground.

Apart from the woodlands, the main tree cover comes from the frequent large historic parks like Rockingham, Deene, Drayton and Boughton. Large mature landscape parks and country houses are also present. In the valleyfloors trees line the watercourses. The crest of the ridge above the Welland valley is almost continuously lined with woodland (Rockingham Forest Natural Area Profile; Rockingham Forest Countryside Character Area Description).

Woodland types

A statistical breakdown of the area and type of woodland found across the NCA is detailed below (Forestry Commission, National Forest Inventory, 2020):

Area and proportion of ancient woodland and planted ancient woodland sites (PAWS) within the NCA (Natural England, Ancient Woodland, 2021):


Trees and woodlands map for NCA92

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Boundary features and patterns

Note that numbers and figures in the body of the text are based on the 2014 profiles, unless otherwise stated.

Boundary features

Large arable fields between the woodlands generally have low hedgerows and intermittent trees, localised in distribution, with willow pollards along stream sides and wetter areas. There are also some more enclosed areas of pasture with a better hedgerow structure, particularly in the valleys, as well as areas with drystone walls. The Soke of Peterborough has many low hedgerows and wide horizons and areas with drystone wall. Settlements are surrounded by small pasture fields, more robust hedgerows and occasional stone walls. Locally prominent stone walls face dereliction or have been inappropriately restored. As of March 2011 Environmental Stewardship schemes were supporting the management of 946 km of hedgerow and 7 km of drystone wall within this NCA (Rockingham Forest Countryside Character Area description; Countryside Quality Counts, 2003).

Field patterns

The period since the 1970s has seen an increase in arable cultivation, with corresponding removal of hedgerows and hedgerow trees giving the open agricultural land an abrupt contrast with the woodland. Hedgerow removal and neglect has changed the field patterns and is having a significant effect on landscape character. This is compounded by the loss of hedgerow trees. Between the Forest and the Soke of Peterborough there are both hedgerows and drystone walls and the rectilinear pattern of parliamentary enclosure is very obvious (Rockingham Forest Countryside Character Area description; Countryside Quality Counts, 2003).

Agriculture section contains a map

Note that numbers and figures in the body of the text are based on the 2014 profiles, unless otherwise stated. The maps contain live frequently updated datasets.

The following tables provide the most recently available statistics from Defra on agriculture within the NCA.

Farm type

The following farm types are located within this NCA (Defra, Structure of the agricultural industry in England and the UK at June, 2016):

Farm size

The following table outlines the sizes of farms within the NCA (Defra, Structure of the agricultural industry in England and the UK at June, 2021):

Farm ownership

The following table outlines the ownership of farms within the NCA (Defra, Structure of the agricultural industry in England and the UK at June, 2016):

Land use

The following table outlines the types of agricultural land use within the NCA (Defra, Structure of the agricultural industry in England and the UK at June, 2016):

Livestock numbers

The following livestock are farmed within the NCA (Defra, Structure of the agricultural industry in England and the UK at June, 2021):

Farm labour

The following table outlines the types of farm labour within the NCA (Defra, Structure of the agricultural industry in England and the UK at June, 2021):

Please note: (i) Some of the Census data are estimated by Defra so may not present a precise assessment of agriculture within this area (ii) Data refers to commercial holdings only (iii) Data includes land outside of the NCA where it belongs to holdings whose centre point is recorded as being within the NCA.



Note that the below map only shows agri-environment scheme coverage, and not other schemes.

Agriculture map for NCA92

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Key habitats and species section contains a map

Note that numbers and figures in the body of the text are based on the 2014 profiles, unless otherwise stated. The maps contain live frequently updated datasets.

Habitat distribution/coverage

Ancient semi-natural broadleaved woodland is the major habitat resource of the NCA, and is well represented throughout the area. Most of the woods stand on poorly drained calcareous clays and their characteristic tree and shrub species are ash, pedunculate oak, field maple, hazel, hawthorn, midland hawthorn and wild service tree with local concentrations of wych elm, small-leaved lime and English elm. Pockets of acid sands occur locally, where the woodland supports sessile oak, small-leaved lime, silver birch and hazel. Unimproved calcareous grassland is found on quarries, some of which were abandoned in the medieval period such as Barnack Hills and Holes (Rockingham Forest Natural Area Profile).

Key Habitats

The NCA contains the following areas of key main habitats, as mapped by the national Priority Habitat Inventory (Natural England, Priority Habitats Inventory, 2021):






Key habitats and species map for NCA92

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Settlement and development patterns section contains a map

Note that numbers and figures in the body of the text are based on the 2014 profiles, unless otherwise stated. The maps contain live frequently updated datasets.

Settlement patterns

A distinctive characteristic of the area is stone-built, nucleated villages. Settlements generally lie off the boulder clay, along the valleys and are surrounded by small pasture fields, with robust hedgerows and occasional stone walls. They are served by minor country roads with the typical wide verges of the enclosure period, which often follow circuitous routes so that many areas are very remote and deeply rural. To the north of the NCA there are isolated farmsteads. There is a sharp transition between the countryside and the main towns of Kettering, Corby and Peterborough (which lies just outside the area) which have developed rapidly in recent years. The edge of Peterborough is well-integrated with substantial new woodlands and extensive new town planting. The principal small towns, like Oundle and Kettering lie in the valleys at the edge of the forest. At the edges of the area the village character is more influenced by high density post-war housing. Lesser towns and ancient market areas like Kings Cliffe and Brigstock lie nearer the centre. Royal and private parks formed the basis of post-medieval landscape parks and the settings of country houses. The towns of Corby, Kettering and Peterborough have extensive areas of 19th and early 20th century brick buildings with large modern industrial buildings and out-of-town shopping development on their outskirts. The area contains many outstanding country houses including Rockingham Castle, Deene Hall, Milton, Drayton, Apethorpe and Boughton (Rockingham Forest Countryside Character Area description; Countryside Quality Counts, 2003).

Main settlements

The main settlements are Kettering and Corby. The total estimated population for this NCA (derived from ONS 2001 census data) is: 144,640 (Office for National Statistics census data 2001 Countryside Character Area description; Countryside Quality Counts, 2003, Natural England, 2012).

Local vernacular and building materials

The predominant building material of the 19th and early 20th century buildings is brick, usually red, with Welsh slate roofs. There are some timber-framed buildings of medieval to 17th century date. Sandstone Now used for some of the more important buildings, particularly churches. Furnace slag Now used locally as a material for walls (Rockingham Forest Countryside Character Area description; Countryside Quality Counts, 2003).

Settlement and development patterns map for NCA92

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Key historic sites and features section contains a map

Note that numbers and figures in the body of the text are based on the 2014 profiles, unless otherwise stated. The maps contain live frequently updated datasets.

Origin of historic features

There is a lack of upstanding monuments in the county of Northamptonshire as a result (almost exclusively) of the many centuries of intense agricultural activity which has seen monuments being ploughed out. There are 50 scheduled monuments, from Roman villa sites, for example at Little Weldon, through the Cistercian abbey and medieval settlement at Pipewell, to the Elizabethan warreners’ lodge and rabbit warren at Rushton Triangular Lodge. Monastic buildings from the middle ages have been lost. There are 11 Registered Parks and Gardens in the NCA, many of which have outstanding country houses, including Rockingham Castle, Deene Hall, Milton, Drayton, Apethorpe and Boughton, with imposing fabric ranging from the 16th to the 19th centuries. More recent monuments include memorials at Second World War airfields and gullets produced by iron workings (Draft Historic Profile, Countryside Quality Counts Countryside Character Area description).

Designated historic assets

The NCA includes the following designated historic assets (Historic England, National Heritage List for England, 2021):

Listed buildings

The NCA includes the following listed buildings (Historic England, National Heritage List for England, 2021):

Heritage at Risk Register

The NCA includes the following designated historic assets listed within the Heritage at Risk Register (Historic England, Heritage at Risk Register, 2023):



Key historic sites and features map for NCA92

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Recreation and access section contains a map

Note that numbers and figures in the body of the text are based on the 2014 profiles, unless otherwise stated. The maps contain live frequently updated datasets.

Public access

The following areas of public access for recreation are located within this NCA (Natural England, 2021; National Trust, 2021):


Please note: Public access areas may overlap.

The following linear routes or public access for recreation are located within this NCA (Natural England, 2021; Sustrans; 2021):

Recreation and access map for NCA92

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Experiential qualities

Note that numbers and figures in the body of the text are based on the 2014 profiles, unless otherwise stated.

Tranquillity

Based on the CPRE map of tranquillity (2006) the area of this NCA with the lowest tranquillity score is to the east of Corby. The least disturbed area is to the south of Woodnewton. Areas least disturbed are in the heart of the forest between the villages of Apethorpe, Southwick and Blatherwycke.

A breakdown of tranquillity values for this NCA are detailed in the table below (CPRE, Tranquillity Map, 2006):

Dark skies

Light pollution is a generic term referring to artificial light that shines where it is neither wanted nor needed, and can impact on people’s experience of the countryside within the NCAs. CPRE host an interactive map, depicting the light pollution and dark skies within the NCA.

Intrusion

The 2007 Intrusion Map (CPRE) shows the extent to which rural landscapes are ‘intruded on’ from urban development, noise (primarily traffic noise), and other sources of visual and auditory intrusion. This shows that the area considered most disturbed is in the west of the NCA, around Corby and the Rockingham Speedway Track as well as around Kettering. Areas of undisturbed land occur mainly in the east and north of the NCA in the heart of Rockingham Forest.

A breakdown of intrusion values for this NCA is detailed in the table below (CPRE, Intrusion Map, 2007):

Notable trends from the 1960s to 2007 are that the area considered urban has increased, disturbed areas have increased by more than three quarters and the area considered undisturbed has decreased by one third.