The Old Railway Line
The disused railway around the north of the village is a designated Local Wildlife Site (LWS), and is partly leased to the Parish Council as the 'Willow Walk' pocket park, and partly privately owned. Footpaths have been cut and cleared in the accessible areas of both the cutting and embankment sections, providing a continuous walk from Wood Lane to the Park Street bridge and beyond. Recent management work from the Wildlife Trust, has cleared scrub from the embankment section to the bridge, to improve the environment for insects, chalk downland plants and for slow worms, adders and other reptiles.
We will be continuing to clear trees from the cutting near to Wood Lane, by kind permission of the landowner F&A George Ltd, and maintaining the rest of the line for access and wildlife.
At the top of Oak Lane is an area of land, which currently belongs to Persimmon, but which we hope will be formally made available to the community during 2017. In this respect we will be looking to clear litter and control the hawthorn scrub, to encourage the natural flora to flourish. Regular use by villagers will help to protect this area as an amenity, and proper plans can then be made for its future.
Maltings Green, behind the village hall, is our only true area of common land. In this case, this means that it is not owned by anyone and so cannot be sold, and is protected by the Kings Cliffe Parish Council for use by the village. It hosts a remarkable variety of potential habitats in a small area including woodland, meadow, river and stream, pond and bog, but by the end of 2014 much of this had become overgrown and scrubbed out with brambles and nettles. The original stream had long since disappeared below the scrub and the spring-fed pond had turned into a bog.
Since 2015, we have cleared a lot of the overgrown area, recut the stream and pond, constructed a wildlife hotel, planted spring bulbs, and sown meadow flowers. With this work complete we will be continuing to maintain and monitor the site with a view to planning further improvements.
The Village Field
This 10 acre farm field came to the Parish Council a couple of years ago, and in 2014 it was decided to turn it into a village amenity area by sowing it with grass and keeping it mown. In early 2015 before the work had commenced, the Parish Council agreed to allow around a quarter of the field to be turned into a wildlife corridor running between the disused railway cutting and the Millennium Wood (a Woodland Trust site). This involved around 150 villagers in planting some 400 trees, and sowing an acre of seed.
An access gate was also constructed between Millennium Wood and the field, encouraging use of both sites.
After further seeding in spring 2016, the new meadow was cut and raked by the village with scythes and traditional haymaking tools and this work will now become a regular annual event in July or August each year.
Past the Church, on the right, lies the Horsewater, which was used in earlier times for resting farm horses after their day's work, and allowing them a good drink. It is fed by a natural spring which runs under the fields from the A47, and emerges under a curious 'fossil' stone at the northern end of the pond. Water then flows out of the opposite end into the Willowbrook.
This had been left unmanaged for a number of years, and had become seriously overgrown and in danger of completely clogging up. However, between 2014 and 2015, the Old Blokes in the village arranged for it to be cleared by the Trust of Conservation Volunteers (TCV), and subsequently Wildplaces has taken on the routine management of the pond. Although the flow has returned, the water is still plagued by blanket weed - likely a result of the nutrients which the spring picks up as it runs underneath a number of farm fields. This is cleared periodically, but it does however return fairly quickly. It is hoped that by removing more of the reeds from the margins, and encouraging more oxygenating plants, this weed may be controlled. Some of the surrounding vegetation has been cleared, and we may be planting some natural climbers and spring bulbs on the banks this year.
Kings Cliffe Active
Kings Cliffe Active is the sports ground in the North of the village, which offers a multitude of activities including football and tennis over a 10 acre site. Wildplaces has been asked to advise on developing the wildlife aspects of the site, and with a new management regime now in place it is hoped that it will become a valuable site for biodiversity in the village. As a part of this work, we will be managing the ponds on site to encourage more birds, insects, and water based invertebrates to set up home there.
While we are not directly involved in the general maintenance of statutory public footpaths (stiles, bridges etc.), we are active in keeping scrub under control to ensure that the paths are kept open and useable. If paths become blocked, we can respond quickly to remove fallen trees etc. and restore access.
There are many other sites, in the village and nearby, which are definitely worth exploring. These include:
- Kings Cliffe meadow - Local Nature Reserve
- Kings Cliffe banks - SSSI
- Easton Hornstocks
- Colleyweston Great Wood - SSSI
- Bedford Purlieus - SSSI
- Old Sulehay Forest
- Fineshade and Wakerley woods
- Wansford Pasture
One of our primary aims is to encourage villagers to use their local natural environment for education, recreation, health or simply the pleasure of being close to nature! We arrange regular guided walks, to introduce people and especially children to our wild places, and to discover the wildlife which lives here with us. These are free to everyone, and only cover a couple of miles over a couple of hours, depending on how many stops we make. We provide spotter sheets for ticking off the various species we find, and because our walks are all based around the village, it is easy to pop off home early if you need to, or retire to the pub or club at the end!
A lovely way to meet others from the community, get some much needed fresh air, exercise and relaxation, and learn about our rich environment as well.