Previous Events - 2022

On April 20 Amanda Halliday of Botany Bees, Charley, gave a Talk entitled "And is there honey still for tea?". She showed us an actual hive (albeit without bees), and described the interesting biology of the Honey Bee which has effectively 3 sexes (drones, workers and the queen), together with their extraordinary behaviour whereby 100,000 individuals can effectively act as a single unit.

On 23rd March Richard Bailey gave a talk entitled "Not a field in a Farm", describing the development of Bawden Lodge Farm, Charley. His grandfather started the family business when he took up farming at Outwoods farm, and Bawden Lodge was acquired in the course of the following years. Because the prices of farm products are fixed by the market whilst suppliers to the farms do not suffer this restriction, costs are variable and incomes are not. Thus there is a need to diversify.
Richard showed slides of the developing 30 acre Bailey Wood which had been planted about 15 years ago and was centred on an oak tree. Business premises had been created from farm buildings; recently these have tended to be let to businesses promoting "life-styles". 220 Solar panels had been installed and had paid for themselves within six years. Events, including weddings, concerts and plays had been put on. Weddings often involved starting preparations at 8.00 a.m. and finishing between 2.00 and 3.00 the next morning. An old grain store has been converted into a shop cum café, and its turnover in the first four months of operation was greater than the farm’s for the previous two years. However the farm itself is still an active business.
Richard ended by warning of the dangers of isolation as a farmer. He was an ex-chairman of the local branch of the National Farmers’ Union, he is a borough councillor and was involved in the planning of the UNESCO geopark, which was the subject of our last meeting.
Thanks to Dr McNeil for this account

On February 23 Dr. Jack Matthews of Oxford University gave a talk entitled Building a UNESCO Global Geopark in Charnwood Forest". This involved describing the evolution and events of the last 4.6 Billion years, not easy to do in 45 minutes. He therefore concentrated on one outstanding fossil which was discovered by a schoolboy in 1957 which has been named Charnia, and which has been shown to be one of the oldest recorded living thing on earth recently. It looks rather like a feather.
A UNESCO Global Geopark is a single geographical area where sites and landscapes of international importance are maintained, with the aims of protection, education and sustained development. Dr Matthews is working to include Charnwood in the list of such sites. There is no intention to restrict access; the intent is to bring international recognition attention to its existence.
Thanks to Dr McNeil for this account

Previous Events - 2021

On Wednesday November 24 the Newtown Linford Bio-diversity Group gave a Talk entitled "Biodiversity in Charnwood Forest". Claire Costello began the proceedings with a summary of "what is biodiversity", and she was followed by Toby Manning who spoke about a number of wildlife sites in Charnwood Forest and each one's biodiversity. The evening concluded with Ann Scrine giving an amusing presentation on her attempts to imporove her garden's biodiversity.

On 18th October 2021 we resumed face-to-face meetings with a talk by Julie Attard on the Charnwood Forest Landscape Partnership, projects largely funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The themes for the 18 projects are focussed around helping people living in or near Charnwood Forest to Explore, Understand and Care. This follows from the quote from David Attenborough: ‘No-one will protect what they don’t care about, and no-one will care about what they have never experienced’. Funding was given the go-ahead in March 2020 with a total of £3.7million (£2.7 from the Lottery, £1M from partner organisations). After consideration about how to adapt to Covid-19 lockdown, projects are in place July 2020 to June 2025 to support the partner organisations. After that it is expected the partners and local people will continue the work.
Working in Charnwood Forest has been difficult in lockdown, with a large numbner of visitors, and stress on staff working on areas accessed by the public, such as country parks and rights of way. Julie’s team has sought to engage visitors with surprise events at popular places such as Bradgate Park Deer Barn. Protection of heavily visited sites is being improved by communication using two-way radios for rangers and volunteers, and provision of more litter picking equipment. Creative arts projects have been widespread and visible in country parks, towns and schools, for instance.
A major objective reflected in many projects is the promotion and conservation of the geological heritage, including aiming for Unesco Global Geopark status. Action has commenced to identify damage such as graffiti and limit it in future. There will also be action relating to maintenance of heritage buildings, materials as well as land and produce from the land. Support for local apple varieties and use is already under way. Several projects are giving volunteers more skills and involvement in managing landscape and wildlife. A project for natural flood management of the Washbrook and Blackbrook is aimed at alleviating floods in Loughborough as well as supporting wildlife. Finally Julie mentioned that £5,000 is at present available to be requested for local community projects.
Further information is on the National Forest and partner organisation websites.

Our last event of the 2020/21 season was again held on-line on April 19 when Simon Greenhouse spoke about the history of the National Forest.
Established in 1991 when the area had 6% tree cover, over 9 million trees have now been planted bringing the coverage up to 21%; 80% of this land has public access. Most of the land is in private ownership, the National Forest Company only owning 5% of the forested land.
The National Forest can be split into 6 areas; Charnwood (which largely, but not completely, coincides with the nascent Charnwood Regional Park), Coalfields, Melbourne Parklands, Mease Lowlands, Trent Valley and Needwood in the west. Here is a recording of Simon's talk

Our third event of 2021 was held on-line, using Zoom, on 15 March when Martyn Speight gave a Talk on the Tucker family, famous brickmakers in Loughborough during the 19th Century. It may be remembered that Martyn had previously spoken to us about Charnwood's water supply, in Autumn 2019.
Many member were surprised at the amount of information Martyn was able to glean about this family, from publicly available documents including newspaper cuttings and census records. In early Victorian times before the railway system was completed bricks were manufactured close to where they were to be used, and so the Tucker family moved to Clay Cross in Derbyshire, when it is assumed that they manufactured the bricks for the Clay Cross railway tunnel, and later on moved to Staffordshire and then France for the same reasons. Other notable buildings incorporating Tucker bricks included Loughborough Grammar School and St. Pancras Railway Station (when the original manufacturer, from Nottingham, was unable to supply). The Tuckers left a permanent legacy in Charnwood Water, which is an old clay pit to supply the adjacent brickworks which is now covered by a housing estate.

Our second event of 2021 was also held on-line, using Zoom, on 15 February. David Robinson gave a Talk entitled 'Charnwood Forest and its Visitors, 1500-1900'.
It is not just in this century that Charnwood Forest has attracted lots of visitors: it has gone on for centuries, from privileged travellers such as John Leland and William Camden through those who wanted to explore it as a picturesque and romantic landscape. By the 19th century, the Forest became accessible to many more people with the increase in leisure time and the coming of the railway, even before the arrival of the motor car. Works outings were popular in late Victorian times.

Our first event of 2021 was held on-line when Roger Willson gave a talk on "two Churches of Charnwood".
Roger firstly located the church at St Mary in the Elms in Old Woodhouse within its landscape context: adjacent to the Beamanor Estate, it retained its link with the manor house/hall and the families who lived there from the middle ages right through to the early 20th century. Medieval in origin, the church was rebuilt and restored on several occasions, first by the Beaumonts and then by the Herricks, so it can be seen as a good example of an estate church. He pointed out that the church has had several internal re-fttings through the centuries which have reflected changes in styles of worship and their requirements. This was then compared with the Parish Church of St. Paul's in Woodhouse Eaves, which although of Gothic design, actually dates from 1837. Roger explained that the foundation of the church was a consequence of its landscape context again, specifically the Charnwood Forest Enclosure Act of 1808. This formally allocated the land in the Forest to various claimants and created the planned landscape which is still evident. Written into this act was a clause to create three churches at Oaks-in-Charnwood [1815] and the matching pair of Woodhouse Eaves and Copt Oak in 1837. Although much ‘younger’ than St Mary in the Elms, nevertheless both structurally and internally, it too has been adapted and re-fitted so that, as with most churches, it has none of its original furnishings left. Long-standing members may remember that in 2010 we were entertained by Terry Sheppard who spoke on "Church Planting" and the politics behind the establishment of these churches.

Previous Events - 2020

*** Subsequent events planned for 2020 were cancelled due to the Coronavirus outbreak. ***

On Monday February 17th, Peter Liddle, the former county archaeologist, gave a talk about Bradgate Park, and in particular Bradgate House. Using old documents and numerous photographic illustrations he was able to reconstruct at least some of the history of that estate, starting with mesolithic occupants some 14,000 to 12,000 years ago, up to the present day. The first site examined was the moated site a few hundred metres to the west of Bradgate House. This was probably an old lodge or keeper's house. The archaeology here was very near the surface in contrast to sites in the city, where the interesting levels could be several feet below the present-day surface.
In the courtyard of Bradgate House (which an early document refers to as Brodgate park, and a subsequent one Broadgate park), foundations were found of a stone-built building which pre-dated the present brick-built ruin. Here there were restrictions as to how far down they could dig, for they were not able to move any floors they came across because the building is a Scheduled Ancient Monument. As an early document had referred to a 'lodge', it could be that this referred to this stone-built building.
The 'new' house was abandoned in the mid nineteenth century, and the gable wall of the Great Hall collapsed in a gale in 1895. In the 1930s, when the park passed into public ownership, the council had the ruin ‘improved’, including the ruin of a tower which had not been there before.
Across the River Lyn an 18th century stable block was excavated. There is currently no trace of this building on the surface. Here various interesting finds were made, including a dump of old horse leg bones; could these be the left-overs from dogs' dinners? The building itself was still in use after Bradgate House was left to decay; its materials may have been taken finally to be used in other building works.
Peter ended with his tentative conclusion: Lady Jane Grey probably inhabited the stone building found in the excavations and the brick house we see today mostly post-dates her short life.

On 20 January Uta Hamzaoui of Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust gave a Talk on the Flora of Charnwood Forest.
She has been working on the Living Landscapes project in the Charnwood Forest since 2012, and in particular advising landowners of the best methods of maintaining interesting environments, mainly for the plant life, though she did mention a couple of rare bugs at the end of her talk.
The prevailing botany depends on the nature of the underlying rocks and the drainage. The oldest rocks in the Forest are over 600 million years old, created by the volcanic activity which took place in those times. Soils on those rocks are thin and acidic. By 250 million years ago mudstones had formed, and desert conditions prevailed. The heavy clays we now see are red in colour, derived from these sands. Finally the glaciers of the ice age carved through the rocks, resulting in some places having excellent drainage, others poor, and a few places where there is virtually none.
But the most important influence on botany is from agriculture and arboriculture. The original tree cover was virtually eliminated. Most of the Forest is not suitable for ploughing, with rocks protruding through the soil, so pasture and grazing animals formed the bulk of the farming activity. In fact, certain types of heathland can only be preserved economically by grazing. Over-fertilisation has resulted in the loss of over 95% of traditional hay meadows. Streams and rivers drained much of the land with a little encouragement, but in a few places bogs and wetlands still prevail.
Uta discussed examples of each type of habitat, and gave us information on some of the plants to be found on each, including some interesting facts about symbiotic and semi-parasitic ones. These were all well illustrated with slides.
Thanks to Dr McNeil for this account

Previous Events - 2019

On Monday October 14th Martyn Speight gave a Talk entitled "The Story of Charnwood Water Supply over the last 150 years". Martyn is a water engineer with an interest in local history who used to work for Severn-Trent Water.
The importance of having a pure water supply was brought home by John Snow who identified the Broad Steet pump, in 1854, as the source of a cholera epidemic in London. At that time the theory of diseases was that they were caused by a miasma, or bad air, through breathing. It was supposed to originate from rotting flesh and vegetable matter either spreading the disease through the air or changing the air in some way to cause the disease. The news of John Snow's work spread relatively slowly, and the conservative nature of thinking caused it to be rejected time and again. It was not until the 1880's that the concept of miasmas was finally abandoned.
The talk started with Henry Fearon, who was born in Ockenden, Essex, in 1802. He attended Cambridge University, and came to Loughborough as its rector in 1846. He it was who championed a water supply in Loughborough – until his time each individual was virtually responsible for his/her supply, usually using a pump and ground water. Whether this was relatively pure or polluted was a matter of luck. His first efforts centred on the Blackbrook, where the dam of a reservoir for the Charnwood Forest canal had failed after 2 years, but this proved unacceptable to the local bigwigs. He finally settled on the Nanpantan reservoir, and a supply started on 31st August 1870. The reservoir was designed to hold 29 million gallons. It proved a success. The death toll fell. The result was more people, and a bigger demand.
Original estimates did not include local industry, so this caused an even bigger demand. Clearly new sources were required. But Leicester was also looking for water, and so was competing with Loughborough to source it from Charnwood Forest; Leicester's first reservoirs were sited at Thornton and Cropston. Loughborough finally got a supply from Blackbrook in 1906. As populations grew, so larger reservoirs hwere required to hold more water. In the meantime Leicester had constructed Swithland reservoir.
After that demand outstripped the ability of Charnwood to keep up, and supplies were sourced from Derbyshire in the Derwent valley. This source was shared initially by Leicester, Derby, Sheffield and Nottingham. Originally the Howden and Derwent reservoirs were constructed, but finally the Ladybower reservoir was built which was 3 times the size of either of the others. Still demand increased. Staunton Harold and Foremark reservoirs follwed in the 1950’s, supplied by pipeline from the River Dove, and Carsington was opened in 1989. These days water is also abstracted from gravel pits in the Trent valley; the water seeping into the pits from the river is partially cleaned by its passage through the ground.
Nowadays Charnwood Forest reservoirs have lost their importance; some are no longer used, whilst others have only a minor role to play. Cropston still holds its importance as the main water works for the city. Martyn touched briefly on the idea of a network of supplies across the country (a "water grid") but that, he hinted, was mere speculation at present.
(Thanks to Dr McNeil for this account

On 26th September the originally booked speaker was unavailable, so Marilyn Palmer stepped into the breach and gave a talk on 'The Making of the Industrial Landscape in Leicestershire'.
'Landscape' is perhaps best connected with Leicestershire through the work of W G Hoskins, late professor of local history at Leicester University. What people may not realise is that he came to dislike Leicestershire, and particularly its industrial landscape, and he retreated to Devon as soon as he was able. So what were the industries that contributed to this landscape? The talk covered the rise, and in some cases the fall, of these industries, from knitting and the boot and shoe industry to iron founding and engineering, and the bricks which made St Pancras station.
Weaving was, of course, a very ancient occupation. The first knitting machines may well have orginated in Nottinghamshire, and certainly by the mid 18th century the highest concentrations were in the Nottingham, Leicester and Derby shires. These evolved into power-driven machines which by the 1870's formed the basis for a factory culture. Women were important in the growth of this industry. Meanwhile boots and shoes were being manufactured chiefly in Northamptonshire, but the industry spread north in the 1860's, examples being the Wheatsheaf Works and the British United Shoe Machinery Co, both in Leicester city. Charles Bennion, the CEO of British United, was responsible for the gift of Bradgate Park to the people of Leicester and its shire.
Iron works arose at this time; Gimson's works being a very good example. Its products may still be viewed at the Abbey Pumping station, which originally was designed to pump sewage to Beaumont Leys but is now a museum.
To make things involves a source of energy, anything from man or horse power to the introduction of steam, so the Talk went on on to discuss the coal industry. In the north western part of the county the coal measures have a fairly thin overburden and are easily mined. Unfortunately, between them and their city lies Charnwood Forest, which makes transport both difficult and expensive. The canalisation of the river Soar between the Trent and Leicester allowed cheap coal from Derbyshire to flood into Leicester, depriving the Leicestershire coalfield of its market. Its first attempt at retrieving the situation was the Charnwood Forest canal – a disaster in the making. Then came the Leicester and Swannington Railway, well known as the Stephenson line that was responsible for both the steam whistle and the Glenfield tunnel.
The age of steam has come to an end. Factories which once produced enough to give Leicester the title of the richest city in Europe are now blocks of flats, either by conversion or destruction. Smoke no longer hangs over the city. Would Hoskins have approved? We shall never know... (Thanks to Dr McNeil for this account

Kirby Muxloe Castle On 17 June we had a visit to Kirby Muxloe Castle, led by Peter Liddle, the former County Archaeologist. Kirby Muxloe Castle was constructed between 1480 and 1484. It is another early brick construction, like Bradgate House. Its builder, William Lord Hastings and great rival of the Grey family of Groby and Bradgate, was dragged from a Council meeting and beheaded in 1483, presumably under the orders of Richard III, shortly after his accession. However, the accounts show that building work on the castle did not stop, but continued under his widow, Katherine, for another two years, until the money ran out.
Peter Liddle has worked on the surviving records of the castle. Not only was he able to detail the history of its building, but, with the help of the building accounts, could actually identify the names of the workmen involved. In those days, when a thousand pounds was considered a sum which we today would equate to a billion, master craftsmen were paid 8d a day, whilst labourers got 4d.
The site of the castle was originally occupied by a manor house dating from two centuries earlier. There is evidence that, even while the castle was being built, the old house was being repaired, which suggest that the 'castle' was a sort of more advanced fortified manor house. Gun 'port-holes' guarded the old draw-bridge. Depite the loss of its head, it is possible that the Hastings family continued to occupy the site for two more centuries, judging by surviving correspondence. Unfortunately the records stop with the accounts, and, with the destruction of much of the works over the years after the dwelling was abandoned, it is now not possible to say how much of the fortifications were completed, and how much moth-balled for future work which never took place. The one thing which we know to have been complete was the moat. The decline of the castle after it was disposed of by the Hastings is not well documented; at one point it was part of a farm. By the twentieth century it was in the hands of officialdom, which carried out essential repairs. One of these repairs obscures a magnificent vaulted ceiling of brick in the main entrance, which is still the old gate-house. Other places clearly show up in modern brick. However, the chief point of interest these days seems to be the arrangements for the disposal of human waste, which was funnelled into two small chambers beside the moat, from which their contents had to be removed by hand. (Thanks to Dr McNeil for this account)

On 20th May, John Woolmer gave a superbly illustrated talk on the butterflies which can be found in Charnwood Forest, in our gardens and a bit further afield in the Midlands. John is a Prebendary Canon living in Newtown Linford, where his wife Jane is also the churchwarden. He rediscovered a childhood interest in butterflies when taking a group of non-cricketers from Winchester College, where he taught mathematics, to a woodland area, and has been studying them ever since. Jane had taken a photographic course and they combined their skills to obtain photographs of all English and many European species.
His talk began with a series of images dealing with the development sequence of butterflies, from eggs through caterpillars to pupae and then the insects. His images of butterflies emerging from the chrysalis were amazing. John dealt with most of the species that can be found in the Forest and then in our gardens; it seems to be essential to cultivate nettles for many species! We learnt that global warming has one positive advantage in that some species are moving northwards and more varieties of butterflies can now be seen round here than used to be the case.

Stoneywell Gardens Following on from Roy Mitchell's talk, on May 16, we had a guided visit to Stoneywell Gardens, although we did not enter the adjoining wood. The last occupant of the house, Mr Gimson and his wife, converted the grounds into a sort of arboretum, lined with rhododendrons and several other flowering shrubs and small trees. Although his wife kept detailed notes, unforunately she did not record the detailed layout of the various plants, so now the rhododendrons are having to be identified by experts. The layout was such that any visitor at any time of the year would find the gardens in bloom. Where the rocks made tree-planting impossible there were heathers. We were shown all sorts of flowering plants, plus a tennis court, which was the 'in thing' in those days. We saw the area which had been created as a vegetable garden, to make the house as self sufficient as possible, but did skip the luxury of viewing the rows of carrots and potatoes which are still grown there. (Thanks to Dr McNeil for this account, and to Dick Howard for the photograph)

On 15th April Roy Mitchell gave a talk on Stoneywell Cottage and, in particular, its gardens. He started the story of Stoneywell's history with a list of personalities and some statistics. The Cottage came into existance when, through an arrangement with a local farmer, the land was exchanged for a farm house designed and built by the Gimsons. Later an adjoining patch of woodland was purchased.
The Gimson family were part of the Arts and Crafts movement which was a reaction to the industry of Victorian Britain.
The orginal setting of the Cottage was intended to be wild, although a few trees were planted and paths were landscaped. It was intended as a summer retreat only (plus Christmas), which is just as well as the pantry regularly flooded in winter. In the 1950's Donald Gimson and his family used it as a full-time residence. He and his wife were keen gardeners; she kept meticulous notes. By 2013 it had become too much for him, and the property was sold to the National Trust, despite the transaction not meeting the Trust's normal financial policy.
The talk finished with a series of pictures taken though the year which showed some of the garden's floral highlights. Stoneywell Cottage and Garden is maintained by 200 volunteers. (Thanks to Dr McNeil for this account)

On 18th March Peter Tyldesley, Director of the Bradgate Trust, gave a Talk entitled 'Colourful Characters of Bradgate Park' Certainly some of their names were equally colourful. For example, in the reign of Edward the Confessor the land was owned by a Mr Ulf. Later it was owned in turn by the Beaumont family, the de Quincys, de Ferrers and lastly the Greys – rather a let-down namewise, it would seem, but they stayed for 500 years. In 1928 the Park went up for sale and bought by Charles Bennion, who gave it to the people of Leicestershire.
The first mention of a deer park was in 1241, when it was much smaller than it is now. Over the years bits of land were added and other bits taken away – usually to pay for debts incurred by the family. Cropston reservoir occupies one of the latter 'bits'. About the time it passed to the people the council had added more land, and later Swithland Wood was brought under the Bradgate Trust as well. Bradgate house was the ambition of the son of Elizabeth Woodville who was one of those powerful women ultimately of the royal household. It was her grandson who finally finished the project in about 1520.
The Grey family were one of those moderately successful families of their age. They seemed to be politically adaptable, changing sides several times during the Civil War, though not always at the right time. They were good at having their lands confiscated, then restored to them. They slowly accumulated titles, often it seems by marriage, and they were good at not producing heirs. This latter strength meant that often distant relatives occupied Bradgate in the absence of an heir, and finally in 1732 the house was abandoned when the relative preferred one of his other houses to Bradgate House.
The outstanding name, of course, is Lady Jane, the '9-days queen', though for four days before she was proclaimed Queen the monarchy was in limbo. This was thanks to Henry VIII declaring children of his previous marriages illegitimate. Nobody knew where they stood when he shuffled off. Mary stepped in, Jane was beheaded and order was restored. At this moment the Greys demonstrated their political versitility which resulted in yet another family talent – having their heads chopped off.
The last Grey of note seems to have been George Harry (1828-1883), who had a bit of a gambling problem; he took up owning race horses, and even had a race track around Old John tower. He actually lived in Field Head House, and when he died he left it to his widow to restore the family fortunes. (Thanks to Dr McNeil for this account)

On February 18th, Colonel Robert Martin gave a fascinating talk about the history of the Martin family whose members have played a large role in Leicestershire life. Based in Anstey Pastures for more than 400 years, Robert Frewen Martin realised that Leicester would soon expand towards Anstey and, looking for somewhere quieter, eventually bought The Brand from the Ellis family in 1892, beginning the family's close association with Woodhouse Eaves and St Paul's Church, which houses memorials to many of them. Members of the family were already running the Mountsorrel Granite Company and were involved in the creation of the Great Central Railway. In the 20th century, members of the family served with distinction in both World Wars, in the first as members of the Leicestershire Yeomanry. Major Francis William Martin was killed but Robert Edmund Martin, although wounded, returned to play a major role as Chairman of Leicestershire County Council for a long period, during which he was involved with Herbert Schofield in the expansion of Loughborough College: he himself was an engineer and regretted that there was nowhere in this area in which to qualify in that profession. His son Colonel Sir Robert Andrew St George Martin will be remembered by many in the area exercising his horses around Charnwood Forest and Woodhouse Eaves. Colonel Robert Martin lives at The Brand with his wife Janie, President of the Friends of Charnwood Forest, and his three children.

On 21 January 2019 Robin Jenkins, Senior Archivist (Collections) at Leicestershire Records Office, told the story of the largest document kept by the Records Office, the Great Shirley Pedigree, and its maker, Sir Thomas Shirley. He was an avid historical researcher and kept company with such illustrious figures as Sir William Dugdale and Sir Christopher Hatton. The document, put together in about 1632, consisted of 55 sheets of parchment sewn together, and gave details of the Shirley family in an attempt to explain their exceptionally ancient descent. Robin explained who Sir Thomas was and why he felt compelled to create so vast a record. It contains representations of several church monuments where members of the Shirley family were buried.
Robin himself is very interested in church monuments and he showed images of most of those portrayed in the document which he had taken to verify the accuracy of the document itself, which he concluded was generally very good.
Despite the fact that he has worked for the Record Office for over 30 years, he has only ever seen this document once but suggested that it might be displayed again in the near future and promised to let us know. When displayed before, it took up the whole floor area of the Victoria Gallery in the New Walk museum in Leicester!

Previous Events - 2018

On 13 November we held our annual dinner, at the Grey Lady.

On October 22 Dr. Julie Attard (late of Charnwood Roots and now Development Manager for The Charnwood Forest Regional Park) gave a talk entitled "What's in a name?", discussing the place names of Charnwood Forest.
She spoke about the way in which place name evidence can provide us with insights into many aspects of Charnwood Forest's History and the communities that have lived there across the centuries. She showed us some of the different types of documents that are used to find lost and forgotten place names.
She mentioned a useful website, The Key to English Place-names, which can be used to identify the meaning of most town and village names. Those looking for some general introductory reading should have a look at either Discovering Place-Names: Their Origins and Meanings by John Field (Part of the Shire Books series: look for the 2005 reprint), while Margaret Gelling's Signposts to the Past: Place-names and the History of England (most recent edition 2010) provides a great overview. The seven-volume Leicestershire place-name survey, published by the English Place-name Society and written by Barrie Cox, is a wonderful resource but it is a reference work rather than something to be read cover to cover.

On 17 September Richard Thomas, reader in Archaeology at Leicester University (where he has been based for 15 years) and co-director of the Bradgate Park Fieldschool, gave a talk entitled " New Archaeological Discoveries in Bradgate Park ".
Frequent visitors to Bradgate Park may well have observed, over the past four years, fieldschools excavating various sites. These range from Stone Age remains around Little Matlock, to the Deer Keeper's House, various sites within and around Bradgate House and in this last year the possible stable block. These excavations have been organised by the School of Archaeology and Ancient History at the University of Leicester. Richard Thomas summarised what has been learnt so far, and presented the results of this year's excavations which focussed on the stable block to the south of Bradgate House, just over the bridge.

The first outdoor meeting of the year was on Thursday 12th July, when members made visited the 1620 House and Gardens at Donington Le Heath (formerly Donington Le Heath Manor House); a previous visit had been made in May 2000. The house was originally built around 1290 and is one of the oldest houses in Leicestershire with a long tradition as a family house. Today we can see what it looked like after modernisation in 1618 such as the addition of mullion windows. The house, now owned by Leicestershire County Council, has been preserved as it would have been in 1620 with period furniture, decoration and utensils.
We saw the legendary "King Dick's Bed" which had come from the Blue Boar Inn in Leicester. It is claimed that Richard III slept in this bed before the Battle of Bosworth. It is indeed a bed that can be taken apart easily to be transported and the King would have slept sitting up, as was the custom, to avoid evil spirits sitting on his chest.

On 23 April Luke Wigman, ex-paratrooper, gave a talk "A Soldier's Journey: from Headley Court to Stanford Hall". He started by describing the new Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre being established at Stanford Hall, near Loughborough; this is a purpose-built centre costing £300 Million, financed solely by public subscription, with much better facilities than the existing Headley Court in Surrey.
He then went on to describe his own experiences, from losing most of the flesh on his leg in Afghanistan through his rehabilitation and his transfer to an athlete (famously runnning 7 marathons on 7 continents in 7 days).
The evening ended with a collection for the DNRC which raised over £400.

On Monday 19th March, after the AGM, we showed a film produced in 1970 for the CPRE (Council for the Protection of Rural England). It highlighted a number of concerns for the countryside, including loss of hedgerows, new housing, loss of village identities, new roads etc. Most of the issues raised, some 48 years ago, are almost the same today. The delightful aspect of this film is that it brought back memories of a quieter pace of life in rural Leicestershire and Charnwood Forest, but do the pubs look the same? After the film Tony Stott, acting Chair CPRE East Midlands, led a discussion on the issues today and the impact of the current Leicestershire Strategic Growth Plan.

On 19th February Mark Temple gave a talk entitled "Gone with the wind: the lost Windmills of Leicestershire". At one time the diet of every family included bread which relied on a constant supply of fresh flour. So virtually every village had a mill of some sort, a watermill if there was a suitable stream, or if not, a windmill on an elevated position where its sails could catch the wind. At their peak in 1835 there were believed to be 152 mills in Leicestershire, and many were local such as Woodhouse Eaves, Markfield, Mountsorrel, Shepshed etc. Mark has tried to gather together all the photographic images that have survived and has also made a collection of milling stories. He knows of the existence of many mills but as far as he knows their images have been lost.

On 22nd January Alan Briggs gave a talk entitled "Charnwood and its environs: Geology and Topography". Alan has a joint degree in Archaeaology and Geology from Leicester University, and prepaed a summary of the Landscape and Geology for Charnwood Roots. His talk, based on that project, began with the volcanic origins of Charnwood on the other side of the globe and went on to cover its subsequent journey through to the ice age and the present day landscape.

Previous Events - 2017

On 14 November we held our annual dinner, at the Grey Lady.

Our second indoor meeting of the 2017/8 season was on Monday 23 October, when Marilyn Palmer, Professor of Industrial Archaeology and regular speaker for the National Trust, amongst other organisations, spoke about early rail transport with particular reference to Charnwood Forest.
The idea of horses dragging waggons on rails was introduced into Britain in the 16th century from Germany. Waggonways of this kind were extensively used in the coalfields of north east England and by the 18th century were being used to link canals with coalfields to avoid long flights of locks, as was the case with the Charnwood Forest canal. The use of horses was permitted in the 1830's Act which set up our own Leicester to Swannington Railway, Britain's third mainline railway. Marilyn explored the history of these waggonways and what there is still to see of them.

On Monday 18 September Pat Neal, a volunteer from the Mountsorrel and Rothley Heritage Centre, gave a talk on the restoration of the short railway line from Montsorrel to Swithland sidings, where it joins the Great Central Railway. Here is more information about the project.
It took some 100,000 man hours to recreate part of the old Mountsorrel Railway line. Pat gave us a well illustrated and enthusiastic talk about the evolution of the project. In 2007 Steve Cramp had the ambitious vision of restoring one and a half miles of the Mountsorrel Railway starting from the Great Central Railway. He assembled a group of volunteers and raised some £100,000 from the local community and businesses and they were away. Steve had realised that the Ordance Survey map showed "disused Railway" so no planning approval was required. Over 50 years of undergrowth and trees had enveloped the old railway bed. We were shown how the track was cleared, banks and hedgerows restored, and new granite ballast laid. Timber sleepers and old rails were obtained, some from Snibston Discovery Park when it closed, being recycled yet again.
Originally Mountsorrel Railway had eight and a half miles of track. Now the first section has been restored, two bridges repaired, and two stations have been built, Mountsorrel and Nunckley Hill. To support these developments the Granite Cafe and Mountsorrel and Rothley Community Heritage Centre were buit at Nunckley Hill, plus a small detached Railway museum. Very importantly the requirement for nature and wildlife was not neglected. Pat explained that they have created two nature trails, planted wild flowers along the track, planted around 2000 new trees using volunteers and local school children.
Pat showed two videos. The first was of the visit to the Heritage Centre by Prince Charles in January, 2017 with 800 school children waving flags, and the second of the TV drama "Victoria" with Prince Albert on one of the first steam engines filmed on Mountsorrel Railway.

On Wednesday 16 August members visited Beaumanor Hall, where they saw its Victorian splendour while becoming involved in World War II History; the building was a vital listening post for Bletchley Park. The event concluded with a cream tea.

On 28 June about 20 members visited the Alpacas at a visit to Charnwood Forest Alpacas at Scam-Hazel Farm. They were fully instructed in all things Alpaca, followed by an opportunity to "take their own Alpaca" for a walk through wood and meadow, finishing with a cream tea.

Fragrant Orchid On 7 June 30 members set off from Poultney Farm, Ulverscroft on a fine sunny morning. To help us identify the local flora we were accompanied by Uta Hamzaoui, conservation officer and botany expert from the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust. The first part of our walk was around Ulverscroft Pool, the source of the River Lin. The Pool was created by the Earl of Stamford as a fishing lake some 200 years ago by damming up the natural springs. The River Lin flows through Newtown Linford, Bradgate Park and into Cropston and Swithland Reservoirs, and is home to brown trout and even lamprey. Amongst the ancient wetlands surrounding the water are many rare species including Pale Sedge and Flea Sedge. We strolled towards the SSSI sites which include Herbert"s Meadow, owned by LRWT. These neutral grasslands contain a rich biodiversity of wildflowers, including three species of orchid. We first saw the reddish pink Fragrant orchid (shown in the photo) and then the paler common spotted orchid followed by the Heath spotted orchid. It is interesting to think that these fields are exactly as they would have been seen in Medieval times. Other good indicators of old grasslands are Great Burnet, Greater Bird's -foot-trefoil and Devil's-bit Scabious. Our morning walk concluded with some light refreshments kindly provided by our host Kim Turner.

On April 24 we had an illustrated talk entitled "Living Wild in South America" by Michael and Paula Webster, local life-long conservationists and wildlife photographers; we saw many beautiful photographs, from the Toucan to the Hooded Grebe. They are now exploring the continent of South America, discovering why it is so high in biodiverssity, particularly birds. They described their adventures in search of wildlife in the deserts of Chile, the Andean mountains, the Patagonian steppes and the jungles of Peru; and their collaboration with local conservation organisations, universities and schools. We heard their wildlife stories and learned of their passion for protecting the unique biodiversity of South America. More information is on their website.

On 20 March Liz Robson, owner of Kingfisher"s Pool Vineyard , gave a talk and associated Wine Tasting. She gave an account of how she and her partner, Matthew, set up the vineyard, one of around 500 within England and Wales, and associated winery adjacent to North's delicatessen, and described some of the administrative hoops she had to negotiate. She explained that the overheads on each bottle of still wine amounted to ₤2.59 tax (excise duty+VAT on the duty), plus 65p for the bottle, cork and cap. The varieties grown were Orion, Solaris, Segerribe and Madeleine Angevine (white grapes), and Rondo, Regent and Pinot Noir Precose, also called Fruhburgunder (red grapes); these are varieties bred for cool climates and are typical of English wines although they will be unfamiar to those used to continental and new world wines.
We then tasted examples of her wines: the rosé "Battle Royal", the sparkling rosé "Spirit of Freedom" and the off-dry white "Fearless".

On 23 January Tony Jarram gave a talk entitled "Lace Makers and Luddites", covering nearly 500 years from the first stocking machines to recent times. He reviewed the various stages of machine development and the successes and failures.
Perhaps the most fascinating part was his account of the attack on Heathcote's mill in Loughborough on June 28th 1816. There was great resentment among the workers and machine breaking was widespread. They were called "Luddites" after a character called Ned Ludd (who may or may not have been an actual person). About 200 rioters attacked the factory in Mill Street, Loughborough (now Market Street) with hammers and crowbars, destroying all the machinery.
Heathcote, who lived on Leicester Road, Loughborough, was not hurt and may have taken refuge in a "secret" passage beneath the house. It is still there! The event spelled the end of lacemaking in Loughborough; it moved to Nottingham and to Calais in France. Heathcote and his partner Boden (ancestor of the well known clothing company of today) set up a new factory at Tiverton in Devon, where they prospered. Many of his former workers transferred, some of them walking the 200 miles to the new mill.
However, a lot of details are still unknown. Was there a Ned Ludd in Anstey? How many rioters were hung?

Previous Events - 2016

On Tuesday November 15 we held our Annual Dinner at the Grey Lady.

On October 24 we had a talk by Roger Hailwood, a guide for the National Arboretum. At Alrewas, where he lives, he is regarded as the village historian and he has published several books.
The National Memorial Arboretum is UK's year-round centre of remembrance and is home to more than three hundred memorials nestling amongst lush and maturing woodland, including the iconic Armed Forces Memorial which was dedicated in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen; both military and civilian associations are represented alongside tributes for individuals.
Roger's talk about the National Arboretum was copiously illustrated by slides and covered its foundation and development

on September 19th we had a talk by Celia Sanger, a volunteer at Calke Abbey. Calke Abbey was the home of the Harper-Crewe family for several hundred years, but in 1985 the burden of such a great estate became too much and it was acquired by the National Trust which was faced with neglect on a grand scale. Nothing had ever been thrown away which was both a problem and an enormous resource. Celia's illustrations showed us the good times as well as the bad times and how the National Trust had brought house and gardens back to life.
The old formal gardens, requiring enormous maintenance and many gardeners, are gone forever but in their place is a beautiful estate which we can all enjoy. The deer park, with many red deer, flourishes and the lime avenue, planted in 1846, is as fine as ever.

Members at Bradgate House ruins On Wednesday 20 July, Roger West, a Bradgate Park volunteer historian led a group of 30 members of the FOCF on a guided tour of Bradgate House, the Tudor mansion in the middle of Bradgate Park and childhood home of Lady Jane Grey, the famous "Queen for nine days".
The house was started in 1495 as the Medieval Period transitioned to the Tudor. So castles were out, unfortified Manor Houses were the new fashion, although Roger suggested that we should think of Bradgate House as a Grand Hunting Lodge. Hence the return to the use of bricks, in this instance, made locally within the Park. Significantly there was no Grand Entrance (therefore not a Manor House), but Bradgate did adopt the new status symbol of tall chimneys that could be seen, hopefully, from miles around.
We viewed the ruins and the Chapel (try to find the carved head of James 1), and the leat, or channel, that was dug to bring water from the River Lin to the stockpool, and subsequently to overflow and power the water mill. We discovered that the Tiltyard is not capable of fulfilling its name being too short, so perhaps it was just a practice area.
.It would be remiss not to mention the shy herd of hefted fallow deer that only live within the confines of the House and grounds.

Robert and Janie Martin cutting the Anniversary Cake On Sunday 26 June we celebrated 30 years of the Friends with a Hog Roast at the Brand, kindly hosted by Robert and Janie Martin. The photograph shows our hosts cutting the cake with a ceremonial sword.

On June 8, 30 members had a guided tour, led by Neil Pilcher of Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust (LRWT),through Herbert's Meadow, a site of about 8 acres, and several nearby sites, all owned by LRWT or the National Trust. Herbert's Meadow is managed on a five year cycle, with grazing and this year a hay crop; it was ablaze with wild flowers, including Common Spotted, Bee and Fragrant Orchids. Neil showed us various grasses and other plants and explained the cattle's choice of their favourite foods, which required careful control.

On Monday 25 April, a near capacity audience, including 60 members and 31 guests, heard retired geologist David Bridge give a talk entitled "Fracking: our new neighbour". David has much experience in the oil and gas industry; he has spent many years with the British Geological Survey. He gave a dispassionate and independent view of the facts behind underground hydraulic fracturing in oil shale ("fracking"), which while it will not happen in Charnwood Forest (the geology is wrong), may happen nearby (there is actually an oil well at Long Clawson between Melton Mowbray and Nottingham). It was clear from his talk that there is an ever increasing requirement for gas in the UK and a diminishing reliability of supply into the future; on the other hand, his detailed explanation of the process of fracking to obtain a new supply of gas left few in doubt that the process was an expensive, messy and dirty business with many threats of pollution and disturbance, all for perhaps a 40 year supply. Much remains to be established. The discussion afterwards was enlivened by a group of protesters whose noisy interruptions were capably countered by our officers and our speaker. They had not come to listen to the factual explanations but to make their own points.

On Monday March 14 Matt Beamish, Project Officer for University of Leicester Archaeological Services, gave a talk on recent archaeaological investigations in Bradgate Park. He spoke about manipulating and interpreting LIDAR aerial data for archaeological purposes, and how it was helping to determine the mediaeval history of the park. He also spoke about the exciting discovery of a late paleolithic stone-age site, containing many flint tools from the end of the ice-age. This site, above Little Matlock Gorge, is of international importance.

On Monday 18 January Michael Jeeves gave a fascinating talk, copiously illustrated by colour photographs, tracing the Forest from its volcanic origins 600 million years ago to the present day. He showed how the landscape had developed, particularly in the last 6,000 years. He dealt with the growth of population, from the first hunter-gatherers, through the development of farming and the Enclosures at the end of the 18th century.
He was particularly interested in the vast range of wildlife, from wolves and aurochs to the wild animals and birds of today. He had many beautiful pictures of flowers and trees within the Forest today.

Previous Events - 2015

On 12 November we held our Annual Dinner at the Grey Lady.

On 19 October Dave Taylor gave a talk entitled "The Greys and the Hastings - Families at War". He discussed the contribution these two Leicestershire families - the Greys of Groby based in Bradgate Park, and the Hastings with castles at Kirby Muxloe and Ashby de la Zouche - had made to the Wars af the Roses and the Civil War, and the intrigues of Tudor times. Here is his presentation.
Throughout much of history the rivalry between the Grey and Hastings families has been a feature of the history of the East Midlands. Dave traced this through the coming to prominence of both families towards the end of the late Middle Ages through Tudor Times, the English Civil War, the Restoration and beyond. He started with the link with the Ferrers family which brought the Greys to prominence and the relationship between the ill fated Lord Hastings and King Richard lll, and went on to chart the wavering fortunes of the two families, from the prominence of the Hastings 'puritan' Earl of Huntingdon under Elizabeth l, through the resurgence of Grey fortunes under James l and the taking of opposite sides during the Civil War, until both families faded into relative obscurity.

On 21 September Tom Ingall gave a talk on the Great Central Railway. Tom Ingall grew up in Leicestershire and now works for the B.B.C. in Yorkshire. He has been a volunteer at the Great Central Railway for 25 years. He told us that the Great Central Railway opened in 1899, the last main line built in Britain. It was developed from earlier lines, notably the Midland, Sheffield & Lincolnshire (MS&L) irreverently known as Money Sunk and Lost! Between Leicester and Loughborough the GCR passes close to Charnwood Forest and encounters a landscape of particular beauty, including Bradgate, Swithland Reservoir and the tree covered south-eastern part of Charnwood. Although currently the Great Central is in two sections, north and south of Loughborough, Tom told us about the project to link them (the reunification project).

On June 10 Neil Pilcher, Senior Conservation Officer, Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust led a walk around Charnwood Lodge National Nature Reserve.
The area covered by the reserve was originally part of Charnwood Forest wastes and the now familiar stone walls were erected during the enclosure period of the 19th Century. Among the most striking features are the prominent 600 million year old Precambrian rock outcrops which protrude through the surrounding marl. These outcrops include the famous "Bomb" rocks which attract attention from geologists nationwide and have led to the reserve being declared a National Nature Reserve.
The reserve extends to 200 hectares (480 acres) and most of it is an SSSI. The large tracts of heath grassland are dotted with small areas of bilberry, while marshes and boggy pools harbour a wide variety of species, some of them true relics of the ancient Charnwood landscape such as bog pimpernel, marsh violet, lesser skullcap, creeping willow and climbing corydalis. It is the only site in Leicestershire for petty-whin; there are also some orchids. An area known as The Rough is a good location for ground nesting birds, such as meadow pipet, linnet, reed bunting and skylark. Charnwood Lodge remains one of the last truly wild areas of the Forest.

On April 27, Dr Mark Baldwin gave a talk on "Bletchley Park, Beaumanor and Enigma". Most of his talk was about the enigma machine used by the Germans to encoode messages in the second world war, and the British success in decoding these messages done at Bletchley Park (although the important preliminary work had been done by Poland before the War startd). However, Beaumanor Hall near Woodhouse had an important role: it was a listening station, where the radio messages (in morse code) were picked up and transcribed before they were sent to Bletchley Park for decoding.
125 people came to this meeting!

On March 16, Richard Knox gave a talk on "The search for the Battle of Bosworth Field and the Finding of King Richard III".
Following years of academic debate as to the actual location of Bosworth Battlefield, where Richard III lost his crown and his life on 22nd August 1485, in 2005 Leicestershire County Council embarked on an ambitious landscape survey to try and rediscover this famous lost Battlefield; right at the end of the five year survey, musket balls were discovered and further finds meant that the location of the battlefield had been indisputably identified, about 2 miles away from the Bosworth Battlefield centre.
Then, two years later, the world's media picked up on the rediscovery of Richard III's grave at the Greyfriars site in Leicester by Leicester University archaeologists and the grisly secrets it revealed. Richard discusssed the results of the osteology report which give such vivid clues to Richard's final moments and the DNA analysis which confirmed his identification.

On 19 January Ernest Miller gave a talk on Ernest Gimson and Stoneywell.

Previous Events - 2014

On 27 October Keith Ovenden of Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Record Office, gave a talk on "Old Maps of Charnwood".
He initially gave us an overview of the extent of their records stored on six miles of shelving: they have so much historical material that they are looking for larger premises.
The earliest maps were quite primitive and did not show many roads, or tracks, as roads as a means of transport were undeveloped and not considered important. It was a different story when turnpikes and road tolls were introduced!!

On September 22 the booked speaker, Brian Axon was indisposed, but Doug Maas nobly stepped into the breach to give a talk on well-known children's author and spy, Arthur Ransome.

Martin's Wood On 9 July 33 members visited Martin's and Felicity's Wood on Dean's lane to the north of Beacon Hill. They were guided by Eric Porter of the Woodland Trust, shown addressing the group in the photograph, aided by Tim Adkins, a ranger from Charnwood.
In 1993 the Society, through its members and their friends, raised £12000 towards the purchase of two fields, a total of 12 acres to the south of Dean's Lane. This purchase was in conjunction with the Woodlands Trust and The National Forest, and was to become Martin's Wood. On Saturday 5th March 1994 there was a symbolic planting of the first 50 saplings. The subsequent planting was restricted to small areas to preserve the views of Charnwood Forest and the Trent Valley. Later that year on the 3rd August we unveiled the plaque commemorating Sir Andrew Martin.
Felicity's Wood was purchased by The Woodlands Trust and was planted out in 1997. It comprises 22 acres on the north side of Dean's Lane and is exactly opposite Martin's Wood. The top of the meadow is unplanted and managed as a meadow but then the land falls steeply away to a small stream known as Wood Brook. The new woods are mainly oak, ash, birch and field maple with willow nearer the stream. There is an outcrop of local forest stone known as Hornstone. There are many interesting plants and wildlife in both woods.

On June 18 and July 2 members made visits to Stoneywell, the cottage in Ulverscroft owned by the Gimson family who were pioneers of the "Arts and Crafts" movement, and now owned by the National Trust. The visits not only gave FOCF members a chance to visit this property before it was officially open, it also gave NT management the chance for a couple of "dry runs" to investigate how best to handle visitors.

Chanwood Canal walk On 14 May, 34 members met with Mike Handford of the Chanwood Forest Canal Trust to visit part of the old canal at Thringstone. We saw part of the old canal bed where it passes through Grace Dieu Woods, and a further piece a few hundred yards to the east where it crossed what is now the A512. This event was twinned with the one on 14 April when Brian Williams gave a talk on The History and Future of the Charnwood Forest Canal.

On March 14 Lynn Richards gave a talk entitled "The Future of the National Forest".

On January 13 Dr. Geoff Mason, retired lecturer at Loughborough University, member of the Leicestershire Access Forum and author of the (out of print) definitive guide to rock climbing in Leicestershire, "Leicestershire Climbs", gave a talk entitled "The Future of Leicestershire's Quarries".
The granite quarries of Mountsorrel, Bardon and Whitwick are all of national importance as a source of supply to much of southern Britain with crushed aggregate. Nevertheless quarrying, including the extension of existing quarries, can be quite controversial, so we were delighted when Geoff looked at the background and future of the Leicestershire quarries.
Geoff has a keen interest in Charnwood quarries and shared with us his thoughts and findings. His main thrust was that Leicestershire's disused quarries had a significant leisure potential, but without public pressure the owners would adopt the minimum work solution which was to surround them with a security fence and forget about them, allowing them to fill with water over a period of centuries.
Click here to see Geoff's slides.

Previous Events - 2013

On Wednesday 13th November there was a wonderful atmosphere at our 12th Annual Dinner held at The Grey Lady. 64 members and their guests enjoyed some superb food and wine making it the best dinner that we can remember. Our President Janie Martin said a simple grace composed by a member of her family, and after the meal our Chairman, Dick Howard, welcomed everyone and thanked the staff at The Grey Lady for giving us such good food and service. He mentioned some of the recent notable events including congratulations to Janie Martin on being made a Deputy Lieutenant to Lady Gretton (Lord Lieutenant of Leicestershire), the acquisition by the National Trust of Stoneywell, the start of a Friends of Charnwood Forest Newsletter by Doug Maas, and the creation of the Charnwood Forest Regional Park.
Thanks were also expressed to Louise Gibson, Membership Secretary, who organised the Dinner.
During the meal a collection was made for the Philippines Disaster. A total of £285 was donated and was sent the next day to DEC, Philippines Disaster Typhoon Appeal, the combined charities appeal.

On October 21 Peter and Eileen Crichton gave an illustrated talk describing the final section of their amazing expeditions in their 1992 Land Rover Discovery.
During the first two stages of their expedition, the subject of two previous talks to FOCF in Jan 2011 and Sep 2012, they travelled from the most northerly point on the planet which they could reach with their 4x4 at 72 degrees North in Norway to Buenos Aires in Argentina.
They described their passage through the wilder parts of Patagonia before reaching Tierra del Fuego and finally probing the desolate landscapes near Cape Horn where they reached their most southerly point destination. They then continued up South America's western Pacific Coast through the Andes before crossing Northern Argentina's Pampas to reach Uruguay.

On September 23 Tim Adkin, Access to Nature Officer for Charnwood Borough Council, shared his lifetime experiences. Tim was born in Ulverscroft, but grew up in Anstey. He spent his formative years in fields full of skylarks, butterflies and wild flowers exploring the less public areas of Charnwood Forest. His concerns for how the countryside was deteriorating, and his early involvement at Ulverscroft Nature Reserve, led him into a conservation career spanning thirty years helping communities all over the world manage their natural resources. He has returned to his roots in Charnwood Forest and now works as one of the Wildlife rangers.
Tim described the massive changes which have occured in the Charnwood landscape over his lifetime, giving a personal view of the differences that he saw.

Members with antlers in deer sanctuary On 19 June 28 members and friends joined in a walk through Bradgate Park Deer Sanctuary led by a Park Ranger, Roger West. This restricted area is kept free of the public and dogs to enable the deer to raise their young. Fallow Deer were in the middle of their breeding season so we had to be careful and not stray off the tracks into the bracken. Most of the party had never been in the restricted part of the Park which was refreshingly peaceful and gave wonderful views across the Park from new perspectives. The photograph shows members examining a fallow deer skull and antlers.

On Monday April 22, 2013, Michael Webster gave a talk entitled "Charnwood's Hidden Valleys". This talk was originally scheduled for 21 January, and was postponed due to the snowy weather.

On 18 March Peter Tyldesley, the new land agent of Bradgate Park, gave a talk entitled "From the Brecon Beacons to Bradgate: the Role of Parks in Re-connecting People and Nature". Bradgate Park is a famous gem of rural Leicestershire situated within Charnwood Forest extending to some 830 acres. It is an historic former Medieval Deer Park and was first enclosed as a hunting park over 750 years ago. For many centuries it formed part of the Leicestershire estates of the Grey family and the Earls of Stamford. Even today, much of the Park looks as it must have done in the Middle Ages. In 1928, the late Mr.Charles Bennion purchased Bradgate Park from Mrs.Grey and presented it in trust.

In 1931 Swithland Wood was donated by the Rotary Club of Leicester and the whole Estate now totals 1,263 acres. The Park is now managed by the Bradgate Park Trust. The Trust's charitable objects are:

  • the provision of a public park and recreation ground and the maintenance and improvement thereof for the benefit of the inhabitants of the County of Leicestershire and of visitors thereto with the object of improving the conditions of life for such persons and
  • to advance the education of the public in the care and appreciation of the environment

. Here is a copy of the slides from Peter's talk.

Previous Events - 2012

On November 7 the annual "Meet the Members" Dinner was held in Newtown Linford.

On October 22 Professor Tony Marmont was, at first, somewhat of 'a voice in the wilderness' with respect to renewable energy. He installed his first windturbine in 1968 and, despite protests, the turbine is still whirling away. This was followed by numerous energy saving measures undertaken at his home at Deans Lane, so that he is now virtually 100 per cent self sufficient, even selling electricity back to the Grid. The world's energy demands will soon outstrip the earth's energy supply. Tony predicts that this will be in about five years time and this is backed up by a Shell Annual Report. Already in the UK, North Sea oil is running out and gas supplies are severely reduced, so much so that we now rely on importing gas from Russia. Nuclear power has been 'kicked into the long grass', wave power seems a long way off and wind turbines bring out the protestors. Also, all of these projects appear to cost many billions of pounds which, as a country, we do not seem to have now. Tony has a vision which is shared by a band of like - minded colleagues. There are alternative sources of renewable energy which can be pursued, and they do not need to cost the earth. Here is a copy of the slides used by Tony (may take some time to download).

On 24 September Peter and Eileen Crichton gave a talk accompanied by a slide show entitled "Latitudes". In August 2011, Rabia, their 1992 Land Rover Discovery, was shipped to Columbia from where the adventure would commence. This talk described the first part of the journey. At the heart of the plan was the crossing of the Amazon basin after travelling through Columbia and Venezuela. Records of vehicle crossings of the complete Amazon Basin are rare and documented attempts often failed. They then continued south, through the remote corners of eastern Bolivia and then back into Brazil where they hoped to see something of South America's hidden gems. Finally, the route included the Atlantic coast down to Buenos Aires in Argentina.

Orchids at Lea Meadows On 20 June we visited Lea Meadows, a LRWT nature reserve in the Lyn valley near Ulverscroft. Those who attended Ernest Miller's talk in 2011 could identify a couple of the landscape features he discussed; other could revel in the beautiful flora of this unimproved grassland. The photograph shows some of the orchids on the site. We are grateful to Neil Pilcher for hosting the visit. More photos, courtesy of Michael Webster, are available here.

ON 16 May we visited John and Liz Kettle's 50 acre estate off Sharpely Hill. They are deveoping the estate to be sympathetic to local landscape and wildlife, and we saw this in action with tree planting (with the support of the National Forest and Forestry Commission) and the establishment of traditional parkland and wildflower meadows.

On 19 March Father Joseph gave a talk on Mount St. Bernard's Abbey.

On 23 January Peter Liddle, Leicestershire County Archaeologist, gave a talk on the recent "Time Team" excavations at Groby Old Hall. Here are the slides which Peter used (warning: this is a large file and will take some time to download).

Previous Events - 2011

On 23 November we had our annual "Meet the Members" dinner at the Village Restaurant, Newtown Linford.

On 17 October our planned speaker, Colin Green (due to talk about the "Reservoirs of Charnwood") was unable to attend, and we were very lucky that local naturalist Michael Webster was able to step into the breach at short notice. Michael entertained us with a talk entitled "Wild Charnwood", consisting of a slide show of his wildlife photographs taken throughout the year. His slides were accompanied by an erudite and entertaining commentary on the natural history of Charnwood Forest.

On 19 September, Ernest Miller gave a talk entitled "The Lin, a River through time". Ernest Miller, a noted local historian, archaeologist and lecturer who for over 40 years has investigated, excavated and recorded many local sites brought into the spotlight the River Lin. So little was previously known about this 17km river which flows through the heart of the Charnwood Forest that even Wikipedia does not record it as a river of Leicestershire. Ernest explores the river's path, some would say a brook, which rises at Ulverscroft in the uplands of Charnwood Forest and follows a U-shaped course before emptying into the River Soar at Quorn. He showed how the river has been harnessed over the last thousand years to provide water for three villages, serve six water mills, five moated sites, three water meadows and a Tudor mansion, including feeding lakes, reservoirs, fish ponds and a watercress bed.

We had hoped to be able to host Ernest's presentation here, but copyright issues prevented it. However, further details are available in "The Lin: A River through time" by Ernest Miller and Anthony Squires, Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological Society, Vol 83 (2009) (the paper does not currently seem to be available on the Internet, but that might change in the future).

On 22 June we had a guided tour to Cossington Meadows, one of Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust's nature reserves.

On 11 May we had a guided tour of the gardens of The Brand.

On 21 March, after the 2011 AGM, Leanda de Lisle gave a talk on Lady Jane Grey and her sisters.

On Tuesday 25 January Peter and Eileen Crichton gave a talk on a trip through Norway, "Coasting South". This was a last-minute change to the programme after the intended speaker had to cancel.

Previous Events - 2010

On 17 November we held a "Meet the Members" dinner at the Village Restaurant, Newtown Linford.

On 18 October we had a talk by Terry Sheppard on "Church Planting and Beam Bending"

On 20 September we had a talk by Graham Jackson, on Leicestershire's Garden Plants.

On 23 June we had a Guided Walk of Sence Valley Forest Park

Sence Valley Forest Park Between 1982 and 1996 the Sence Valley Forest Park formed part of a large opencast mining area coverings some 460 acres. Once extraction was completed, one of the largest reclamation projects in the County was undertaken culminating in the finished Park that we visited. It covers some 150 acres and is now well established.

It forms part of the National Forest and is managed by the Forestry Commission. lt is also an integral part of a wild life corridor that stretches from Heather to Swannington taking in Kelham Heath and Snibston. The circular walk took us through significant areas of mixed plantings and around large stretches of water which are part of a complex which includes 3 lakes, a pond and a wetland scrape with the River Sence running through the middle. Apart from being a haven for birds and wildlife generally, we saw mixed waterfowl including swans, mallards, tufted ducks, Canada geese, Great Crested Grebes and common terns. There is also a sand martin wall and a hide.

Our host was Bas Forgham (on the left of the photo), volunteer. Bas was Secretary to the L.R.W.T for 13 years and on its Council for 26 years. He has been involved with the Park since its beginning.