Rockingham Forest is a former royal hunting forest in the county of Northamptonshire, England. It is an area of some 200 sq mi (500 km2) lying between the River Welland and River Nene and the towns of Stamford and Kettering. It has a rich and varied landscape, with farmland, open pasture, pockets of woodland and villages built from local stone.
The forest was named after the village of Rockingham, where the castle was a royal retreat. The boundaries were marked by the River Nene on the eastern side and on the western side what is now the A508 road from Market Harborough to Northampton. Over the years the forest shrank, and today only a patchwork of the north-eastern forest remains. The bulk of the remaining forest is located within a square, of which the corners are Corby, Kettering, Thrapston and Oundle.
A Cistercian abbey was established in 1143 which became known as Pipewell Abbey. In 1298 the de Lacys were granted permission to inclose 30 acres (12 ha) pertaining to the manor of Wadenhoe, lying within the forest, in order to make a park. The forest boundaries were set in 1299, although the boundaries returned to a smaller area as a result of King Charles I's actions. King Charles II took little interest in the forest and gave away or sold much of it. By 1792 there was no significant royal ownership of the forest area. Parliamentary enclosure of the bailiwicks and disafforestation of Rockingham bailiwick in 1832 resulted in a much smaller forest area with much of the land turned over to agriculture. The Forestry Commission took over the remnants of public woodland in 1923. The forest originally stretched from Stamford down to Northampton.
Areas managed by the Forestry Commission include:
- Southey Wood, Peterborough
- Wakerley Great Wood
- Bedford Purlieus National Nature Reserve
- Fineshade Wood
- Fermyn Woods
It is famous for its population of red kites which now number 300.
Chequered skipper reintroduction
In the spring of 2018 chequered skipper butterflies (Carterocephalus palaemon) from Belgium were released at a secret site as part of the Back from the Brink (BftB) project. A further release of butterflies from Belgium will take place in the spring of 2019, to supplement the newly emerged offspring of last years release. Invasive scrub has been removed from more than 8 km of woodland rides by Butterfly Conservation and their partners, and if the reintroduction is successful they will be the first native-born chequered skippers to emerge in England in more than 40 years.
- List of forests in the United Kingdom
- List of Ancient Woods in England
- "Rockingham Forest Trust". Rockingham Forest Trust. Retrieved 25 August 2012.
- Page, William (1930). A History of the County of Northampton: Volume 3. pp. 149–152.
- "Chequered Skipper flies again?". Butterfly. No. 130. Spring 2019. p. 7.