Know before you go
Parking informationLimited parking in laybys along Sulehay Road; many public rights of way from the surrounding villages.
Main ride is surfaced in woodland though other paths can get muddy. Quarry has uneven paths and steep slopes.
When to visit
Opening timesOpen at all times
Best time to visitAll year round
About the reserve
Old Sulehay Forest is a fragment of the ancient Rockingham Forest, a royal hunting forest that extended from Wansford to Kettering. Other areas of the reserve are associated with quarrying. Stonepit Close was exploited for its limestone, while areas of Ring Haw were quarried for limestone, ironstone and silica clay; remains of the quarry railway track beds and sidings can still be seen. The area known as the Calcining Banks was used to refine extracted iron ore known as calcined ore.
In summer, glow-worms glimmer in the longer grass. Many wildflowers found here are rare in Northamptonshire, including ploughman’s-spikenard, wild thyme, viper’s bugloss, common cudweed and yellow-wort. These attract a wide range of butterflies, such as common blue, brown argus and dingy skipper. On warm spring days look for the energetic grizzled skipper in Stonepit Close, on the disused railway or the Calcining Banks.
Areas of scrub support birds such as whitethroat and bullfinch. Great and lesser spotted woodpeckers live in the woodland along with nuthatch and treecreeper. Invertebrates thrive on the sun-warmed paths and rides.
To maintain the varied habitat structure most of the grassland is grazed with rare-breed sheep and cattle to maintain low soil fertility. Using wildflower seeds collected from other limestone grassland sites in the area, Sammock’s Hill was restored from arable land. It now boasts a variety of native flowers, including cowslips, bird’s-foot trefoil, knapweed broomrape and pyramidal orchids.
Old Sulehay Forest is ancient abandoned coppice of ash, hazel, oak and field maple, with a diverse ground flora. We are reintroducing coppicing and we fell trees to maintain the wide, sunny rides favoured by wildlife – and people.