New fencing at Twywell

Friday 25th November 2016

Map showing new fencing at Twywell by Right Click Creative

Following a stakeholder meeting about the fencing at Whitestones, Twywell we have updated our statement and Q & A

A stakeholder meeting was held this evening (25 November) to discuss the fencing at Whitestones, Twywell Hills and Dales nature reserve, attended by the local MP Tom Pursglove, Wildlife Trust BCN, Rockingham Forest Trust, East Northamptonshire Council, Butterfly Conservation and representatives of Twywell Hills and Dales dog walking community and other users.

Natural England sent a letter of support about the fencing at Whitestones to protect grazing animals and the rare and sensitive wildlife that relies on the habitat at Whitestones, which is deemed to be of SSSI quality.

At the meeting a package of measures was proposed by the Wildlife Trust and Rockingham Forest Trust in response to a number of concerns that have been raised by the stakeholder group. These include improving the accessibility and quality of the fenced paths including resurfacing at the kissing gates, improved drainage at sections of path that are holding water and major scrub clearance to widen the paths.

Working with Rockingham Forest Trust we will also be moving and repairing benches and completing an overhaul of signage and waymarking on the site, including signage at exit points to ensure that dog walkers that go from Twywell on to neighbouring farmland do so in a responsible way following the Countryside Code. The permissive bridleway route around the site will be reinstated. We will be communicating regularly with local residents and site users as these changes come into effect and will continue to meet with the stakeholder group to continue to work through remaining issues relating to the site in a positive and constructive way.

Thank-you to Twywell Parish Council for organising and hosting the meeting and to those stakeholders who gave up their Friday evenings to take part in the meeting so positively.  


Twywell Hills and Dales comprises four sections – the central area, Whitestones, the Wood and the Gullet - a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for its limestone grassland and the insects which depend on it. The reserve is loved by local people and very popular, particularly with dog walkers, the majority of whom behave responsibly, though unfortunately in the last few years there have been numerous serious attacks by dogs on livestock at Twywell which meant halting all grazing in 2014.

Brian Eversham, Chief Executive of the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire (BCN), said: “Twywell is one of the best places in Northamptonshire for many butterflies species and other rare wildlife."

“Over the years we have tried to find solutions to this issue, without restricting access, including on-site events, talking to people, signage and altering the management regime so that only one area has grazing animals at a time. Unfortunately despite this sheep and cattle have still been chased, injured and killed by dogs on the nature reserve and we need to be able to graze this important wildflower nature reserve whilst still protecting the animals from dog attacks.

“A permissive path through the middle of Whitestones will remain open to allow visitors to enjoy the site. Fencing off the most sensitive areas of the reserve, along with a stricter policy on dogs being kept close and in sight of owners or on a lead, will allow the Trust to bring animals back to graze in safety to then reduce the coarse grasses and shrubs that smother the delicate limestone grassland. This will help to restore habitats for the special array of wildlife including linnets, yellowhammers, a huge variety of butterflies and other insects.”

Twywell fencing Q & A

Who can I speak to or contact if I want to find out more about the fencing?

If you would like to share your views about the new fencing or dogs on the reserve please write to: The Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire, Lings House, Lings Way, Billing Lings, Northampton NN3 8BE or email or consult our Complaints Policy.

Which other organisations are involved at Twywell Hills and Dales?

Twywell Hills and Dales is owned by East Northamptonshire Council and managed by the Wildlife Trust BCN,  the Rockingham Forest Trust and the Woodland Trust.

Why was the decision taken to install the fencing?

Twywell Hills and Dales Nature Reserve is a lovely and popular place and we want to make sure that people and wildlife could still enjoy it in as safe a manner as possible. Due to the senstive nature of the wildlife in the area we made the decision to fence parts of Whitestones. 

Over the years we have tried a whole range of ways to try and stop the dog attacks on livestock including:
• pre-grazing signs to say the stock were coming on a certain date
• signs on every gate into the compartment when the stock where on site
• community ‘Meet the sheep /lambs’ events
• talking to people and having a general presence on site
• altering the ideal grazing management so that only one area of the four sections was grazed at a time so that people could use the other areas with no stock being present.

Unfortunately none of these approaches have proved effective – livestock was being regularly chased, attacked and even killed. The situation got so bad from a welfare point of view, and for the staff having to manage the stock, that we actually removed all stock from site in late 2014. 

This has resulted in a slow decline in the grassland due to the coarser species and scrub taking over. Over the last few years we have tried to increase our efforts to manually clear the scrub but nothing is as good as grazing with livestock.

Why were dog walkers and other site users not consulted?

Across the Wildlife Trust we do a lot of community consultation and involve the public in major decisions about our nature reserves. Unfortunately in the case of Twywell we had gone beyond this point.

We did not undertake a consultation process as – due to the issues outlined above and the number of other attempts we had made to resolve this situation that did not prove effective we did not want to falsely raise expectations

.As well as liaising with our site partners and the reserve owner – East Northants Council we did post a notice on our website and on our Twywell Facebook group on 30 August to inform people about the planned fencing. This should have been supplemented with on-site signage and other communications with the local community. We would like to apologise for the fact that unfortunately signs explaining the works didn't go up around the site prior to the works commencing as planned - this was never our intention and is something that should never have happened and hasn't helped the situation.

Which areas of the reserve are accessible?

• The front of the Gullet – the path in the fenced area will still be accessible to all, apart from when it is being grazed, then access is still possible along the right of way on the ridge and permissive path adjacent to the A14.
• Whitestones - we are installing the fencing so that the rights of way and a number of the permissive paths are fenced out and will be accessible to everyone all year.
• The Central area will no longer be grazed and is accessible all year round.
• No changes have been made to the woodland which is still accessible all year.

For more information see the map at the bottom of this page.

Why is the fence where it is?

Due to the Public Rights of Way (ROW) that run across Whitestones we couldn’t just seasonally lock the gates or fence across the middle and seasonally prevent access – you are not permitted to restrict access along a ROW. The fence was designed to still permit access along the ROW’s and main permissive paths whilst still letting the most important areas of habitat to be managed.

Why are the fenced areas of Whitestones not open when the area is not being grazed? 

The fence has not just been erected to protect grazing animals it also prevents disturbance and trampling to the delicate habitat and associated wildlife – in the spring due to breeding birds such as willow warbler, robin and other low or ground nesting birds and in the autumn/winter due to the flocks of feeding finches and yellow hammers.

There is also the issue of dog mess and trampling of the delicate plants that grow there including bird’s-foot trefoil, common knapweed, field scabious, wild strawberry, bee orchid, common spotted orchid and hart’s-tongue fern. With the number of visitors increasing and more people and their dogs not sticking to the paths the pressure on the delicate grassland plants is increased.
The ponds are also important for great crested newts and dogs going into them is affecting the habitat, stirring up the mud and something that we have a legal responsibility to prevent as they are a protected species.

Although the fenced off areas will not have general public access to them but we are committed to running organised public events to take groups into these areas at key times (eg dawn chorus, to see butterflies and flowering plants etc). Access will also be possible for management and monitoring purposes.

Due to the topography of the Gullet we can allow public access outside of the grazing season as the steep sides mean that visitors and their dogs generally stay on the paths in this area.

Why did you use barbed wire – won’t this pose a hazard to both wild and grazing animals and to reserve visitors and their dogs?

With regard to the use of barbed wire the fence is a standard specification used to contain a range of livestock (sheep, cattle and horses) on a range of land across the country. The barbed wire generally stops livestock rubbing on the fencing, trying to put their heads through or trying to jump over it. We did consult with the County Council’s Rights of Way department prior to the works and they required that, next to footpaths, the barbed wire is on the opposite side of the fence and that a line of smooth wire is on the footpath side of the fence.

There are gaps under the fences that small dogs can get under. Will these be fixed?

Yes, contractors will be going back and mending any small holes or gaps in the fencing. We will constantly be checking the fence line to make sure that any new gaps that appear, due to rabbits digging etc, will be fixed as soon as possible.

Will there be any access for visitors without dogs to enter the fenced off areas?

The fenced off areas will be no public access but we are considering organising guided walks for visitors, without dogs, at key times of the year (for example at the peak of the butterfly season).

Why are the paths so narrow? Won’t they get very slippery in winter?

We will be carrying out work to widen and improve drainage along the paths in Whitestones but some of the paths may be slippery in the winter as they have in past years. Twywell is a large nature reserve and has a range of paths for people to walk. These will vary in condition depending on time of year with some routes being more accessible than other in the winter. 

What are the plans in terms of grazing the site?

In the future we would like the graze Whitestones in the autumn and winter with a spring graze one year in three to reduce the scrub development and regrowth.

Due to changes with the rules around cattle movements and having to carryout Tb testing on site and the difficulties surrounding this we are looking at using native breed ponies instead of cattle on the Whitestones area.

Does the Wildlife Trust get money for grazing the site?

No, the sheep and cattle that have been grazing the site are part of a conservation flock and herd, owned by the Wildlife Trust, and used to manage our nature reserves.

Is Twywell Hills and Dales a country park or a nature reserve and is Whitestones designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)?

Twywell Hills and Dales has been a nature reserve since the Wildlife Trust BCN began managing the site and has never been designated as a Country Park. It is the largest area of limestone grassland in the county and is a fantastic site for rare plant and scarce butterfly species including the grizzled and dingy skipper.

The Gullet was notified as a SSSI in 1989. Whitestones is a County Wildlife Site but is not currently aSSSI but the limestone grassland habitat is of high enough quality to be designated as a SSSI but with a lack of appropriate management is declining. Natural England has confirmed that the quality of the habitat and the area is of SSSI quality. 

What is the policy on dogs on the reserve? Has this changed recently?

The Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire has recently reviewed our policy on dogs on our nature reserves. You can read more about this new approach at At Twywell this has resulted in a change in our approach. All dogs on site are required to be under close control. This means that you know where your dog is at all times, that you can see it and that it will come immediately to your command. This maybe on or off the lead depending on each individual dog.

There is no seasonal requirement for dogs to be on a lead, as long as they are under close control, as we have now taken the decision to separate people and dogs, from the livestock and more sensitive wildlife areas so that we can guarantee that both are safe.

Signage is being updated on site and will reflect the changes both in terms of fencing and dogs on leads as soon as possible.

Will benches behind the fencing be moved?

Yes the benches will shortly be moved from within the fenced areas.

Map showing new fencing at Twywell by Right Click Creative