John Clare Country

photo by Steve Waterhouse, courtesy of WildNet

Visit a spectacular Living Landscape in John Clare Country

The John Clare Country Project, centred around the poet John Clare’s birthplace in Helpston, celebrates the history, heritage, culture, wildlife and landscape of this beautiful area which is full of treasures for people of all ages, backgrounds and interests.

Dubbed the area’s mini ‘National Park’, there are nature reserves, heritage centres, local shops, pubs and cafes, stone villages, cycle routes, bus routes and footpaths dotted around in such a way that it is possible to spend many days discovering this area rich in wildlife and history.

The limestone country to the west of Peterborough, extending through Stamford and into Northamptonshire, was home to John Clare (1793-1864), now regarded as the most important English poet of the natural world. His careful and lyrical description of the land around him, during the turmoil of the Enclosure Acts, presaged modern environmental concerns.

Now, the surviving fragments of Clare’s landscape are being protected, managed and made available to local people through this new John Clare Country Living Landscape Scheme.

The area runs from the fringes of Peterborough into the former Rockingham Forest. It encompasses ancient woodlands which are carpeted with bluebells, anemones and clouds of garlic-scented ramsons in the spring, flower-rich woodland rides and limestone grassland full of orchids and butterflies.

The John Clare Country initiative aims to create a network of woodland, grassland and wetland habitats, safeguarding existing areas, interpreting the historical and wildlife value of the area to local people, and enhancing the resource for the future.

It aims to achieve this by enlarging existing nature reserves and working in partnership with local landowners to help them to enhance their land for wildlife. It will provide some wonderful greenspaces for the growing population of Peterborough and beyond to enjoy. It also offers great opportunities of recreation, education and training.

The Wildlife Trust has already purchased 89 hectares of woodland and grassland, and has begun a successful restoration of 12 hectares of limestone grassland on unproductive ex-arable land at Sammocks Hill, Old Sulehay.

The project area also includes the Wildlife Trust’s Ring Haw Field Station, where a wide range of training events give volunteers the skills they need to support a Living Landscape scheme through practical habitat management, wildlife monitoring and education work.

Project partners The Langdyke Trust have recently purchased Torpel Manor Wildlife Site in Helpston; a 9 acres wildflower rich grassland site. They have also extended their Swaddywell Nature Reserve by purchasing an additional 18 acres, taking the total reserve up to 40 acres. Working with owners Tarmac at Maxey Quarry they have entered into a management agreement for their important 65 acre site, as they have with National Grid at a 20 acre site at Bainton Heath.

With two or the country’s most important National Nature Reserve; Barnack Hills and Holes and Castor Hanglands, managed by Natural England, plus one of the Country’s most famous poets, John Clare’s Cottage and cafes, pubs and attractions aplenty, the area offers something for everyone to enjoy.

Ways to get involved

There are numerous ways in which you can get involved in or contribute to the John Clare Country Project. Contact us for advice on:

• land management including HLS, wildlife gardening and school grounds

• field-trip days out for school and college groups

• teacher training days

• community events

• children’s wildlife clubs and young people’s wildlife groups

• community conservation teams

• wildlife surveys

• and much more

The John Clare Country Living Landscape scheme is a partnership project between The Wildlife Trust and the Langdyke Countryside Trust.

If you would like any more information about the John Clare Country Living Landscape Project, please call 01487 710420 or email