Bedford Purlieus National Nature Reserve



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Bedford Purlieus NNR is an historic species-rich semi-natural woodland lying within the Soke of Peterborough. It lays claim to having the richest range of plants in any English lowland wood. In Roman times, this area of dense forest was in an iron smelting centre, and later during the medieval period became part of the Royal Forest of Rockingham. Later still, it became a part of the estate owned by the Duke of Bedford, which is how it got its present name. Purlieus means land that was once part of a Royal Forest but has been legally dissaforested. There is a variety of woodland habitats, from stands of mature oak to birch woodland, open glades and clearings. The damper spots, with areas of fallen timber, are richly carpeted in mosses and fungi. Breeding birds include lesser spotted woodpeckers, which can be heard drumming in winter and spring, while nuthatches, treecreepers and jays are found in the more mature areas. Butterflies include the white admiral, white-letter hairstreak and the occasional silver-washed fritillary.

Bedford Purlieus National Nature Reserve


About the area

Discover Northamptonshire

Northamptonshire is a mainly rural county of gentle beauty, with farmland, forest and great country estates. Rivers, canals and meadows are all part of the tranquil scene, providing a haven for wildlife. 

This is a great area for walking, touring and exploring villages of stone and thatch. There are also some impressive Saxon churches at Brixworth and Earls Barton. Northampton is the county town, and along with Kettering, has long been associated with the production of footwear. Kettering was the second largest town until it was overtaken by the rapid development of Corby as a major centre of the steel industry.

Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park is set in Northamptonshire, although it seems that Austen never actually visited the county. Other famous connections include the poet John Dryden (1631-1700) who was born in the tiny village of Aldwincle; King Richard III (1452-1485) born at Fotheringhay Castle; and American revolutionaries George Washington (1732-1799), whose family came from Sulgrave Manor, and Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) whose father was born in another tiny Northamptonshire village called Ecton.

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