Since opening in 1999, Brocks Hill Country Park has received increasing interest as a place for informal recreation and now attracts over 150,000 visitors per year. It is also an extremely important greenspace for wildlife in Oadby and Wigston Borough.
The Country Park used to be a mixed farm called Grange Farm with the land being influenced by farming practices for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Evidence of Bronze Age activities have been found within the area, as have medieval shards of pottery. Brocks Hill contains many features that were onlce widespread in the Leicestershire landscape, including medieval ridge and furrow fields, hay meadows, small ponds, mature trees and woodland compartments. The southern ditch and hedge boundary of the site forms part of the original boundary between Oadby and Wigston before they were combined into one Borough.
A network of 3km of hard surfaced paths allow low mobility and wheelchair access around the Country Park and a number of informal paths run through the woods and meadows. Please note some areas are prone to water-logging due to the heavy clay soil and may become muddy over the winter period.
The park is managed by a dedicated Park Warden who works alongside the grounds maintenance team and is assisted by the conservation volunteers. The wide range of habitats at Brocks Hill all require sensitive management to ensure their associated flora and fauna can flourish.
The woodland compartments at Brocks Hill were planted between 1998 and 2001 and have grown and developed a lot over the years. They cover around half the area of the country park. Amongst the woods and in hedgerows, we have a few magnificant mature oak and ash trees that are over a hundred years old.
As the young woodlands grow, trees become crowded, competing for light and nutrients meaning some will eventually die. Thinnning is an essential woodland management technique to improve the quality and promote healthy growth from the remaining trees. Brocks Hill County Park has been issued a felling licence by the Forestry Commission to thin the woodland compartments: this will involve removing trees that have poor growth, are unhealthy or growing too close to trees we want to keep. Major thinning works have begun and will continue throughout the winter of 2017 and 2018.
By removing a proportion of trees, more sunlight can reach the ground, providing areas for wildflowers to grow and habitat for many insects. Thinning will also enable a diverse range of tree species to grow throughout the compartments, improving biodiversity. After thinning trees, we will be creating log piles, which form an important component of the woodland habitat. We ask that you please leave these log piles undisturbed for the wildlife that relies on them.
More woodland species will inhabit the woods as the years go by: mature trees provide nesting sites for birds such as blue tits and woodpeckers, woodland wildflowers such as bluebells can be sown and begin to establish, a mixture of different trees and shrubs will enhance biodiversity and dead wood will provide homes for fungi, small mammals and invertebrates.
Hedges and edges
At Brocks Hill, many of our hedges are managed in the traditional way by our volunteer team. Historically, hedgelaying was carried out to keep the structure of the hedge tight and bushy, ensuring sheep and cattle couldn't escape from the fields.
Hedgelaying also benefits wildlife: by maintaining a wide, bushy hedge structure, there are more spaces for small mammals to shelter at the base of the hedge and opportunities for birds to build wel-lhidden nests in the branches. The hedge and the long vegetation growing adjacent also provides extra food for lots of species in the form of nectar, berries and seeds.
Whilst the grassy edges of paths are kept mown, we leave long areas to benefit the wildlife, particularly throughout the spring and summer. Along some edges, tall shrubs and brambles grow: these provide important food sources and nesting places for insects and birds.
There are a variety of different meadows at Brocks Hill: some have been hay meadows for many years and others have been quite recently sown with wildflower seeds. As with woodlands, meadows can take many years to establish and thrive.
Meadows require yearly cutting to keep them in good condition: if the wildflowers and grasses are not cut for hay and taken away, there is a build up of nutrients in the soil. The grasses will thrive on extra nutrients and quickly outcompete the delicate wildflowers. Cutting plants low to the ground also lets the light reach each one, allowing them to grow well the next year.
The meadows in the orchard and by the wind turbine are at their best during the summer, where there is a show of common knapweed, bird's-foot trefoil, meadow cranesbill and lady's bedstraw. These plants all provide food for hundreds of bees, butterflies and moths. These meadows also have cowslips and buttercups flowering in the springtime.
There are wildflowers in the larger fields in the southeast of the Country Park, although these have only been growing since 2014: prior to this they were arable fields growing crops such as wheat. We hope to gradually improve the biodiversity in these fields for a range of different species. Leaving sections of long grass uncut in these meadows benefits small mammals and birds of prey, such as kestrels, as well as delightful orange skipper butterflies.
Please avoid trampling on the flowers during spring and simmer so that the meadows can continue to thrive.
We have a range of different ponds here at Brocks Hill: some are small and dry up each summer, providing good conditions in spring for smooth newts to breed; others are larger and host our family of moorhens as well as frogs, toads and dragonflies.
The two ponds at the front of the centre have been planted with a variety of wetland plants and provide homes for many different creatures. Over time, the rushes and reeds around the edges of the ponds can encroach over the open water: these areas are maintained by pulling out a proportion of the plants whilst leaving enough along the edges for birds to hide and nest in.
These ponds can be viewed from the wooden platforms and allow visitors a chance to spot tadpoles, fish and dragonflies. Please help to reduce disturbance to the pondlife by not throwing anything into the water.
The park also provides a range of informal recreational activities, seven days a week.
- A permanent orienteering course. Course packs provide three routes of increasing difficulty and are available from Brocks Hill Centre at a small charge
- Other suggested themed trails with maps
- A Human Sun Dial
- Dog watering points adjacent to the Centre
- Environmental art in the form of sculptures
- A dedicated den building area
- Two play areas suitable for all ages
The Country Park also hosts many more organised learning experiences for children, adults and families. There are also lots of things to do for free.
Brocks Hill is a wonderful place to visit to exercise your pets and we welcome all dogs and responsible dog owners. We have produced some simple guidelines to help to ensure that the park is a safe and enjoyable place for all visitors, their pets and for local wildlife. Please follow these guidelines.
Last updated: Tuesday, 17 October 2017 5:25 pm