Location and access
OS map ref: SK 785036 (Sheet 141)
The reserves are situated between Launde and Loddington, in east Leicestershire. From the Tilton to Oakham road take any of several roads signposted to Launde. Continue through Launde park with the Abbey on your left, stopping at the top of the hill where a public footpath is signposted to the right and a bridle way to the left. If arriving by car take care to park without obstructing gateways.
Launde Big Wood can be seen in the distance to the west, while the Park Wood to the the east, is partially hidden by a tall hedge. Walk along the public rights of way and enter the woods through the gates at their entrance.
Waterproof footwear is always recommended.
We encourage visitors to use environmentally friendly forms of transport wherever possible. Most of our reserves are easily accessible by bicycle, with many close to the National Cycle Network. Click here to view a location map of the reserve on the National Cycle Network website.
Public transport - contact Traveline for further information www.traveline.org.uk or phone 0871 200 22 33.
Dogs are not allowed at Launde Big Wood due to the sensitive wildlife.
Dogs are permitted at Launde Park Wood but only under strict control - able to bring to heel at all times.
Launde Big Wood covers 42 ha and is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, while Launde Park Wood extends over 57 ha. Both are ancient woodlands and were leased by the Trust in 1997 from the Leicester Diocesan Board of Finance for a period of 350 years.
History, habitats & management
The parish of Launde lies in one of the most attractive and unspoilt areas of countryside in Eastern England. The landscape is one of rolling hills, pasture, small streams, woods and numerous fox coverts. Rich in history and wildlife, Launde contains an old priory set in parkland, a possible Norman motte and bailey castle site, medieval fish ponds (now re-flooded), the earthworks of a medieval deer park, two ancient woodlands and two Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
The priory of Launde was founded some time before 1125, and lay within the Royal Forest of Leighfield. In 1248, shortly after the Forest was reduced in size, the prior was granted licence to ‘impark’. Launde Park Wood now stands on part of the site formerly occupied by the deer park, and there are some very impressive earthworks to be found in and around the wood. Both the Park Wood and the Big Wood are very old, with massive boundary earthworks, huge coppice stools clearly centuries old, and many plants known to be confined, or nearly so, to ancient woodlands sites.
The Big Wood is situated on a hill top, with superb views of the surrounding countryside. Its soils are mainly heavy and calcareous, being derived from various clays, but there are also better drained areas resulting from deposits of glacial sand and gravel. While a fine high-forest structure is developing in this wood, the fauna and flora of more open woodland has suffered since coppicing ceased to be practiced, and the rides have become narrow and more heavily shaded.
The Park Wood is now larger than the Big Wood, the latter having been reduced in size in the last 150 years or so. The woods stand on similar geological formations, and this is reflected in their flora and vegetation. The Park Wood contains the same range of plants as the Big Wood, and is the best wood in Leicestershire not protected by SSSI status.
About two-thirds of the Park Wood has been clear-felled and planted with a mixture of trees, especially conifers, but much of the original vegetation still remains. The wood is a very large one in a Leicestershire context, but its nature conservation interest has suffered greatly in the last 50 years. Many of the rides have become narrow and overgrown, and the coppice has been neglected. A major project to restore the ancient woodland has been undertaken in the last few years which, it is hoped, will encourage other woodland owners to do the same.
The Trust has started to reintroduce traditional management to these woods, to benefit wildlife. Ride, glade and coppicing work will create valuable habitats for many birds, plants and insects, and the setting will provide an ideal opportunity to demonstrate to people how landscape history has influenced wildlife. Visitors are able to participate in practical work, guided walks and educational visits, learning about the history and wildlife of Launde.
As the largest manager of ancient woodland in Leicestershire and Rutland, the Trust is aiming to increase awareness and interest in woodland conservation and management. Launde Woods will enable the Trust, in a region with precious little remaining ancient woodland, to promote woodland conservation even more effectively.
Features of interest
The Big Wood is one of the largest and most important semi-natural ancient woodlands in the East Midlands. It is dominated by stands of pedunculate oak, ash, hazel and field maple. Many other trees are present, including elm and aspen. The ground flora is very rich, providing magnificent displays in the spring. Wood anemone, bluebell, wood-forget-me-not, sweet woodruff, early-purple orchid and primrose are just a few of the more attractive species, while rarer ones include bird’s-nest and greater butterfly-orchids, nettle-leaved bellflower, herb paris and toothwart.
Badgers have excavated at least two setts. Other mammals include stoat and weasel, while nightingale and nuthatch have been noted amongst the birds. Almost inevitably invertebrates have not been looked at in detail. Some of the butterflies, such as the dark green and silver-washed fritillaries, are no longer present, but purple and white-letter hairstreaks still are.
Despite much of the Park Wood having been planted with conifers, it still retains many of the same features of interest as the Big Wood. These are best seen in the northern third of the wood, which escaped planting. However, where conifers have been removed the ground flora is now recovering with the spread of species such as ramsons, sweet woodruff and primrose. Towards the end of the summer the rare fragrant agrimony can be found growing beside the main ride.
Click here to download a leaflet detailing a circular walk around Launde Park Wood.