Several people stand in front of Old John Tower in Bradgate Park.
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New National Nature Reserve Recognises Rocks of Charnwood Forest

One of Charnwood Forests most famous sites, which contains some of the oldest animals fossils every discovered, has been awarded National Nature Reserve (NNR) status by Natural England.

Bradgate Park and Swithland Wood National Nature Reserve is home to some of the most important geology in the country, dating to the Precambrian more than half a billion years ago. Fossils found on the site contain rare evidence of for some of our oldest animal ancestors.

The site has been declared as a National Nature Reserve and is part of the King’s Series of National Nature Reserves, announced last year to leave a lasting public legacy for people and nature by creating a series of reserves to celebrate the Coronation of His Majesty King Charles III. It is also a popular destination for visitors, close to the City of Leicester, and provides a number of access trails.

National Nature Reserve status is awarded to nationally important nature conservation sites in England that will always be managed and looked after for the benefit of their wildlife and geology. The majority of the site is also a protected Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Today also marks the start of National Nature Reserves Week, celebrating England’s most important places for nature. This year’s theme is National Nature Reserves for everyone, and Bradgate Park and Swithland Wood NNR offers fantastic opportunities for a wide diversity of visitors to enjoy and connect with nature on the outskirts of Leicester.

The site, once home to Lady Jane Grey, is steeped in history with much of the land formed from a medieval park containing 550 fallow and red deer alongside oak trees up to 800 years old and vital grasslands – which includes some of the last remaining fragments of wet heathland in the County.

Independent charity, Bradgate Park Trust, have been managing the park since it was given to the people of Leicestershire by landowner Charles Bennion in the 1920s to be run in trust for them. The Trust is also a key partner in the Landscape Partnership Scheme that has set up Charnwood Forest Geopark.

Swithland Wood, as well as including former Swithland Slate quarries, is an important ancient woodland habitat containing trees which provide homes to mammals, birds and insects including skylarks, nuthatches and wagtails, the rare ‘Charnwood’ spider and small heath butterfly.

Bradgate Park’s rich geological history makes it internationally important for scientific research and teaching of Precambrian Paleontology and is a key site in the future plans for a UNESCO Global Geopark in Charnwood Forest.

James Dymond, Director of Bradgate Park Trust, said:
“This is a landmark moment for Bradgate Park and Swithland Wood. They are home to some of the oldest fossils and rocks in England and to have the site’s conservation value recognised in this way is a fantastic achievement. For Bradgate to be part of His Majesty The King’s series of National Nature Reserves is a real honour and I’m extremely grateful to the teams of professionals, specialists and volunteers who have worked together to make this achievement possible. As well as being a Green Flag Heritage Site, we’ve now got a nationally recognised nature reserve too which we hope will raise the profile of our geological history and its importance.”

Jack Matthews, Charnwood Forest Geopark Geoheritage Officer, noted:
“The fossils of Bradgate Park are a vital window into an ancient world, around 560 million years ago, when animals first evolved. This site is of great importance to researchers around the world for what it can reveal about our oldest animal ancestors. Bradgate Park is so important, there’s even a fossil named after it – Bradgatia! This National Nature Reserve status is a clear expression of the significance of the site’s geology – from ancient fossils, to the slate quarries of Swithland Wood, and will help us all better conserve and celebrate these oldest elements of our local heritage.”

Cllr Martin Cartwright, Chair of the Charnwood Forest Regional Park Board added:
“Today’s announcement is great news not only for Bradgate Park and Swithland Wood, but also for Charnwood Forest as a whole. National Nature Reserve designation is going to help us further conserve and celebrate the internationally significant geology of our region, and supports our ongoing efforts to bring UNESCO Global Geopark status to Charnwood Forest. On behalf of the Geopark, congratulations to everyone at the Bradgate Park Trust and Natural England who has worked so hard on this project.”

Tony Juniper, staff of Natural England, Bradgate Park, and the Geopark celebrate the new National Nature Reserve status in Bradgate Park.

Tony Juniper, staff of Natural England, Bradgate Park, and the Geopark celebrate the new National Nature Reserve status in Bradgate Park.

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