Sunday, 2 June 2013


Right, who's Charles Bradlugh and why is a massive green space in the middle of a large town named after him, sit down, pour yourself a stiff drink and read on, please don't think boring history lesson coming as if you like small groups taking on the wealthy and winning, you're love this.....I hope
Charles Bradlaugh was born in Hoxton London on 26th September 1835, he joined the Seventh Dragoon Guards but didn't like the army and left in 1853. He was an atheist (arguably the most famous 19th century atheist) and formed the National Secular Society in 1866, he also campaigned for woman's rights and the suffragettes. In 1877 he got into a spot of bother by publishing an article called The Fruits of Philosophy which was the first article to advocate birth control, he was sued and punished to six months in prison, which was quashed on appeal. He was also a republican and even tried introducing a bill abolishing the pensions of the likes of the Duke of Marlborough who was earning £4,500 per annum ( alot back in the !9th century). He was elected into the House of Commons to represent Northampton (some say this is why Northampton will never be given "city" status under Royal Charter) in 1880 but was expelled as he wouldn't take the oath (hand on bible etc) he done many disruptive things in parliament but my favourite was being arrested for illegal voting (having not been sworn in etc) and chucked into the Tower of London by the Tories (Badger Killers) however Benjamin Disraelli thought it would be better to fine him rather than make him a martyr.
He was also a keen trade-unionist but rejected socialism as he thought it was "a disruptive foreign doctrine".
Also worth noting and in a "history repeating itself" kind of way he also whilst in parliament championed Irish Home Rule and the redistribution of land, also spoke out against Britain's involvement in South Africa, Sudan, Egypt and AFGHANISTAN!, spooky that!
He eventually died on the 30th January 1891 and buried in unconsecrated grounds and had over 3000 mourners turn up....sounds a top bloke but what's the connection with nature?
Well Bradlaugh Fields has even more history and fossils found on the site indicates it was under the sea 170 million years ago, fast forwarding a bit, fossils and tools etc have been found from the Jurassic,bronze age etc.
On part of the field labelled "ScrubField" has a hedgerow that dates back to the Middle Ages (13/15th century) and that's an ancient hedgerow in a town centre, not rural England. The fields belonged to the Earl of Spencer (Princess Dianna's brother) who had a golf course on it, he sold the land to Costain Homes who planned to build nearly 800 homes on it, sadly he didn't count on the local residents who enjoyed the green space around them and soon a campaign got under way including a massive 835 letters of objection (not signatures!! letters) be lodged with the council (the most that had ever been received by the council) , the council turned down the application but Costain sold the land to a firm called Gallaghers who submitted another plan but with a smaller number of housing on it, it was declined but instead they were allowed to develop approximately 14 acres (the supermarket) but in fairness to Gallaghers they donated over a million pounds for the tidying up the land behind the supermarket and build/renovate the old barns into an education/learning centre.
My favourite bit I remember quite clearly, as I was there was when Tony Clarke (the council leader) chaired a meeting on the 23rd July 1996 at the Northampton School for Girls (next to the park) with residents to discuss what to do with the park, nearly everyone wanted it to remain a natural parkland/greenspace and not a "landscaped/ornamental" type park and so it remains today, no houses will ever be built on it thanks to an act that prohibits it seemed it apt or slightly tongue in cheek after all the struggling to name it after Charles Bradlaugh....LOVE IT.
It is a great bit of greenery, it's divided into three sections "Hills and Hollows" which is a maze of dips and hills loads of gorse and wildflowers, the dips providing shelter for a serious amount of butterflies and later in the year dragonflies too, here's two images of a white butterfly and the second one I call TIGER EYE butterfly (sorry Trevor) haven't got a clue of either species, sorry. I won't mention I call the "white one" UPSIDEDOWN butterfly as it looks like the body is.....told you I know nothing....

Also from the Hills and Hollow section was these two Common Whitethroats, could and will do better, I promise......the Hills and Hollow section is the bit nearest to the supermarket.

The next section is the "Grassland/Scrub" section, it's left un-cut except a grass pathway and is also home to some lovely wildflowers and the best hedgerow I've ever scanned looking for birds, there's a couple of small ponds near the "barns" that are worth checking out and the third and final section near the college is called "quarry" here you can just about make out a ditch that was dug to keep the "Kings" deer on his land from escaping and is called "Deers leap" at this point I turned right so I was walking behind the houses of the Parklands housing estate here there was plenty of Mayflower (I think that's what it is called) on the trees in bloom more wildflowers and uncut grass, try waist high grass in places...beautiful, even the two cows the Northants Wildlife Trust own can't eat it all. Look how high the grass is in relation to the cow.
One thing I noticed was the lack of litter, I know that sounds odd but not as odd as this, given the number of dogs, I didn't see one dog pooh bag in a bush!!! I don't know whether it was due to respect of people using it or just very good volunteers keeping it clean, I would like to think it's a bit of both, this female House Sparrow (loads of these on site) seemed to find plenty of food......

Another great walk and this place is only 10 minutes from home so need for the car, so if you're ever driving down the Kettering Road in Northampton and see a Morrisons supermarket or your wife fancies some groceries, pop in, there's a little carpark behind the petrol station that takes you onto the Hills and Hollow section, my favourite bird in site was a male Kestrel near the college (roughly in the field were the cows are) and got a total of 36 bird species in a brief two hour visit, I'm sure there is more and have pencilled in a return visit so I'll leave you with two Long Tail Tit images...since I wittled on for so long.


  1. This is an uplifting story. It's good to hear that things can go right.
    Wonderful images as usual.

    1. Thanks Adrian, you're right it is uplifting and to me can underlines the two things 1)what can be achieved when protest groups all pull in the same direction 2)the negative effect the internet can play in protests, after all there was no net in 1987 etc

  2. Interesting story there Douglas, it seems like old 'Charlie B' was a man who had a wide ranging set of views and wasn't afraid to let people know about them, and to hell with the consequences!
    It seems that little park has been through some dodgy, and interesting, times but has survived to become a little jewel filled with nature and, hopefully, a secure future!

    You got some excellent images, love the LTT's. Great alternative names for the butterflies but I reckon I'll stick with the more common ones!...Large White and Speckled Wood...[;o)

    1. Definately an interesting bloke, so much so I did my History project at school on him, there was so much more then what I could remember for this post.
      The great thing about Bradlaugh fields is that it isn't small, the Hills and Hollows section is 9.7 hectres, the "gras and scrub" section is 23 hectres,quarry secttion is about 17 hectres and the bit of land behind Moulton Park industrial estate and Parklands housing estate is about 20-30's huge and lovely, I think the way it's been managed by the Northants Wildlife Trust and some others means it's definately got a positive future...I hope.

  3. Ooops!...of course, that should have been Green-veined White AND NOT Large White!!...[;o)

    1. Cheers Trevor, I'm determined to know/remember more butterfly species by the end of this summer.