Category Archives: Uncategorized

Scrub clearing

A very big thank you to all the volunteers and Natural England staff who turned out to clear and burn a lot of the scrub in compartment 3 (North East corner). By keeping the scrub cleared in this area we are providing every opportunity for the richer flora present in compartments 1 and 2 to expand and colonise the “hills and holes” in this area.

Whilst it was a fairly grey day with constant drizzle and a few heavy showers (which I managed with perfect timing to miss) the work, fire and companionship kept us warm. The sharp eyed will note a missing beech tree in the area and far fewer hawthorn bushes work started by the Peterborough conservation volunteers and extended by today’s efforts. Some more minor cutting back and taking out of smaller hawthorn growth in the next week will conclude activities in the area for this season.

Outcomes from Committee Meeting

The committee met last night (thank you once again to The Millstone pub for hosting us).

The major issue we face is finding a secretary, somebody (or bodies) willing to help coordinate event dates, record simple action lists and meeting notes from the two/three committee meetings a year. We have plenty of support from Natural England and financially are secure at present but we do need another volunteer if the group is to function effectively so please consider getting in touch. (

Other opportunities are  to seek funding from a local government initiative to help improve the site and to manage a specific improvement project again please let us know if you are able to help.

On a more positive note we have made some progress in arranging events for 2017 and as dates and timings are agreed please look out for these on the website or on Facebook (and also unfortunately for updates due to weather!)

A final request for membership fees to be paid and a big thank you for the circa 25 members who have already renewed.

A final thank you to the sheep who have completed their many months of conservation work on the reserve and have now left to enjoy a well earned “holiday”. It always seems a shame they do not get to enjoy the rewards of their labour but I know we will this spring and summer with another fine floral display.

History of the Reserve and earlier times

The first floral display of 2017 has appeared on the reserve. Whilst demonstrating the problems of having a nature reserve right on the edge of the village (these snowdrops are almost certainly a garden escapee) they do at least bring the promise of spring or at least the end of winter.

Over the last month I have taken the opportunity provided by wet and cold weather to look through the archive materials and scan and make copies of various documents related to the reserve and the sites history before it became a nature reserve. This includes old newsletters from 1990 -2002, extracts from various articles and a copy of entries in the Phytologia Britannica –  year of1650, along with many other items. Those who attended the AGM will have seen the range of aerial photographs of the reserve dating from the 1940 up to 2010.

As well as these historical records of man’s interaction with the site through both quarrying and conservation, the summer warden reports from 1970-1990’s have interesting details of the “recreational” interaction with the reserve. Among these are comments on flower picking (135 incidents reported in 1977), motorcyclcs on the site, and hill sliding on cardboard and metal sheets. All thankfully rarer activities these days.

A few other snippets picked out as I scanned through the articles are a survey of Muntjac deer pellets, the site being used from 1907 to graze retired draught horses brought from London and then when recovered sold on to local farmers, a 1960 visit by the Botanical Society and the use of Barnack ragstone for a 13th century tombstone.

There is plenty more if someone has an interest in writing up a comprehensive history of the “Hills and Holes”. One area that would certainly add to the records is anecdotes about use of the area in 20th century (1900-1970’s) any local recollections gratefully received. Also there is little information currently in the archives for 1500-1900’s so that could be interesting to research. When and how did it become part of the Burghley estate and how was it used?

If there is anyone or a few people who would be willing to pull together the historical information then please do get in touch


Membership Subscriptions

Just a polite reminder as Spring rapidly approaches (well sun is shining today and see picture of what will soon be present on the reserve) that if you have not renewed your membership subscription (only £5) for 2016 these are now overdue.

Knowing the size of our membership and the funds we have available is essential for the committee to plan events for 2016 so please take action now.

Details on how to pay included in the last newsletter or available from

Ella’s Autumn Diary

SuBlackberrying screenmmer is almost over and I have hacked his account again! The days when it is easy to persuade him to take me out for a walk and I could get much further before he complained and wanted to head home are coming to an end. The flowers on the reserve are much less prominent but compensated for by the berries and fruits especially the fun of blackberry picking which I have discovered this autumn. The odd prickle of the nose is well worth it for the juicy fruits in the hedgerows in the fields surrounding the reserve.

The disappearance of the swifts in the middle of summer seems strange to me but with the days cooling and getting shorter I can see why the swallows are moving on. The antics of the groups of finches, which have formed on the reserve, keep me entertained. I enjoy watching them explore the hawthorn bushes but I am still waiting to see my first flock of long tailed tits of the autumn. They are easily heard with their constant “radar pips” as they call to each other to keep contact as they forage across the reserve. I have spent the whole summer trying to get a sniff of the  butterflies. Despite the high numbers this has proven elusive not one of them ever settled long enough for me to get my nose on to them but the few remaining sunny days still give me a chance. Hopefully a dry September will allow me to make the most of the reserve before the sheep return. Whilst I am really friendly and want to play they do not enjoy my company and get easily stressed if I go too close so I am kept on my lead and taken on routes that avoid them. Along with the sheep the return of the wintering thrushes to the reserve is the other sure sign that autumn has arrived. So whilst the floral display is coming to an end the reserve still has plenty of interest to keep my eyes, ears and nose occupied.

Frog Orchids

There are a few Frog Orchids at present, only about a dozen I believe. They are in one of the protected areas and if you want to see them please ask the warden when you see him on site.

Frog Orchid 600-03154

The frog orchid, as the latin name viridis suggests, is green in colour, which in combination with its stature makes this species a difficult plant to find. However, if you are lucky enough to catch it in flower you will see that the flowers live up to its name – resembling small frogs on the stem. In common with other orchids the flowering of frog orchids is uncertain and may vary from year to year.