Category Archives: featured

Access to the Reserve

The contractor has now finished work on the main car park which is now re-opened. As well as levelling the car park and adding a soak away to improve drainage the access path to the reserve has been improved. The path is now smoother, wider and has a more even gradient making it safer to access and exit the reserve. Please do still take care on this slope and the many others on the reserve. The subtle hint to the risks of visiting the reserve is in the name!

Also note that livestock will soon be present again for the autumn and winter grazing regime. Please look out for the notices and signs and take particular care when walking your dog(s) to keep them under close control at all times.

Big Butterfly Count

The big butterfly count is a nationwide survey aimed at helping us assess the health of our environment. It was launched in 2010 and has rapidly become the world’s biggest survey of butterflies. Over 60,000 people took part in 2017, submitting 62,500 counts of butterflies and day-flying moths from across the UK

It continues until the end of August and what better place to conduct your own 15 minute survey than on Barnack Hills and Holes.

Full details and survey submission form on

Man Orchid Survey

A very big thank you to all those who came along yesterday morning and helped look for and count the Man Orchid’s present in the four monitoring plots. We found in total 66 flower spikes within the designated areas and approximately 20 just outside the various areas or during the walks between them. The number is about half the number seen last year and very similar to the counts made between 2007 and 2014. This may be accounted for by the particularly “lush vegetation” with the recent rain and warmth making it difficult to spot the flower spikes but we also have seen ups and downs in the population since the records began. We are well below the 1845 flower spikes recorded in 1985!

The weather was kind being dry and sunny without being too hot or humid. As well as the Fragrant Orchids coming into bloom and the odd Pasque flower hanging about the first Pyramidal Orchid was noted (I just managed to avoid sitting on it!)

A Brown Argus and a pair of Common Blue butterflies added to the sightings and what I hope was an enjoyable morning for all on this beautiful nature reserve.

The next event will be a guided Glow Worm walk in July please keep a look out on this website for details of time and date.

Report on AGM held 16th January

A small group  met on Monday  16th for the A.G.M. and a very interesting talk about the history and current management of the Castor Hanglands / Ailsworth Heath reserve by Chris Gardiner. This particularly included information on the flora and fauna that you can expect to see in the different areas of this very diverse site. There was some encouraging news on the return to the site of several species of butterflies in numbers sufficient to make it a realistic  possibility of spotting one during a visit.

The business part of the meeting saw the majority of the committee happy to continue in their roles and a new chair Chris Evans elected. A unanimous big thank you to Alyson our outgoing Chair for all the work she has undertaken over the past three years. Our finances are in a healthy position with a slight increase in available funds at the year end. That only leaves us needing a volunteer to pick up the role of membership secretary to keep up to date our records of the 40+ members. Please do contact us if you are able to help with this vital but not too onerous task.

A full programme of events for 2017 is being planned so please keep checking the website and our Facebook page for information on these as the arrangements are confirmed.

AGM this Monday at 7:30pm in Barnack Village Hall

A final reminder that the AGM for the “Friends” is being held this Monday 16th January at 7:30pm at Barnack Village Hall. Please come along and after a short business meeting hear about the near by Castor Hanglands reserve from Chris Gardener.

There will be the opportunity to browse through old newsletters, review the survey results for 2016 and examine how the reserve has changed over the last 80 years as recorded in various aerial photographs and images. You may also be interested in finding out how you can help with bringing up to date our fixed point photography records to illustrate the changes in more detail.

There will  be the opportunity over light refreshments to discuss the events being planned for 2017 and how you could contribute to the purposes of the organisation as described in recent posts.

Finally it provides you with the ideal opportunity to pay your 2017 membership subscription.

Update on AGM Monday 16th January @ 7:30pm

Please do join us at the A.G.M. being held at Barnack Village Hall on Monday 16th January.  The “business” part of the meeting is always brief with the majority of the time spent on more interesting topics.

As well as an informative talk about another local reserve (Castor Hanglands) by Chris Gardiner there will be some historical photographs of the reserve, updates to the Orchid monitoring with the results of the 2016  surveys and information on the 2016 butterfly transects.

The provisional list of events for 2017 will  be available for comment and it will be your opportunity to indicate what you would like to see organised during the year and find out more about the various aims of the group and how you can help. (More to follow on these in posts over the next few weeks)

Finally it will obviously provide you with the ideal opportunity to pay your 2017 membership subscription.

AGM on Monday 16th January @ 7:30pm

Please put this date in your diary and start the new year by looking forward to another year of visits and activities on the reserve.

At the recent steering group meeting our current Chair Alyson confirmed that she will not be seeking re-election this year. A very big thank you to Alyson for all she has done to get the “friends” up and running since its initial formation in January 2014.

As we complete our third year the steering group confirmed four primary aims for the “friends”.

1. To promote understanding of the significance of the “Hills and Holes” as a national nature reserve to the broad community of visitors.

2. To assist Natural England with the practical management of the reserve.

3. To assist with ongoing monitoring and surveys on the reserve to ascertain the status of the flora and fauna.

4. To raise funds for specific projects which will improve the reserve in line with Natural England’s management plan.

To achieve these aims as well as requiring a new Chair and Secretary it would be useful to identify members who are willing to contribute in any of the four areas.

We can only achieve these objectives by having an active steering group and participatory membership so please give some thought to how you can give something back for the enjoyment we all get from the reserve. Either come along to the AGM at Barnack Village Hall (more details to follow shortly) or contact us by e-mail  ahead of the meeting.

October update from the Reserve

As autumn really takes hold on the reserve, the summer flowers become a distant memory and the final few weeks of butterfly monitoring pass by (Yes they continue through October!) work starts to prepare the reserve for 2017. Whilst visitor numbers drop the maintenance activity on the reserve increases. The Peterborough Conservation Volunteers (PCV) have been on site removing some of the scrub from compartment 3.imag0670imag0669

Whilst the PCV team are working hard tackling some of the larger scrub the sheep look very relaxed in their complimentary efforts .


The sheep have been busy though with there own clearance work removing vegetation to allow the weaker plants to thrive and add colour in the spring and summer. Without these different management techniques the reserve would quickly return to scrub and loose its wonderful spring and summer displays of flora and fauna.


Before being grazed                                           After grazing

As funding for Natural England becomes ever tighter and their time presence on  our reserve becomes more restricted, the support of volunteers to enact the maintenance plans and perform surveys becomes even more important.  If you are not a member and would like to join “the Friends” then please do contact us or if you want to know more about the work of the Peterborough Conservation Volunteers and even join them in their work on various local nature reserves then please visit their website at .

Also if you are able to help with maintenance tasks on the reserve please do get in touch with us.

Whilst there are a few cold months to pass before we can all enjoy the benefits of this work a big thank you to the team from PCV for their efforts which make a significant difference and also to the sheep for their hard work!


Practical Working Day – 9th March

Unfortunately this had to be cancelled due to heavy rain.

Members of the Friends group and others with an interest in the site are invited to join in and help maintain the site during the following working party being organised by Natural England

Wednesday 9th March

Meeting 9:30am at the Main Car Park

or join us during the morning on the reserve.

Please do let us know ( if you will be joining in.