Look out for Lizards

DSC02613-EditOn warm days you may catch a sight of lizards sunning themselves though they generally move fairly quickly when disturbed.


This one was basking on the top of an ants’ nest mound near the Walcot Hall wall

There is also a good chance of seeing a green woodpecker near the ants’ nest – ants are their staple diet.

Man Orchid Count – Saturday 24th May

 Man Orchid Count – Saturday 24th May 

A hardy group of 14 friends surveyed the south-west compartment for man orchids on a very wet Saturday morning. Completing three traverses of this area of the reserve spread out in a line we managed to count and record the location of 161 man orchid flowering spikes. A significant increase in numbers on surveys in recent years but still significantly less than the peak recorded in the 1980’s. The survey only covered one sector of the reserve and casual walks along the main paths in the north west compartment can also find man orchids in flower.  The previous post shows what we were looking for and the orchids are still flowering and can be seen on the reserve with a little care and time to hunt out the green/brown spikes from the green/brown vegetation! If the sunshines it is an added benefit as the butterflies will also be out, they were notably far more sensible than us and avoided a soaking!

Man Orchid


man orchid 2
© Alyson Freeman

Orchis anthropophora, the Man Orchid, is a European species of orchid whose flowers resemble a human figure. The head is formed by the petals and sepals, and the suspended torso and limbs by the lobes of the labellum.

It is fairly rare and is just coming into flower on the Hills and Holes.  Very small at the moment, flowers just starting to form


man orchid
© Petersrockypics

This composition shows on the left, the Orchid in its natural environment, and to the right of the frame, a more-detailed bokeh shot.

May News

May is surely one of the best months on the Hills and Holes – the pasqeflowers out in their full glory, set off by bright yellow cowslips and this year a good show of early purple orchids.

Early Purple-02124
Early purple orchid

As the month progresses many other flowers come into bloom, including one of the site’s great rarities, the man orchid. A count of this species has been organised for 24th May, when we hope as many Friends as possible will join us.





Orangetip on bluebells
Orangetip on bluebells

May is also a good month for butterflies – you should see familiar species such as tortoiseshell, comma, peacock and brimstone waking from their long winter hibernation.

They are joined by freshly emerged spring species such as orange tip, holly blue and speckled wood – this is likely to be seen in the wooded area next to Walcot Park.

One of the hardest to spot butterflies is the green hairstreak, whose green and brown colouration helps to camouflage it against the hawthorn and other shrubs where it flies. Birds are also busy at this time of year. Many of the birds breeding in the Hills and Holes are associated with scrub and wooded areas, including blue tit, great tit, blackbird, dunnock and willow warbler.

Now you see it

Now you see it...
Now you see it…


Enjoyed a day out with the Peterborough Conservation Volunteers on Sunday 13th April.They work on various local nature conservation  projects. At first sight removing new growth of Silver Birch, Hawthorn and other new bushes and trees may seem more like destruction than conservation.Unfortunately, if these bushes and trees were left undisturbed,they would grow to cover too much of the Hills and Holes and the flowers which currently carpet the open area would decline. In the  Hills and Holes  it is the open limestone landscape that is being conserved so that its particular habitat can continue to support its rich population of plants and wildlife . The weather was fortunately dry and mild. The outdoor work was enjoyable and fellow workers seemed to have plenty of information to pass on about findings on the reserve as work progressed. Due to the need not to disturb birds and other wildlife during the spring and early summer months it seems that they will not be further working parties like it  until late summer but I shall be awaiting their future programme  with interest.

Spring is Sprung

Der spring is sprung
Der grass is riz
I wonder where dem boidies is? (anon)

DSC01798-1Well, I don’t know about boidies but the first Pasque Flowers are appearing together with a great many cowslips. There are quite a lot of butterflies around as well.

Open Day 21April


FBHH logo final greenThe Friends of Barnack Hills and Holes (FBHH) are to hold an Open Day based at the Millstone in Barnack. This will give all visitors a chance to meet the steering committee and learn more about the plans for the nature reserve.

More details to follow but there will be an information display, photographic exhibition, Easter egg hunt, raffle etc and the opportunity to sign up to become a Founder Member of FBHH

We hope to see you there.

Ella’s Diary

A dog’s view on sunshine and hail


The strange need for humans to go out in the cold and wet on a Sunday afternoon saw me and the bloke I tolerate out on the Hills and Holes this weekend. The rain and hail has brought out all the scents and smells but as the website has not got these features enabled I’ll have to try my best with words.

The Common Dog-Violet are now flowering across the reserve. I am not sure why a flower with no scent merits the title “dog” but then many of the humans probably do not know they have no scent, the poor disadvantaged creatures that they are. Pairs of Great Tits are prospecting the hawthorns for potential nest sites and large plump Woodpigeons sit in the trees, feathers fluffed out against the cold wind bringing the ever changing weather across the reserve. The initial sunshine quickly disappears and has left the early Cowslip buds considering why they have made the effort to poke their heads out of the warmth of the grass sward.  A blackbird’s shrill alarm call announces our progress into compartment 3 on the far side of the reserve. The piles of grey and black ash just beyond the gate where the scrub used to be provide evidence that the reserve needs man’s constant intervention to maintain its wide variety of rare plant life.

Not just nature’s signs of spring are present on the reserve. Man has also made his contribution with the arrival of rows of blue and black plastic sticks neatly attached by their “leads” to each other to stop them running away. Protecting this year’s wild flowers in the areas they zone off they help establish growing communities of the more endangered species so they can strengthen their foothold in this small reserve and spread more widely so all can enjoy them in the future.  A fierce hailstorm sends me heading for the cover of the scrub along the boundary between compartments 4 and 3. Standing in this sheltered spot the few early white flowers on the Blackthorn add to the large number of white hailstones spreading across the surrounding grass.

As the sunshine gradually reappears the lazy flapping of a pair of crow’s heading to their roost and the rhythmic wing beat of a black headed gull high over head remind me it is time to head home for tea. The clump of invasive daffodils, the cherry blossom and breaking buds on the horse chestnut tree, on the opposite side of the road as we head back into the village, show that whatever the weather nature has decided it is spring.

Signed Ella  (a young and enthusiastic Chocolate Labrador)