All posts by David

Man Orchid Count (Interim Report)

© Petersrockypics
© Petersrockypics

A big thank you to all those who turned out last Saturday 30th May to look for small green flowers in the green grass! Despite the challenge and with the help of good weather the totals so far for this year are as follows:

Compartment 1 (SW) – 251 (161 for this compartment last year)

Compartment 2 (NW) – 292

Compartment 3 (NE) – still to be surveyed

Compartment 4 (SE) – 79

Compartment 6 (N) – 1

NB Compartment 5 is the designation for the road side verge

Total to date : 623 (Estimate circa 650+ once compartment 3 completed)

This compares to 184-2013 and 1,027 – 1998 the latest two comparable whole site surveys. We wait to see if the fixed plot surveys support these encouraging signs of an increased population after many years of low numbers.  Fixed point  Man Orchid count data from 1997 to 2014.

19th June Event – Glow Worm Walk

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Our second event in June is the annual Glow worm walk. Chris Gardiner of Natural England will be leading the annual Glow worm walk. Again we will meet up in the Main car park but obviously a late start 21:30 on Friday 19th June. This is planned to last between 11/2 and 2 hours and will be free to members and at a small charge of £2:00 for non-members. Please do let us know if you would like to attend to help with planning by e-mailing and if not already a member please consider joining (£5 per year – and enjoy free events throughout the year, learning more about this National Nature Reserve.

Guided Wildflower Walk – 6th June

On Saturday the 6th June there will be a guided Wildflower walk starting off from the main car park off Wittering Road at 10:30. This will help those of us who enjoy the fantastic display of wildflowers present on the reserve put names to them and learn more about the site’s importance for certain red list species (see science article to find out more about the red list). The walk is planned to last between 11/2 and 2 hours and will be free to members and at a small charge of £2.00 for non-members. Please do let us know if you would like to attend to help with planning by e-mailing

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May Event – “Man Orchid Hunt”

© Petersrockypics
© Petersrockypics

The May event is free for all to attend and is part of the ongoing monitoring programme on the reserve. Each year since 1977 there have been surveys of the flora and fauna on the reserve and this is an opportunity for you to contribute to this data set. On Saturday 30th May there will be a count of the number of Man Orchid flower spikes on the reserve. Those who attended last year’s rather wet survey managed to locate 161 spikes in compartment one (south west quadrant). If you would like to join in this years survey then you are welcome to just turn up at the main car park at 10:00am but if you can let us know ( that you will be attending that will help with planning the survey area.

Basic Introduction to Wildflower Photography


With the Pasque flowers in full bloom and the first early orchid reported we will be running a workshop to provide an introduction to the basic techniques of wildflower photography.  This is aimed at beginner and intermediate level to help you capture all the spring and summer flowers present on the reserve. The event will be held (weather permitting) in the morning of Saturday 16th May. This will be a small workshop group so please do register your interest ( as soon as possible to receive further details.

Margaret Palmer will join us to identify the flowers that we find.

The Big Spring Watch

With the first Pasque Flower of the season seen on the reserve during my visit on Tuesday this week spring is well on its way. For those who saw “Springwatch at Easter” on BBC the reserve provides an opportunity to participate in their survey as all five signs of spring can be seen on the reserve. Please feel free to e-mail me at with your sightings on the reserve of the English Oak coming into leaf, Hawthorn in flower, seven spot ladybirds, Orange tip butterflies and of course the arrival of the first Swallow. See for more national information.

19th April Event – Introduction to the Butterfly Survey


April’s event will be held on Sunday 19th April from 11:00-12:30 meeting at the main car park off Wittering Road. On the day Chris Gardiner from Natural England will be giving us an onsite “Introduction to the Butterfly Survey”. This will help those who want to contribute to the 2015 site survey programme and help those with an interest in butterflies to develop their knowledge of the site. The event will be free to members and at a small charge of £2:00 for non-members. There will be a limit on the number of spaces so please book your place by e-mailing

March Event Report

A glorious spring day and a fly past by an early Brimstone butterfly welcomed the first event of the year. David and Nick joining with ten members of Peterborough Conservation Volunteers (PCV) to clear some of the small scrub along the boundary between compartments 1 and 4 to the west of the wooded area. The reported regular presence of a  local concentration of Green Hairstreak butterflies saved us from a major battle with two large bramble patches and to work around the larger hawthorn bushes present in the area. That still left enough smaller scrub mainly ash, hawthorn, blackthorn and of course turkey oak to clear. The friendly welcome and regular cups of tea provided by PCV  made the morning pass very quickly. Late excitement from a brief excursion by the fire into the surrounding dead grasses and a discussion on the identification of violets, prompted by a local patch that was in full bloom, ensured lunch was as interesting as the rest of the day. Many thanks to Anne and John (PCV) for leading the task and keeping everyone safe and the rest of the PCV team for their practical help in maintaining the reserve.

First Event of 2015

 Scrub Clearing



The first event for the Friends of Barnack Hills and Holes in 2015 will be a practical task held on Sunday March 22nd. We will be joining with the Peterborough Conservation Volunteers who will be on site continuing to clear scrub and help keep the reserve in good condition to support the flora and butterflies that we can enjoy throughout the spring and summer. Please feel free to join us for as long or as little time as you can. Please let me know by e-mailing if you are thinking of attending so I can provide any updates . David


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.