Corporate report

Cambridgeshire's National Nature Reserves

Published 31 October 2008

Barnack Hills and Holes

Arising from the rubble of a mediaeval quarry, Barnack Hills and Holes is one of Britain’s most important wildlife sites. The site represents half of the surviving limestone grassland in Cambridgeshire, and is designated as a Special Area for Conservation to protect the orchid rich grassland.

Main habitats: lowland grassland, scrub

Area: 22 hectares

Features of interest

Further information about the NNR, its wildlife and special features is on the Barnack Hills and Holes visitor leaflet.

For more information on seasonal highlights at the reserve see Natural England’s page on Barnack Hills and Holes in the National Archive.

Directions

The reserve is situated at the south-west corner of Barnack village, 2 miles from the A1, west of Peterborough.

By cycle/on foot

The reserve is situated less than 5 minutes walk from Barnack. A public footpath (Barnack No. 2 footpath) crosses the southern boundary of the Reserve, linking the villages of Barnack and Southorpe.

By bus

Buses from Peterborough and Stamford serve the village hourly.

By train

The nearest train station is Stamford (4 miles).

By car

The reserve is not signposted from public roads but is easy to find as it lies immediately to the south and west of Barnack village, 2 miles from the A1 west of Peterborough.

The main car park is on Wittering Road (on the north side of the reserve), with additional lay-by parking on Walcot Road (east side).

Travellers from the north should leave the A1 at the Barnack turn, half a mile after the Carpenter’s Lodge (Stamford) junction.

From the south, leave the A1 at Wansford, take the A47 towards Peterborough and then after 1 mile turn left to follow the minor road through Southorpe to Barnack.

School and community groups

Guided walks are offered to community groups, and activity visits can also be arranged for schools – these are most suitable for Key Stage 3 and 4.

The reserve also provides opportunities for A level and undergraduate studies looking at vegetation transects across the hilly terrain.

For bookings and further information, contact Chris Gardiner (Senior Reserve Manager) on 01780 444704, or email chris.gardiner@naturalengland.org.uk.

Volunteers

The reserve is always looking for volunteers – for example patrolling, site management, plant recording, or help with events.

On Mondays and Wednesdays volunteers help with habitat restoration or maintenance work such as fencing, scrub clearance, or coppicing.

For further information, contact Chris Gardiner (Senior Reserve Manager) on 01780 444704, or email chris.gardiner@naturalengland.org.uk.

Contact

Chris Gardiner (Senior Reserve Manager) on 01780 444704, or email chris.gardiner@naturalengland.org.uk.

Bedford Purlieus

Main habitats: woodland

Area: 208 hectares

Management: Forestry Commission.

Further information about the NNR, its wildlife and how to visit is on the Bedford Purlieus website.

Contact

Email: northants@­forestry.gsi.gov.uk
Telephone: 01780 444920

Castor Hanglands

Castor Hanglands is an oasis of green in an intensively farmed landscape. Walk amongst its ancient woodlands with their medieval boundary banks, the flowery heaths and commons still showing their 700 year old cultivation ridges, and you are stepping back in time to a world now almost gone.

Main habitats: woodland, limestone grassland, scrub

Area: 90 hectares

Features of interest

Among the rare plants found here are crested cow-wheat, lesser water-plantain, man orchid and narrow-leaved water dropwort. Woodland butterflies present include silver-washed fritillary, purple hairstreak and white admiral. The rare black hairstreak butterfly is best seen around the blackthorn scrub in June.

Dense thickets of scrub provide a habitat for summer migrant birds: nightingale, garden warbler, grasshopper warbler and turtle dove. In the woodland, all 3 British woodpeckers occur along with woodcock and the elusive hawfinch. Grass snakes are often seen by the ponds and harvest mouse occurs in the rough grassland on the heath.

Further information about the NNR, its wildlife by season, land management techniques, special features, and history and culture is on Natural England’s Castor Hanglands pages on the National Archives.

Directions

Castor Hanglands is situated 2 miles north of the village of Ailsworth village, 4 miles west of Peterborough in Cambridgeshire.

By cycle/on foot

A Public Bridleway runs north-south through the length of the reserve, and another crosses east-west, connecting with the parking area at Southey Wood. Horse riding and cycling are permitted only on the bridleways

By bus

Buses from Peterborough and Stamford stop hourly in Ailsworth (30-minute walk).

By train

The nearest train station is Peterborough (4 miles).

School and community groups

Guided walks are offered to community groups, and activity visits can also be arranged for schools – these are most suitable for Key Stage 3 and 4. The reserve provides good opportunities for A level and undergraduate studies looking at vegetation transects across different habitats. For bookings and further information, contact Chris Gardiner (Senior Reserve Manager) on 01780 444704, or email chris.gardiner@naturalengland.org.uk.

Volunteers

The reserve is always looking for volunteers – for example patrolling, site management, plant recording, or help with events.

On Mondays and Wednesdays volunteers help with habitat restoration or maintenance work such as fencing, scrub clearance, or coppicing.

Contact

For more information about visiting the reserve, contact the senior reserve manager:

Email: chris.gardiner@naturalengland.org.uk
Telephone: 01780 444704

Chippenham Fen

The site is a classic fen and even in summer it is often muddy and surface water. The flora is one of the main interests of the site with a diverse range of plants species. The invertebrates are another key part of the site particularly the two winged flies (diptera). In warmer weather there are a lot of biting flies - midges, mosquitoes and horseflies.

Calcareous fen conditions with frequent ditches, pools and wet depressions make this a really diverse wetland. The peat soils on site vary from centimetres to 2 metres thick.

Main habitats: peatland

Area: 117 hectares

A permit is required to visit the site. Fill out the Chippenham Fen access permit (149KB) and send it to the address on the form.

Features of interest

Cambridge milk-parsley (Selenum carvifolia) grows well on the site. This plant is only found in 3 other sites in the UK and is protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

Over 500 moth species have been recorded, including Silver Barred and Reed Leopard. Many nationally scarce, rare invertebrates particularly diptera. In 2010 Rosser’s sac spider (Clubiona rosserae) was rediscovered at the site for the first time in 19 years. More than 400 species of wild flowers have been recorded including marsh helleborine, black bog rush, bogbean, bog pimpernel and saw-wort, southern marsh and fragrant orchids.

Breeding birds include woodcock, snipe, and 9 species of warbler.

For more details about when to visit and seasonal wildlife, see the Chippenham Fen pages on the National Archives

Directions

The reserve is 6 miles north of Newmarket between the village of Chippenham and the town of Fordham.

By train

The nearest train stations are in Newmarket and Kennett (five kilometres to the east).

By car

Fordham is accessed via the A142, and Chippenham via the B1085 from the A11 (A14). The nearest car parking is in Fordham and Chippenham.

Volunteers

There is a regular volunteer group on a Thursday. There are opportunities to assist with practical work such as cutting and raking fen vegetation, repairing fences and undertaking wildlife and water level survey. There is a monthly visit by a moth recording group who welcome new faces.

Contact

Email brecklandnnr@naturalengland.org.uk
Telephone: 01638 721329

Holme Fen

Holme Fen is a rare and isolated remnant of fen habitat lying at the lowest most westerly point of the East Anglian fen basin.

Main habitats: birch woodland, remnant ancient bog, heathland, acid grassland

Management: Natural England, in partnership with the Environment Agency, The Wildlife Trust, Huntingdonshire District Council and Middle Level Commission

The Great Fen Project started with the purchase of 82 hectares of land (Darlows Farm), to the North of Woodwalton Fen in 2002. Since then the project has acquired approximately 60% of the total project area and almost 1500 hectares is under conservation management.

Features of interest

Further information about the NNR, its wildlife and special features is on the Holme Fen page of the Great Fen website.

Safety

There are several deep ditches across the site where the water level is often very low. Do not attempt to enter these ditches under any circumstances.

Directions

The reserve is immediately north of the B660 midway between the villages of Holme and Ramsey St Mary’s (two km to the east and west respectively). The town of Yaxley is 7 kilometres to the north west and Peterborough is 12 kilometres to the north.

By train

There is a mainline train station in Peterborough.

By bus

There are regular bus services from Peterborough to Ramsey St Mary’s.

School and community groups

The Wildlife Trust countryside classroom at Ramsey Heights offers a number of educational programmes for school and further education groups to engage with nature. The classroom is on Chapel Road, Ramsey Heights, close to the Woodwalton Fen NNR and educational groups also visit the reserve at Woodwalton Fen and Holme Fen NNR.

Contact

If you would like to ask about volunteering, or discuss potential research opportunities or visits, contact the senior reserves manager:

Email: Alan.Bowley@naturalengland.org.uk
Telephone: 01487 812363

If you are interested in visiting the area with a group, contact the Great Fen team:

Email: info@greatfen.org Telephone: 01487 710420

Monks Wood

Monks Wood is one of Britain’s best known lowland woods, home to many species of wild plant and a rich insect fauna. The ancient woodlands of oak, ash and field maple trees have an understorey of hazel, blackthorn, dogwood and sallow. The rare wild service tree is frequent.

Main habitats: broadleaf woodland, neutral grassland

Area: 157 hectares

Dogs must be kept on a lead.

Features of interest

Over 1,000 different kinds of beetles have been found here, making the wood one of the top sites in Britain for these insects. The ground flora includes many species typical of ancient woodland including bluebell, wood anemone, and yellow archangel.

Among over 400 species of plants are a number of local and national rarities including greater butterfly orchid, violet helleborine, crested cow-wheat, small teasel and water purslane. The first British record of the rare black hairstreak was made in Monks Wood in 1828, and this butterfly can still be found today.

A good range of woodland birds are found including woodcock, tawny owl, and lesser spotted woodpecker. Red Kite and buzzard breed regularly. Mammals such as badger, hare and fox are seen often and Muntjac deer are numerous.

Further information about the reserve’s seasonal highlights and history is on Natural England’s archived pages on this NNR.

Directions

By cycle/on foot

The reserve is situated a mile from the nearest settlement, the village of Woodwalton.

By bus

Buses from Huntingdon and Sawtry stop at Alconbury Hill, about 1 mile from the reserve.

By train

The nearest train station is Huntingdon (6 miles).

By car

The reserve is signposted from local roads but not from the A1(M) or the A14 which pass close by. The wood is immediately to the north of the B1090 which can be reached from J15 of the A1 between Sawtry and Alconbury. There is a small car parking bay on the B1090, and another 2 on the minor road from Sawtry to Woodwalton on the East side of the reserve.

School and community groups

Guided walks are offered to community groups. The reserve offers good opportunities for A level and undergraduate studies looking at woodland ecology. For bookings and further information, contact the senior reserve manager by email or on 01780 444704.

Volunteers

The reserve is always looking for volunteers – for example patrolling, site management, plant recording, or help with events. On Mondays and Wednesdays volunteers help with habitat restoration or maintenance work such as fencing, scrub clearance, or coppicing.

Contact

For more information about visiting the reserve, contact the senior reserve manager:

Email: chris.gardiner@naturalengland.org.uk
Telephone: 01780 444704

Upwood Meadows

Upwood Meadows consists of 3 fields lying on badly drained clay on the edge of the Huntingdonshire fens. The largest field, Bentley Meadow, has never been fertilised or sprayed and is richest in plant life.

Main habitat: lowland grassland

Management: Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire

Features of interest

Further information about the reserve, its wildlife and how to visit is on the Upwood Meadows website.

Contact information

The Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire:

Email: cambridgeshire@wildlifebcn.org

Telephone: 01954 713500

Wicken Fen

Wicken Fen supports a wide range of characteristic fenland communities and is notable for its many different animals and plants. The site is also important in a European context for its mixed fen characterised by purple moor-grass.

Main habitat: fen

Management: National Trust.

Features of interest

Large areas of the site are cut and gathered each year, but increasingly other areas are grazed by both cattle and Konic ponies. The reserve forms the core area of the National Trust’s Wicken Vision which is a landscape project aimed at creating over 400 hectares of fenland from arable land around the NNR.

Further information about the NNR, its wildlife and how to visit is on the National Trust website.

Contact

Email: wickenfen@nationaltrust.org.uk Telephone: 01353 720274

Chris Soans
National Trust
Wicken Fen
Lode Lane
Wicken
Ely
CB7 5XP

Woodwalton Fen

Woodwalton fen is a rare and isolated remnant of fenland habitat lying at the lowest most westerly point of the East Anglian fens. It’s one of very few remnants of fen habitat to survive the large scale drainage for agriculture between the 17th and 19th century which saw the loss of almost all the wetland habitat in the wider area.

Main habitats: mixed fen, marsh, reedbed, standing open water, scrub and woodland

Features of interest

Woodwalton Fen is a haven for fenland wildlife and houses many vulnerable and rare species. A recent study by the University of East Anglia highlighted the Fens of Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Lincolnshire as a biodiversity hotspot being home to 25% of the UK’s Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) species and 82 species which are fen specialists.

The reserve is bustling with wildlife throughout the year. The nature trail information describes the 3 way-marked trails you can follow to experience the different features of the reserve.

Further information about the NNR, its marked trails and other activities is on the Woodwalton Fen page on the Great Fen website.

Directions

Woodwalton Fen is in Cambridgeshire, 2 kilometres west of Ramsey Heights village between Peterborough and Huntingdon. The nearest town is Ramsey, 5 kilometres to the east. Woodwalton Fen is open to visitors all year round but its additional function as a flood water storage facility may reduce access at times due to flooding, particularly during the winter months. Deep ditch water runs alongside the grassy paths at all times of year.

The reserve also has an ‘assistance dog only’ policy due the sensitive nature of the site.

By train

There are mainline train stations at Peterborough and Huntingdon.

By car

Woodwalton fen can be reached by car on minor roads from the B1040, B1090 or A141. Parking is alongside the Great Raveley Drain close to the entrance of the reserve. Turn right before the entrance bridge and park along the edge of the bank. Parking is not suitable for coaches.

By bus

There are bus services from Peterborough to Ramsey Heights. Visit Peterborough District Council website for details. Buses also run from Huntingdon to Ramsey.

Contact

If you would like information about volunteering or visiting the reserve, call the senior reserves manager:

Email: Alan.Bowley@naturalengland.org.uk Telephone: 01487 812363

To contact the Great Fen team call 01487 710420 or e-mail info@greatfen.org