Sunday, 29 March 2015

Wildlife Wanderings - Cherry Hinton Chalk Pits 21/03/15

Our wildlife wanderings trip to Cherry Hinton Chalk Pits, was incredibly cold, but 17 of us joined together to take a look at the site and compare East Pit to Lime Kiln Close, both of which are at different stages of nature recolonising after human activity.

Wildlife Wanderers heading into East Pit.

East Pit and Lime Kilm Close were quarries providing lime and chalk to build some of the Cambridge University colleges.  Lime Kiln Close closed 200 years ago and is now a woodland site dominated by Ash and Field Maple.  East Pit on the other hand only closed in the 1980s and was reprofiled in 2009, providing more exposed space for chalk loving plants and insects to colonise.

Chalk was quarried from the site, to build the Cambridge University colleges.

The site is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and contains Glow worms, which you can come and see on an June and July evening.  There is also an increasing population of the rare Moon Carrot, which is only found on two other sites in the whole of the country.

Ian pointed out which plants were being encouraged on the site.

The site is being managed to encourage chalk grassland plants, without introducing them purposefully. Ian Harvey a conservation volunteer who helps record and monitor the wildlife at East Pit, as well as helping pull up any unwanted plants, joined us for the walk.  He told us which plant species were being encouraged on the site and which were actively pulled up, such as Buddleia, Rosebay Willowherb, Ragwort.

Carline Thistle is one of the key species being encourage on the site.  This plant is a remnant from last year.

Although not a key species being encouraged, Colt's-foot is one of the first plants to flower at the pits.

I'm not sure what plant this is, but its a beautiful photograph of the seed heads. Thanks Axel.

March is right at the very beginning of the flowering season, but May through to August is the best time to come and see the chalk grassland plants.  If you fancy popping onto the site to find some, here is a list of the 'positive indicators' for chalk grassland, which you might be able to spot this spring and summer.

  • Wild Thyme
  • Wild Basil
  • Milkwort
  • Wild Strawberry
  • Bird's Foot Trefoil
  • Kidney Vetch
  • Salad Burnet
  • Fine-leaved grass
  • Perforate St John's Wort
  • Mignonette
  • Weld
  • Common Centaury
  • Field Scabious
  • Fairy Flax
  • Harebell
  • Restharrow
Simply google the names to find pictures of what to look for, or get hold of a British plants guide.

East Pit from the far end of the site.

Whilst visiting the site also keep an eye out for a pair of Peregrine falcons, that have been breeding on the cliffs over the last few years.  If you see them and their nest, please don't get too close, as they are easily disturbed.

Photos courtesy of Axel Minet.


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