All posts by David Rowell

Clare talk date change

The date of John Clare expert Professor Simon Kovesi’s online chat with Langdyke has changed.

Simon (pictured, above)  was due to be the speaker on November 25  but this has now been moved to Wednesday, December 2 at 7.30pm.

The conversation is particularly appropriate as  the Trust continues to push ahead with its John Clare Countryside vision.

The peasant poet from Helpston regularly wrote about the local landscape in his poetry.  Simon will be talking about Clare, his poetry and links to nature during the conversation. 

Professor Simon Kovesi’s 2017 book John Clare: Nature, Criticism and History

His two most recent books are Palgrave Advances in John Clare Studies,  (link) published only recently, and  John Clare: Nature, Criticism and History  (link) which was published in 2017 and which he will be talking about during the online session. 
Simon is the lead of an ongoing creative project based on Clare, opera and poetry workshops across England, and a collection of work produced so far, with a final musical planned for 2021.  There are more details about the project online  here 

Simon is currently head of English and Modern Languages  at Oxford Brookes University, having previously studied and/or taught at the universities of Glasgow, Dundee, Nottingham Trent and North Carolina at Chapel Hill (USA). He is vice chair of the John Clare Society. His PhD was entitled Sexuality, Agency and Intertextuality in the Later Poetry of John Clare (Nottingham Trent, 1999).

The conversation will be an online event.  You can join by clicking here or pasting this link into your browser

New murmuration video

They are back.  And the this year’s murmuration of starlings has been incredibly spectacular.

Langdyke member Michael Jarman took this video of the birds over the Trust’s Etton Maxey nature reserve§§.

Visitors who have already witnessed the sight with around 20,000 birds say the best time to see it is between 3.45pm and 4.30pm.  Places to view include the Maxey Cut, Woodgate Lane, Maxey and the Etton Maxey nature reserve.

To view the video please click  here

Reserves are still open

Langdyke has cancelled all work parties following the Government’s latest Coronavirus lockdown announcement – but our reserves remain open for people to exercise.
The cancellation of the work parties will last for the period the measures are in place.  In addition all of our bird hides will be closed.
The Trust has  also made arrangements to look after its sheep in accordance with the guidelines.
Chairman Richard Astle said: “Of course, we want you to continue to enjoy the countryside and take exercise in line with the Government rules and as a result our reserves that are usually open to the public will continue to be so.”
The online programme with guest speakers will continue. Details about them are on our website here 
In addition it has been suggested that some members may appreciate the re-starting of the regular weekly online chats held during the first lockdown. This will happen if if there is enough demand.
If you think you might like to take part (it will be for an hour once a week) then please send an email to membership secretary Peter Leverington at:
In the meantime please stay safe.

October in pictures

Here it is … with a wing span of more than eight feet this Lammergeier – commonly known as a bearded vulture – is our image of the month.

We’re breaking our own rules. Normally we only feature photos which have been taken in and around Langdyke reserves.  But we’re making an exception this month.

The bearded vulture, named Vigo, was spotted recently only a few miles away between Crowland and Spalding.

With a wing span of 2.5m (8.2ft), the bird is rarely seen in the UK and is normally found in Alpine regions. So when Sarah Lambert posted these great photos on our Facebook page we couldn’t resist making them our image of the month for October.

The Beaded Vulture on it’s stopover near Crowland Photo: Sarah Lambert

Each month we select photographs taken by our Facebook members and posted on our site. They might not be technically perfect – but they sum up the events of that month. Here are some other images from October. You can click on them to enhance your viewing.

Here’s a striking image of a fungi spotted during a walk by Brian Lawrence around Swaddywell. It is a Yellow Staghorn.

Yellow Staghorn seen at Swaddywell Pit Photo: Brian Lawrence

The autumn has brought about the usual transformation to our reserves with a host of golden colours as the trees start to shed their foliage.

And Kathryn Parsons on a trip to Torpel found even more colour by being on the spot to capture this magnicifent shot of a rainbow over Helpston.

Right place at the right time – Kathryn Parsons captured this rainbow over the Torpel site

Julie Budnik-Hillier captured this shot of a green woodpecker trying to hide away behind a tree on the Etton Maxey reserve.

A green woodpecker at Etton Maxey reserve Photo by Julie Budnik-Hillier

This splendid moth has been identified as a Merveille du Jour by Malcolm Hillier who took the photo.

Merveille du Jour moth seen at Castor Hanglands. Photo by Malcolm Hillier

As usual, it’s been a busy time on our reserves with our volunteers putting in plenty of hard graft to keep them in tip-top condition.

This is a work party at Castor Hanglands clearing scrub to allow  new growth in the Spring. The photo was taken by Mike Horne.

A work party at Castor Hanglands

At Etton Maxey our volunteers have  been putting in some back-breaking work to clear the invasive crassula weed from the water edges in the hope that the mud that’s left will attract some wading birds.

A work party tacking the invasive Crassula at Etton Maxey

Work on the reserve has been helped during the half term period by students from Stamford Endowed Schools who have cleared hawthorn and willow and crassula as part of their efforts to achieve Duke of Edinburgh awards scheme medals.

And finally, Bob Titman made a rare find – the nest of a Harvest Mouse.

This Harvest Mouse next was found at Swaddywell by Bob Titman



Students on our reserves

The team who tackled the area of Crassula

Students taking part in expeditions to gain their Duke of Edinburgh scheme qualifications have been working on the Etton Maxey nature reserve.

The youngsters, from Stamford Endowed Schools, have been using their half-term break to work towards either their Silver or Gold standard awards – taking part in a series of hikes and volunteer work programmes.

Around 120 teenagers, carrying heavy back packs full of clothing and camping gear,  have been walking from a drop-off point at Greatford across country to the Etton High Meadow barn before carrying out work tasks on the Etton Maxey site.

Usually the pupils would be carrying out the expeditions in the Lake District, but Coronavirus restrictions have meant that this year activities have been curtailed.

And so after conversations with Langdyke trustee David Alvey part of the programme this year has involved working with Langdyke on a variety of reserve tasks.

These have included cutting down willow, removing hawthorn and digging layers of crassula. The youngsters have been overseen by teachers and parents working to tasks set by Langdyke volunteers including David Alvey, David Cowcill, Richard Astle and David Rowell.

David Alvey said: “It’s been a great opportunity to open up our reserves to a new younger group of people.  They have set about their tasks with a great degree of determination and have done a really good job.  They have also been able to learn about the nature on the reserves at the same time and ask questions of our volunteers.”


Fourteen parishes back scheme


John Clare Countryside update by Richard Astle



We are hearing so much at the moment about the crisis that is facing our natural world, fueled by the emotive programmes of David Attenborough and the new “Earthshot prizes” that Prince William is backing. 

There is a real sense that we have to act now if we are to have any chance of helping nature recover and avoiding mass extinctions across the planet. 

And those extinctions are very definitely not just happening in the coral seas or the rainforests.  Right here in Langdyke country we are losing our cuckoos and our swifts all too rapidly.  Once common birds are now scarce and many butterflies are far rarer than they were even 20 years ago. 

And did you know that the once abundant European eel, which can wriggle its way up into the ponds and brooks of Castor Hanglands as part of its epic voyage from the West Indies, has declined by 94 per cent!  Wow.

So, do we wring our hands and hope that Sir David and Prince William can sort it out for us?

Not at all – across the area, fourteen of our parishes have now signed up to create parish nature recovery plans and teams of local people are meeting to discuss what actions we can take locally to restore nature and help wildlife thrive in our villages and across the wider countryside. 

Bainton and Ashton residents are creating mini wildlife meadows and planting trees and native shrubs to give winter berries for birds and spring blossoms for pollinators, while the Castor team are looking at meadow creation along Splash Lane. 

In Peakirk they are preparing to sow pollinating plants by the village hall and in Glinton there are ideas for creating wildlife meadows along the main roads into the village.

These are all small, but very important steps.  The power of this local approach is that residents are leading the way – we aren’t waiting for the Council or a national charity to show us what to do.  And as residents we take pride in our countryside and our villages and can keep an eye on what is being planted and manage it in the future too.

Each of these parish plans will need people to help volunteer to plant trees and hedges, create wildflower strips, conduct surveys and manage the sites on an annual basis.  If you would like to get involved please email me and I will put you in touch with the team in your parish.  You will have the satisfaction of making a difference to your local area and being part of a global effort.  If you value nature, this is your chance to make a real difference.

The parish nature recovery plans are part of the overall John Clare Countryside project which involves all the parishes and key organisations such as Langdyke, PECT, Nene Park Trust, Sacrewell Farm, Natural England and the Wildlife Trusts.  You can find out more details here  

Richard Astle
Chair, Langdyke Countryside Trust

Butterfly talk on agenda

Susannah O’Riordan – a key figure in butterly conservation and the Back from the Brink project in Rockingham Forest – is our next online guest.

 In Conversation with …. butterfly expert Susannah will be held via Zoom on Thursday, October 22 at 7.30pm.

Chequered skipper Carterocephalus palaemon

Among the important work Susannah has carried out has been the re-introduction of the Chequered Skipper (left) into woodland in the area after an absence of many years. Further work this year to help the re-inroduction was delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. This important project will obviously be part of the conversation with her.

The main picture (at the top) is of a Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) and was taken by Brian Lawrence

The event is the latest in a series of In conversation with …  online chats organised by Langdyke for its members during the Coronavirus pandemic when outside events have not been possible

To join the event click here or cut and paste the link below into your browser

Your do not need to dowload any software.  Please note the link will not work until the start time of the event.

David’s goal benefits all

Introducing David Alvey – a Langdyke trustee with a keen interest in linking nature and your wellbeing.

As part of a new series on the website – Langdyke people – we asked him a few questions about himself.  Here are his answers …

Name:  David Alvey
Role in Langdyke: Trustee and board member
In your role with the Trust what areas do you specialise/lead in?  Nature requires us to think on a landscape scale if we are to avoid just delaying its deterioration so my primary role is helping to develop the John Clare Countryside vision. Whilst essential and a great starting point conserving small pockets of nature reserves will not deliver the environmental change required to reverse the declining trends in nature that are all too obvious. Providing this nature rich countryside links perfectly into my other passion for improving my own, our members and our communities mental well being. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted our need for green space, I was already working to establish links with local mental health charities. The pandemic has just encouraged this collaboration and our need for a countryside that benefits nature and people.
What got you involved with the Trust?
Walking my dogs around the fantastically accessible countryside around Barnack built on my lifelong love of gardening and wildlife. This enjoyment made me determined to actively give something back to the local environment. This was firstly through the “Friends of Barnack Hills and Holes” and then, following its incorporation at the end of 2017, through Langdyke Countryside Trust.
Favourite place in nature:
That would have to be Orkney Islands in Scotland but almost any of the Scottish islands are a close second (not just because of the Whisky distilleries!). More locally it is simply the best maintained farmland in this area illustrating that we can live alongside nature if we have the right attitude and expectations.
What do you most love about nature?
The way it can always surprise you and so easily regenerate if we just stop fighting against it, work with it and provide it with enough space to make its own “decisions”.
Things that make you happy …
The simplest of natures wonders being available right on our doorstep. We might not have the most high profile species in our countryside, although there is an impressive array, but even the common species of birds, flora and fauna that we can see every day, if we take time to look, show off nature’s amazing capabilities. Just spending a few minutes watching a Red Kite over the garden has the same restorative powers and a lot lower carbon footprint than a trip to the Mull to see White Tailed Eagles. Another great example if we give nature a helping hand it will come and visit us!
Things that really annoy you …
The number of people wanting something to be done by someone else about a particular topic but not willing to get involved or change their own life choices to actually make it happen.
What is your hope for nature in the next ten years?
Locally, whilst a mountain range separating the Welland and Nene valley’s would be nice, more realistically a real change in the way we interact with our local environment as individuals and collectively. Sustainable use of our resources and a responsibility for our use of the local countryside could lay the foundations for a brighter future for ourselves, our children and their children. At a national and international level recognition that we all share the same planet and we all deserve to equally benefit from it.
Anything else you want to say?
A quote from Dave Goulson’s book The Garden Jungle has certainly made me think. “Most parents and grandparents will do anything for their children except, it seems, leave them a decent planet to live on”. I am still trying to adapt and change and it is not easy but every little step makes some small contribution.

You can meet more Langdyke people here

September in pictures

Here’s an unusual shot – a Ramshorn snail enjoying the autumn sunshine (slowly, of course!) near the cabin at Swaddywell Pit nature reserve.

The photo – which we are making our image of the month for September – was taken by Duncan Kirkwood.

Each month we select photographs taken by our Facebook members and posted on our site. They might not be technically perfect – but they sum up the events of that month. Here are some other images from September.

This Fox Moth caterpillar was spotted at Barnack Hills and Holes and photographed by Antony Mould.

Fox Moth caterpillar, Hills and Holes Photo: Antony Mould

Malcolm Hillier came across this Sallow Moth at Castor Hanglands.

Sallow Moth, Castor Hanglands Photo: Malcolm Hillier

And Angela Trotter caught this glimpse of a Small Heath Butterfly at Etton Maxey reserve.

Small Heath butterfly, Etton Maxey Reserve Photo: Angela Trotter

This deer has become  a regular sight at Etton Maxey, this time captured on camera by Steve Zealand.

Deer, Etton Maxey reserve Photo: Steve Zealand

Steve also took this shot of a rather grumpy looking Hebridean Ram – one of the Langdyke flock – having a rest after grazing Vergette Wood Meadow with his eight other mates, a mix of Jacob, Hebridean and Soay rams.

Hebridean Ram, Vergette Wood Meadow Photo: Steve Zealand

Doing an equally good job of cutting back the growth on our reserves were members of the Eastern Reserves work party.  Martin Parsons is seen here sharpening his scythe before having another go at the reed bed which needs some reduction.

Martin Parsons sharpening his scythe ahead of more reed cutting at Etton Maxey Photo: Keren Thomson

Our work parties have been busy on all of our reserves during September.

One of the tasks was painting and repairing the cabin at Torpel. Chris Grant and Cliff Stanton are busy in this shot taken by Anne Bell.

Chris Grant and Cliff Stanton working on the cabin at Torpel Photo: Anne Bell

Mike Horne took this photo of another work party – this time at Castor Hanglands. We are always looking for volunteers for our work parties.  They carry out a wide variety of essential tasks (all socially distanced to meet Coronavirus guidelines) and there are a good range of jobs to do. You can find out more about how to volunteer here

Work party at Castor Hanglands. Photo: Mike Horne

And finally … this month’s most unusual shot of the benefits of nature was taken by Claire Noble after a walk around Swaddywell with her four-year-old son who took his sword along (to the pit referred to as Swordywell by poet John Clare) just in case.

They collected blackberries and apples – and enjoyed this lovely crumble when they got home.

Blackberry and Apple crumble – baked after a walk around Swaddywell Photo: Claire Noble




Antony’s new role with us

Welcome to Antony Mould – a new Langdyke trustee and the board secretary.

As part of a new series on the website – Langdyke people – we asked him a few questions about himself.  Here are his answers …

Name: Antony Mould
Role in Langdyke: Board Secretary and Trustee
In your role with the Trust what areas do you specialise/lead in?Taking minutes! Aside from that I’m not really sure yet as I’ve only just become a Trustee.
What got you involved with the Trust?
My first encounter with Langdyke was via the Wildlife Trust, when I was trying to find a nature reserve where my brother-in-law could take school children to do some practical work for their Duke of Edinburgh Award. However, my first real involvement was in 2012, when I carried out a baseline reptile survey for the Trust at Swaddywell Pit.
Favourite place in nature:
Given the chance I would always go back to Alaska – the scale of true wildnerness out there is breath-taking. But back home in the real world, Castor Hanglands has always been a special place for me, going to listen to the nightingales with my dad. I live in Barnack, so I really do need to give a shout out to Hill and Holes too
What do you most love about nature?
Hmmm … octopuses are pretty cool. Or what about … how life has evolved and adapted to fill every little niche on our planet. There are millions of species out there, all with their own unique ways of life and individual stories to tell – it’s mind blowing.
Things that make you happy …
Crawling around in roof spaces and caves looking for bats. Listening to and identifying birds when I’m walking along, without realising I’m doing it. Finding long-tailed tit nests. Seeing all the different bugs and beasties that pop up in my scruffy little garden. Seeing my two small girls happily exploring when we’re out on a woodland walk
Things that really annoy you …
Questions like ‘what’s the point of wasps?’, and the underlying assumption that all things have a purpose that benefits us. Chris Packam did a really good segment on wasps recently, highlighting just how fascinating and misunderstood these animals really are.
What is your hope for nature in the next ten years?
I do find it difficult to be optimistic about the future, especially when you look at the state of nature globally. But at least climate change and wildlife extinction are now properly on the agenda. In the UK, I hope the changes to agricultural subsidies really do result in large-scale, long-term benefits for environment. I think that the emergence of ‘wilding’ is really exciting, and it’s encouraging to see landowners starting to embrace the idea