Barnack Hills and Holes

Barnack Hills and Holes covers just 50 acres, but is one of Britain’s most important wildlife sites. It strange, hummocky landscape is the result of extensive quarrying for limestone – know as Barnack Rag, much of it used to build some of the great local churches, including the abbeys at Peterborough (now the cathedral), Crowland, Ramsey and Bury St Edmunds. The stone was transported on sleds to the River Welland and then loaded onto barges.

Over 300 kinds of wild flower can be found at Hills and Holes, including the rare pasque flower, which blooms in April and May, and several species of orchid, including man, frog, pyramidal, twayblade, fragrant and bee. Another fascinating plant that can be found here is the knapweed broomrape, a parasitic plant which feeds on the roots of the greater knapweed.

Hills and Holes is particularly special in mid-summer. During the day marbled white, brown argus and chalkhill blue butterflies flit across the grassland, joined by a small day-flying moth – the chimney sweeper. In the evening the marbled white butterflies cluster on the flowers of the knapweed and as dusk falls the eerie light of the glow worm becomes apparent. In a good year dozens can be found. The grubs of this fascinating beetle feed on snails.

Hills and Holes is best reached by travelling out of Helpston, through Bainton and into Barnack, turning left on the far side of the village and then first right to the car park on the northern edge of the reserve.