Category Archives: News

Annual review published

Langdyke has 72 bird boxes positioned across its reserves;  there are eight types of orchid growing during a year at Swaddywell Pit and the Trust has planted 79 heritage fruit trees which are  growing in the community orchard at Etton.

Just a handful of fascinating facts included in the 2019 Langdyke Countryside Trust annual review, sent out recently to members.

In other areas of the report:

  • Chair Richard Astle looks at the many threats to nature in the area
  • There’s a round-up of happenings in our natural world during 2019; and
  • We take a special look at Operation Turtle Dove

Becoming a member of the Trust means you automatically receive a copy of the review each year along with a monthly newsletter of events and happenings and special access to Langdyke events. There are details of how to join on the website here.

You can read a copy of the review – which we are making widely available this year – by clicking here.

COVID-19: Stay safe in nature!

All Langdyke events have been cancelled for the foreseeable future because of the Coronavirus outbreak.

This is in response to the Government guidance on COVID-19. We are sorry to have had to take this decision, but we know you will understand.

This includes the annual meeting which is due to have taken place on April 23.

Langdyke chair Richard Astle said:

“In light of the Prime Minister’s new advice to stay at home, we can no longer encourage people to visit our reserves – that would seem irresponsible. We have suspended all work on our reserves. Our hides at Etton Maxey Pits are now locked.

“But we will be doing everything we can to keep you in touch with the nature you can find in your gardens over the coming days and weeks. We will also maintain – strictly in line with Government guidance – our livestock checking programme to ensure our sheep remain healthy.

“We will continue to use our Facebook page to keep each other in touch with what we see and what we hear; to ask questions about what to look out for and to ask for help with identification!

“We will shortly be launching a spring migrant project through Facebook so we can see who really did hear the first cuckoo and see the first swallow.

“Stay in touch, stay safe and enjoy the natural world around your home.

“Best wishes to you, your families and friends and to all our key workers, thank you.”

Richard

The monthly newsletters will continue as normal. We will also be publishing an annual report and sending it to you.
Please keep in touch via this website for further updates.

Great day at Frampton

Langdyke members had a spectacular day at Frampton Marsh – the premier RSPB Reserve in Lincolnshire – enjoying the chance to see thousands of birds.

Located just south of the Haven on the River Witham, approximately five miles from Boston, the reserve consists of a number of freshwater scrapes and grasslands together with a large area of saltmarsh, bordering the Wash.

During the winter months it is home to a large number of waterfowl and wading birds. In most winters the number of birds is breath-taking with over 6,000 Lapwing, 5,000 Golden Plover, 2,500 Brent Geese, and large numbers of Wigeon, Shoveler, Teal and Pintail.

Around 25 members of Langdyke made the visit under the guidance of Brian Lawrence and Bob Titman. The weather was kind in that visitors could enjoy spectacular views although there was a strong wind to battle against while walking.

Langdyke members enjoy the view at RSPB Frampton Photo Cliff Stanton

Vision for Clare country

John Clare Countryside
Our joint vision for a heritage landscape with nature at its heart …

Written by Richard Astle, Chair, Langdyke Countryside Trust

 

As residents, businesses, parish councils, landowners, farmers and visitors we want the countryside around us to be an area where nature is at the heart of our lives. Where swifts and swallows are a central feature of our summer evenings, where otters continue to enthral people as they play in the Maxey Cut, where bees and other insects thrive, not decline, and where there are far more, not less, ponds, meadows, wild flowers, hedgerows and trees.
And where people can walk or cycle out in safety and tranquility across this thriving countryside, enjoying the sights and sounds and even the silence of the natural world; enjoying dark skies and cherishing the heritage around them – both natural and man- made. That sounds like a countryside worth living in. But it is a countryside under threat and increasing pressure from housing growth and traffic and sadly even from lack of appreciation.
In recent years, despite many successes on and off the network of nature reserves, there have been significant declines in many key species, particularly farmland and woodland birds, such as lapwing, yellowhammer, nightingale, spotted flycatcher and woodcock; and decreases in the number of mammals such as hedgehog and hare and the variety of butterflies and moths.

Introduction

Working in partnership, the Langdyke Countryside Trust now wants to ensure that we conserve the beauty of our landscape and conserve its rich local heritage.

We will endeavour to do this by establishing  an area characterised by:

  • Outstanding natural biodiversity through major habitat restoration connected through a mosaic of smaller wildlife havens and corridors 
  • An unspoilt landscape that is used by local people and the people of an expanding Peterborough, providing them with a large area of unspoilt countryside on their doorstep 
  • Well-kept heritage sites, accessible to all and working together to involve and attract visitors 
  • Cyclepaths, footways and ‘quiet roads’ – a green transport infrastructure – where priority is given to walkers and riders 
  • Prosperous and successful farming, profiting from a combination of environmentally friendly farming practice, sustainable tourism and recreational activities 

Objectives 

To create, launch and deliver an ambitious and accessible nature recovery area across the landscape areas west of Peterborough, designed, led and supported by residents, landowners, farmers, businesses and parish councils of the area. 

This nature recovery area would be recognised by Natural England and other statutory agencies and recognised in local policy documents including Local Plans. 

It would be distinguished from other nature recovery areas because it is community led and because of how it combines the natural and built heritage and its links, through John Clare, to literature and the arts. 

Project aims

Building on the substantial work of the partners to date and on the heritage and legacy of the work of the poet John Clare this project aims to:

1. Deliver significant increases in key wildlife habitats, particularly those of limestone grassland, wetland and arable farmland 

2. Raise levels of local pride, aspiration and community cohesion by helping local communities to understand, appreciate and enjoy their local natural and built heritage 

3. Pilot and champion best practice sustainable development in all aspects of future development within the area including sustainable techniques of land management both on and off the existing nature reserves 

4. Promote public health and wellbeing, providing large areas of accessible green open space for the people of Peterborough 

5. Create new jobs and economic opportunities within the area, allied to the delivery of these objectives, particularly in tourism, visitor attractions and farming and nature conservation. 

The achievement of these objectives will create a better quality of life for residents and visitors through the creation of a more sustainable local environment with easy access to rich and inspiring nature and greater appreciation of its heritage and history

Background 

John Clare Countryside lies between the Nene and Welland valleys to the west of Peterborough and to the east of the A1. The area sits across two National Character Areas – 92 Rockingham Forest and 75 Kesteven Uplands. 

The birthplace of John Clare, one of the country’s most significant poets of the natural world, it already boasts a network of existing nature reserves across a varied range of habitats, including two Natural England national nature reserves (Barnack Hills and Holes and Castor Hanglands), a number of SSSIs and several local nature reserves run by the Wildlife Trusts and the Langdyke Countryside Trust. 

To the south of the area, the Nene Park Trust manages large areas of land in the interests of the community and for nature. The William Scott Abbot Trust operates the Sacrewell Farm visitor centre on the western edge of John Clare Countryside. 

This distinctive landscape is rich in heritage – from the Roman roads of King Street and Ermine Street, the remains of Durobrivae, the Norman manor house at Torpel, the beauty of the Medieval parish churches and the history and landscape settings of Burghley House and Milton Hall and their respective parks. 

Another important visitor attraction, the John Clare Cottage, a museum in the birthplace of the poet in Helpston, lies at the centre of the area. Clare himself, lived and worked here and wrote poignantly about the environmental pressures the landscape was under in the 19th century. His voice can provide an important focus for the development of this nature recovery area. 

The John Clare Countryside project is a partnership of local organisations, initially co-ordinated by the Langdyke Countryside Trust, a voluntary, membership-based organisation but in time likely to develop its own organisational structures. The project will be created and delivered by local residents, businesses and landowners. 

Etton Maxey Pits Nature Reserve

Since its foundation in 1999 the Langdyke Countryside Trust has established a network of seven nature reserves across the area – Swaddywell Pit, Torpel Manor Field, Bainton Heath, Etton Maxey Pits, Vergette Wood Meadow, Etton High Meadow and Marholm Field Bank. The Trust has an active membership of over 120 households and runs a variety of events throughout the year. 

In that time the Trust has also created a new visitor centre at Torpel Manor Field and a range of educational materials to help people understand its heritage. It has put up nearly 200 nest boxes across the area and helped plant new hedgerows and new trees. As a result, orchids thrive at Swaddywell, avocets have bred at Etton Maxey and rare moths and butterflies prosper at Bainton. We have planted a community orchard at Etton High Meadow. 

Working in close partnership with Natural England, the Wildlife Trusts, Nene Park Trust, PECT, William Scott Abbot Trust, John Clare Society, the John Clare Trust, parish councils and landowners the Trust now wants to take its work to a new level and create a nationally recognised, but still locally led, nature recovery area across the John Clare Countryside. 

Key deliverables of the project

1. Increases in key indicator species

This will be achieved through a significant increase in the area of land actively managed in the interests of nature and heritage including both 

  1. Land under the direct management of the partners – through the expansion of existing nature reserves, particularly around Hills and Holes, Castor Hanglands, Swaddywell Pit and along the Maxey Cut, linking the reserves at Bainton Heath and Etton Maxey Pits
  2. Land managed by other landowners as part of new agri- environment schemes designed to help the recovery of key species and as part of nature rich wildlife corridors which join up the network of nature reserves

As part of this work and working with partners and other landowners we would aim to::

  • Create additional hectares of limestone grassland 
  • Create additional hectares of wetland, wet woodland and wet meadows 
  • Create new ponds including in gardens and on farmland 
  • Plant trees as part of new hedgerows and as standards 
  • Create actively managed wildlife corridors 
  • Create habitat and nesting space for key target species such as orchids, hedgehog, bats, barn owl and swift 
A Scarlet Pimpernel at Swaddywell Pit Photo: Brian Lawrence

2. Increase levels of public engagement, understanding and participation in the natural and built heritage of the area 

This will be achieved through the active and co-ordinated promotion of visitor facilities at existing centres such as the John Clare Cottage, Sacrewell Farm and potentially at new facilities within the estate of the Nene Park Trust.

A jointly managed natural and built heritage engagement and education programme would be run across all the partners, providing multiple opportunities to learn about the natural and built heritage of the area and to participate in all aspects of the project, including volunteering opportunities.

The project aims to link the existing visitor attractions through the creation of a network of well-maintained footpaths, bridleways and cycle paths, making John Clare Countryside a visitor destination with multiple easily accessible points of interest, without increasing levels of car traffic in the area.

Within this context we would aim to work with local landowners to consider:

  1.  Creating and maintaining new way marked cycleways
  2. Creating and maintaining new way marked permissive footpaths
  3. Designating more local roads as quiet lanes and establish a clearer priority for pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders on key roads.

The project would actively involve local people in the achievement of its natural objectives by choosing to target key species that people are familiar with, but which need help, such as hedgehogs and swift and encouraging them to provide nesting and feeding habitat in their gardens and houses. 

We would look to use on-line platforms to teach people how to recognise and support these species and to encourage them to record their sightings and to take pride in their role in the recovery of these populations. 

The partners would work together to reach out to residents of Peterborough, particularly those with limited existing access to green open space and help them to visit, enjoy and appreciate John Clare Countryside. This would include educational programmes run at locations within the city, with the aim of taking the countryside into the city, rather than waiting for people to visit the countryside. 

The project would also build on existing work designed to engage local people and residents of Peterborough (and indeed visitors generally) in the history and heritage of the area, making use of heritage assets at Durobrivae, Castor, village churches, John Clare Cottage and Torpel Manor Field. 

We would seek to replicate the successful Torpel Heritage Lottery Funded project and expand Langdyke’s existing history and archaeology group to engage more local people. 

Finally, there would also be a creative theme throughout the project, linking the natural world with art and literature. Again, this would build on existing work through the John Clare Society and John Clare Trust and previous and current arts-based projects supported by local artists and members of the Society of Wildlife Artists. 

3. Pilot and champion next practice sustainable development in all aspects of future development within the area including sustainable techniques of land management both on and off the existing nature reserves.

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3. Pilot and champion best practice sustainable development in all aspects of future development within the area including sustainable techniques of land management both on and off the existing nature reserves 

Small scale housing and commercial development within the village envelopes and to support local farming are encouraged within the existing policy framework, including the neighbourhood plans (either in place or emerging) of Castor, Ailsworth, Glinton, Peakirk, Northborough, Helpston and Barnack. 

One of the hundreds – possibly thousands – of Pyramidal orchids at Etton-Maxey

The project would develop guidelines, based on the local nature partnership’s Developing with Nature toolkit, to help developers support the objectives and aims of the project in terms of best practice design concepts and for achieving net biodiversity gain and work with local landowners to identify and promote new techniques of sustainable land management and techniques of nature conservation. 

4. Promote public health and wellbeing, providing large areas of accessible green open space for the people of Peterborough 

A primary function of the John Clare Nature Recovery Area will be to provide the combination of accessible green open space and protected areas for nature necessary to complement the economic growth agenda of the local and wider region. 

JCC would be planned and managed to offer opportunities for local people to enjoy the countryside, and its thriving natural world and well conserved built heritage. 

The project would consider carefully how to manage increased access to the landscape area to ensure that we do not create additional traffic or put undue pressure through disturbance on important sites for nature. 

Initial thinking is that we would encourage people to use existing (and improved) access points rather than create new ones and look at ways in which they can be linked by well-maintained footpaths and cycle ways. It might also be worth considering developing improved access point(s) (car park with footpaths etc) in the northern part of the area, perhaps as part of the evolving Etton-Maxey Pits complex, which already attracts dog-walkers and birdwatchers. 

Another idea is to create access points into the JCC within the urban area of Peterborough from which people could walk or cycle out into the area. 

5. Create new jobs and economic opportunities within the area, allied to the delivery of these objectives, particularly in tourism, visitor attractions and farming and nature conservation. 

The creation and long-term delivery of the John Clare Countryside vision would create a small number of jobs both directly and indirectly. 

Directly we would expect to see between 2-5 permanent jobs created to manage the delivery of the vision and of key projects within it. These would include a partnership and project manager role, plus conservation jobs in managing the expanded network of nature reserves and public education and engagement roles. Commercial opportunities would also be created through 

contracts with local suppliers to deliver projects such as creating new ponds, mowing areas of grassland, planting hedgerows etc, where these cannot be delivered by volunteers. 

The increased visitor numbers would also support the creation of new jobs at existing visitor destinations. 

We also expect that the increased visitor numbers would lead to new jobs in other leisure facilities through increased demand at local shops, cafes and pubs and potentially to the creation of new facilities in the area, such as tea-rooms, cycle hubs etc. 

The partnership would like to explore whether it could link into the University of Peterborough to support the local skills agenda with an emphasis on courses linked to sustainable development; natural sciences and land use. 

Conclusion 

The John Clare Countryside concept will deliver significant benefits to both people and wildlife.
The strength of the concept lies in the fact that it already exists. JCC is an established landscape feature that contains a mosaic of nationally important natural habitats, nature reserves, heritage sites and is supported by ambitious and like- minded local partners.
It is already happening – much has already been done and will continue be done through the efforts of the existing partners.
But our ambition is to make this so much more.
JCC has the potential to combine improvements to the health and wellbeing and social cohesion of local people with landscape-scale nature recovery. It can support the wider environment capital ambitions of Peterborough and the natural capital plans of our statutory partners.
It is an ambitious, but relatively easily achieved long-term project that can be sustained because it has been created and will be delivered by local people and landowners who have a personal interest in making it succeed.
It is about creating a thriving and cherished landscape – good for people, good for nature, good for the future. 

Current supporters (September 2019) 

The following organisations have been involved in developing this plan and support its aims and will be involved in its delivery 

  • Langdyke Countryside Trust 
  • Nene Park Trust 
  • Wildlife Trusts for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire
  • PECT
  • WilliamScott AbbottTrust 
  • Protect Rural Peterborough
  • John Clare Society
  • John Clare Trust
  • Natural England 
  • Natural Cambridgeshire
  • Peterborough City Council
  • Milton Estates

Proposed target species for public engagement 

Flower rich grassland

  • Orchids -Man, Pyramidal, Fragrant
  • Glow worm
  • Grizzled and dingy skipper

Woodland

  • Marsh Tit
  • LS Woodpecker
  • Longhorn beetle
  • Purple emperor
  • Bluebell

Wetland

  • Cuckoo
  • Lapwing
  • Otter
  • Toad
  • Frog
  • Fresh water mussels

Villages and gardens 

  • Swift
  • Hedgehog
  • Toad
  • Frog
  • Wall Ferns
  •  Bats 

Farmland 

  • Skylark 
  • Turtle dove 
  • Brown hare 
  • Key arable plant species 

Saving the turtle dove


Special efforts have been underway designed to encourage Turtle Doves to breed on Langdyke’s Etton Maxey reserve.  Project co-ordinator Martin Parsons explains how the scheme evolved …

Turtle doves were once a common summer visitor to England, but since the 1970’s their numbers have declined by 93 percent.

They are our only long-distance migratory dove, and now face a range of threats including unsustainable levels of hunting, the disease trichomoniasis, and loss of habitat on both their wintering grounds in sub-Saharan and breeding grounds in Europe and England.

There are now around only 14,000 pairs attempting to nest in Britain, and the bird is on the brink of disappearing from our summers.

Operation Turtle Dove

Operation Turtle Dove (OTD) is an RSPB project, partnered by Natural England, Pensthorpe Trust and Conservation Grade, designed to help turtle doves during their summer visit to Britain.

The objectives of the project are:

  1. To increase the amount of feeding habitat available to turtle doves within their core breeding range in the UK.
  2. To provide early sources of food to enable turtle doves to recover from their migration when they return to breeding grounds in late April-May.
  3. To work with farmers and landowners to establish and manage turtle dove habitat within current and new agri-environment schemes.
  4. To deliver free farm advisory visits to farmers within core turtle dove breeding range.
  5. To raise awareness of the plight of turtle doves.
  6. To encourage people to submit their sightings.

Langdke and Turtle Doves

Turtle doves sightings have been reported in the Etton and Maxey areas in several recent summers.

So in 2018 Langdyke Countryside Trust contacted Andrew Holland, RSPB Fens Farm Conservation Adviser, and in October hosted an on-site visit, to explore how Langdyke might help our local turtle doves. 

Turtle doves are seed-eaters, and like to feed on plants such as English vetch, black medick, bird’s-foot trefoil, white clover, red clover and common fumitory.

Almost all of these plants are available on our Etton-Maxey Pit reserve, but to assist with breeding success, a supplemental supply of seed is very welcome.

In addition, suitable scrub habitat such as hawthorn, and a supply of freshwater is required. So to be useful to the turtle doves, the feeding sight must be near water, contain bare ground, and have thick scrub or hawthorn trees nearby.

The carpark at Etton-Maxey Pit was identified as a suitable location.

Feeding

In April Langdyke collected 60kg of supplemental feed, and a team comprising Mick and Keren Thomson, David and Jill Cowcill, and Martin and Kathryn Parsons began putting out 2kg of seed three times per week.

The OTD seed mix comprises white millet (35%), oil seed rape (35%), canary seed (10%), sunflower seed (10%), and wheat (10%). This mix of small round seeds makes an acceptable and nutritious supplement to the turtle dove’s diet. 

Sightings

Turtle Dove Photo: Brian Lawrence

By early June a pair of turtle doves were regularly visiting the carpark, as were a variety of finches and other birds.

On August 5 five turtle dove were seen at 6:30am, and a further supply of 20kg seed mix was obtained so as to extend feeding through August.

Sightings peaked at ten turtle doves (four adult and six juveniles) on August 18. Turtle doves can only rear two young with pigeon milk at a time, so six juveniles is likely to represent a successful second brood.

We are encouraging anyone who has seen turtle doves this summer to enter their sightings on BTO’s BirdTrack system, since this is the monitoring system by which OTD success is measured.

Ringing

In late August the opportunity arose to work with David Neal, an experienced local bird ringer, to try and ring some of the Etton-Maxey Pit turtle doves.

So on Monday August 26  strategically placed nets were installed before sunrise. By 7:30am one juvenile and one adult male had been successfully caught, ringed, weighed, measured, recorded and released safely back into the wild.

A Turtle Dove captured and successfully ringed. Photo: Martin Parsons
The dove is carefully ringed and details taken

Next year

Our plan at Langdyke is to continue with creating suitable habitat and encouraging the required food plants for turtle doves, and to recommence supplemental feeding next spring.

We are also investigating with the BTO whether there is more that we can do by way of gathering helpful data on these precious but endangered birds.

  • Main Turtle Dove photo by Brian Lawrence

Bulldozers on reserve

You may have been concerned to see a bulldozer on the North paddock of the Etton-Maxey reserve.

But don’t be worried. Work is being carried out by Tarmac – which actually owns the land – to reclaim the soil bund and move it to a new site.

Work started this week to dig out some surplus top soil stored under North Paddock at the top end of the reserve. This soil will be used to restore nearby quarried land to something that once again provides eco-system services such as food production.

The first task is to remove the top vegetation with a dozer. Then an excavator and trucks will move the soil to where it is required.

Finally the paddock and its fence will be made good again. The work is expected to take about six weeks to complete.

During this time our sheep will be kept over on the west side of the reserve, well away from the work area.

1279 coin found at Etton

A coin dating back to 1279 and found on land at Etton is just one of the objects in the newly created Langdyke Museum of Objects.

The museum idea is a project launched this year to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Langdyke Countryside Trust.

The Long-Cross penny is most likely a coin of Edward I from 1279 minted in London.  It was found by a Trust volunteer David Rowell while digging on land at High Meadow, Etton and has been given as one of the prize objects in the new collection.

The idea of the museum came from Langdyke trustee David Cowcill and some of the items in it will be included in the Langdyke Stories booklet being published to mark the Trust’s 20th anniversary.

One side of the coin has the wording EDWR -NGL DNS HYB which translates as Edward Rex King of England, Lord of Ireland (Hybernia).  The reverse shows the name of the mint – Civitas London.

The idea of the museum of objects is that members of the Trust donate pictures of items that have left them with treasured memories of Langdyke country – generally revolving around activities on one of the group’s sites.

These will appear – alongside artwork from another major anniversary project – Langdyke Stories.  As part of that project children and adults have taken part in workshops run by artist Kathryn Parsons designed to link the countryside with art.

The book will be launched at the Langdyke annual meeting and Langdyke Stories celebration event on Friday September 13 at Castor Church.

 

Steering group meets at Torpel Field cabin

The latest meeting of the New Networks for Nature steering committee was held at Torpel Field cabin.

The group is currently in the final stages of planning for their annual conference, this year held in York. The Trust welcomed the group to Torpel Manor Field in the heart of John Clare country.

Michael J. Warren (secretary) said, “We were delighted to meet at Torpel Field because the location’s rich natural history and cultural heritage, and indeed the eco-design of the lodge itself, are so appropriate to what we do.

“It made such a difference to discuss this year’s conference on nature in such beautiful and sympathetic surroundings. This meeting also marked the departure of Professor Tim Birkhead as chair, after ten years in the post since the organisation’s founding days, so it felt extra special. Thank you Langdyke Trust and we hope you’ll have us back.”

The next New Networks for Nature conference will be held at St. Peter’s School  in York, Thursday  October 31 to Sunday November 3 2019. This year’s event features speakers and performers such as Sam Lee, street artist ATM (who will be painting a huge Tansy Beetle in York specially for New Networks) and Chris Packham.

Full details of the programme and bookings can be found at www.newnetworksworksfornature.org.uk 

Shown in the picture (from left)  are Amy-Jane Beer, John Fanshawe,  Richard Kerridge, Mike Toms, Mary Colwell, Tim Birkhead and Michael J. Warren.

Turtle dove success

For months now a team of Langdyke volunteers have been laying feed at the Etton Maxey reserve in the hope of encouraging turtle doves to breed.

There have been several sightings of the birds – proof that the project has been a success.

These photos taken by John Parsonage are proof.  Great images captured near the Etton Maxey reserve car park.

 

Richard on TV talking nature

Langdyke chairman Richard Astle has been outlining an ambitious project to boost nature in his role as the chair of Natural Cambridgeshire.

Due to the rapid pace of development in the county, less than a 10th of the available land is currently designated as a wildlife habitat or natural space, and that is having an impact on health and the economy.

A new project hopes to double the amount of green space in Cambridgeshire.  You can see Richard talking about the project in an ITV Anglia News interview by clicking here