Search is on for lost ‘manor house’

There’s a chance for you to be involved in helping with an exploration of a lost ‘manor house’ site in Ufford.

The next Langdyke History and Archaeology Group (HAG) event at the venue is over the weekend of February 23 and 24.

During the weekend the group activity will include a survey and test pitting examination of an area of woodland in the north end of Ufford parish, which appears to be the site of a manor house abandoned in the late 1600’s and now completely hidden above ground.

This will be the group’s first visit to what may well become a major project. All help is welcome, regardless of whether you have done anything like this before with help and guidance on offer from the regular team.

Weather permitting, the visit is taking place at this time of the year because later on nettles will be covering the site.

Please dress according to the weather forecast as this is an outdoor activity.

Refreshments will be available, though a packed lunch is advised.  Strong gloves are recommended.  All tools and equipment will be supplied.

All welcome for one or both days.  Please book your place with either Frieda Gosling on 01780 740343 or Mike Clatworthy on 01780 764062. Alternatively you can email Mike: mikeclatworthy@hotmail.co.uk

 

 

 

Wassail was great success

We all went a’wassailing … and what a day we had.

This great family event was held at Langdyke’s Etton High Meadow – attended by around 100 people.

Traditionally the event involves groups of wassailers drinking lots of alcohol and moving from orchard to orchard – singing, shouting, banging pots and pans and even firing shotguns in an effort to make as much noise as possible to awaken any sleeping tree.

Our event wasn’t anywhere near as riotous – but it proved a fantastic fun afternoon out for the family with dozens of children taking part in the wassailing as well as helping to build a bug house and make bird feeders out of apples.

There was also food, mulled wine and cider for the adults. Entertainment was provided via traditional music by Alan Wood and friends.

The site hosts a number of fruit trees and a recently planted community orchard with more than 70 fruit trees including local heritage varieties such as Lord Burghley and Peasgoods Nonsuch.

The idea of the wassail was to awaken them to bear bountiful crops of fruit next year.  Only time will tell if it worked!

Here are some of the images of the day, taken by Langdyke treasurer Brian Lawrence

 

Pressing apples to make juice

 

A recently planted apple tree in the community orchard gets some wassail encouragement
Enjoying the event
Braving the cold

 

New date for Bainton walk

The walk to explore Bainton Heath – called off because of high winds – has been re-arranged for Saturday, March 9.

Bainton Heath – described as ‘fragile’ because of its unique content – is not open to the public.

So this walk to the  site will give participants the chance to explore a unique site, which includes a small wood and a large pond.

Photos by Brian Lawrence

It is a former landfill site filled entirely with fly ash from northern coal-fired powerstations and the railways in the 1960s.

As a result many species of moss and lichen grow there which are not natural to Cambridgeshire – but are more northerly species.

The landfill area has grown over with dense scrub to the north gradually thinning out to open grassland in the south with some bare patches with lichens growing directly on the fly ash. 

It is surrounded on three sides by mature mixed woodland with a good variety of large trees and shrubs.

It is currently the home of National Grid and supports two electricity distribution systems and a sub-station. Ironically, the tall pylons have become a home for wildlife. 

As a result it is not open to the public and visits can only be made there for events like the one on February 9. 

Organisers Chris Topper and Stuart Irons will be on hand to point out the many items of interest during the walk which will leave the Torpel car park at 1.30pm – returning at around 4pm.

Anyone needing more information can email Stuart at nebria@ntlworld.com

 

More details about Bainton Heath here

Tree sparrows back at pit

It is always good to see new developments on our reserves – often as a result of the hard work put in by volunteers to encourage wildlife.

A welcome recent development has been the return of tree sparrows to Swaddywell Pit.

The tree sparrow is a close relative of our house sparrow, but a slightly tidier, prettier bird with a prominent chestnut cap and black cheek spot. At Swaddywell Pit there have been many sightings with up to nine on occasions using the bird feeders by the cabin.

Tree sparrow

When Langdyke established the reserve in 2005, flocks of more than 130 tree sparrows were recorded, but they had disappeared in recent years, so it is good to see them back. 

They seem to have a tendency to population booms and busts, but let’s hope they stay for a while.

High water levels could lead to a Spring bonus

Anyone visiting the Etton Maxey reserve will have been surprised by the high water levels over Christmas and the New Year period.

Most of the lower meadow areas have been knee-deep in water.

This was intentional – to a degree – but the amount of water on the site was exacerbated by the fact the on-site pump was out of action.

The pump normally controls water levels by siphoning water off the site into the nearby Maxey Cut. It will be back in action shortly.

In the meantime the water levels have become a haven for bird life.

Etton Maxey

Langdyke member Bob Titman said: “The wildfowl are certainly enjoying it.”

On one visit he spotted five pairs of Shovelers, 100+ Teal, around 50 Wigeon, 20 Mallard and two Mute swans

Other notable birds on the reserve the same  morning were 65 Fieldfare, 2 Song thrush, 1 Red kite  as well as a Common snipe and a Jack snipe.

Trust chairman Richard Astle said: “It looks very good.

“I am hoping that the impact of the raised water will create a lot more bare ground, mud and surface water in the spring, which should be good for waders in March/April!”

Why not plan a visit to the site – but don’t forget to take your wellies!