May in pictures

It’s official – Spring 2020 was the hottest and driest on record.

And – coupled with the Coronavirus lockdown – it has meant that our members have been out and about in nature, practising social distancing and enjoying the countryside at the same time.

It helps if you get up at the crack of dawn and an early morning visit to Etton Maxey Pits paid off for Angela Trotter who took this great shot of a Roe Deer in the distance.  We’re making it our image of the month for May.

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

Everyone loves the Wren and this little thing was seen alongside the Maxey Cut by Liam Boyle.

A wren, seen alongside the Maxey Cut by Liam Boyle

It is good to see the Turtle Doves are back along the Maxey Cut and making use of the special feeding operation mounted by Langdyke volunteers at the Etton Maxey nature reserve car park.  Kevin Eldred took this shot.

The Turtle Doves are back at Etton Maxey nature reserve. Photo: Kevin Eldred

It is interesting to view our nature reserves at different times of the year.  Here are three May shots of Swaddywell, Etton Maxey and Castor Hanglands.

Swaddywell Pit in the May sunshine. Photo: Steve Zealand
Etton Maxey Puts nature reserve in May. Photo: Paul Bragg
Castor Hanglands in the Spring. Photo: Martin Parsons

The Covid-19 lockdown has meant that Langdyke has been unable to hold working parties.  One of the casualties of that is that no tern rafts were launched on to the water at Etton Maxey to attract breeding birds this year.

All the same it was good to see that this Common Tern made it’s way to the site in May and was photographed by Steve Zealand.

A Common Tern at Etton Maxey nature reserve. Photo: Steve Zealand

Other images captured during the month prove what a diverse range of species our reserves attract.

Ian Wilson captured this shot of a Skylark at Etton Maxey Pits
A Scorpion fly hiding in the undergrowth at Castor Hanglands. Photo: Ian Wilson
Reed bunting, Etton Maxey nature reserve. Photo: Martin Parsons
This Purple orchid was photographed in early May at Barnack Hills and Holes by Sarah Lambert
Orchid, photographed during a daily walk for exercise by Langdyke’s artist in residence Kathryn Parsons









A mayfly nestling in the undergrowth at Vergette Wood Meadow. Photo: Richard Astle
Grizzled skipper, Swaddywell. Photo: Brian Lawrence
Broad bodied chaser. Photo: Steve Lonsdale
Bee Orchid, Swaddywell. Photo: Steve Lonsdale

And finally. Just to prove that you don’t have to go outside to view nature.  Sue Welch discovered this Brimstone Moth had been trapped in her kitchen overnight.  After a quick photo it was released back into nature.

This Brimstone Moth was trapped overnight in Sue Welch’s kitchen. She photographed in the morning before letting it free.








Carry is our next guest

The next online talk will take place on Wednesday, June 3 featuring Carry Akroyd – long term John Clare supporter and highly regarded painter.

She is the latest of our guests who will be answering questions and talking about nature matters as part of the Langdyke online events programme using the Zoom experience.

Carry is a painter and printmaker living in Northamptonshire. Landscape is her usual subject, and as a bird-noticer, they usually fly into the pictures.

She is also the current President of the John Clare Society.

To take part in this session, which starts at 5pm, you need to click on the link below.  You do not need to load any software on to your computer to take part.  The session will not be open until 5pm on June 3 and will last about an hour.

This is the link:

The next online session will be on Wednesday, June 17 and will feature a conversation with Josh Jones, wildlife journalist, writer for Bird Guides and a local expert.

How to … attract insects

In the latest of our How to … series of articles – in which we look at ways of making your gardens more attractive to nature – Langdyke volunteer Malcolm Holley explains how to build simple structures out of rubbish to attract insects to your wildlife garden …


There are many ways to make homes for bugs like woodlice, centipedes, millipedes, spiders and so on.

You can go for a really deluxe version and create a complex bug hotel.  But there a simpler ways of building one as well.

Idea 1: Just use some old wood

A pile of old wood will rot away and provide an ideal home for all sorts of bugs.







  • Use old timber which has not been treated with chemicals and/or old logs  and tree stumps.
  • Find a place in the shade but where it can get wet.
  • Stack the wood in a pile so that it will not topple over.

To inspect, carefully remove logs to identify the bugs, then replace the wood carefully.

Idea 2: Use old bricks

A stack  of bricks could attract lots of bugs and spiders which prey on these.









Get some old bricks, preferably those with recesses or holes through them.  If they have broken edges, so much the better as these create passage ways in the pile.

  • Stack them face down in a pile on a flat piece of ground.
  • Stack each layer in a different direction so they bind safely together and will not topple over.

Some bees, like mason bees and leaf cutting bees, do not live in colonies but make individual nests for their eggs.  They  prefer  old masonry and walls or holes in wood.

Idea 3: Make a simple bee house









  • Cut a 6 inch tube from and old piece of drain pipe,
  • Pass a strong piece of twine or string through the tube and tie it into a loop to hang  up the bee house.
  • Cut old garden canes into 6 inch lengths and pack them into the tube. Hammer in pieces of split cane to wedge the canes in tightly.
  • Hang your bee house in a sunny place on a wall or shed. 

You can tell when the bees are using your bee house as they seal the holes with leaves to protect the eggs and young bees.

Idea 4: Use an old log

Another way to attract these bees is as follows:










  • Take an old log or post about a foot long.
  • Drill lots of holes of different sizes into it.
  • Hang it up on a wall or shed and watch.

Idea 5: Bigger could be best

More complex bug hotels can be made from 4 pallets to attract a whole range of bugs and maybe reptiles. The hotel can be made in layers with different types of materials in each layer to attract different creatures as follows:







Select a flat piece of ground. Place a brick in each corner where the bottom pallet will go.  Make sure the pallet will sit on the bricks without rocking.

  • Remove the pallet and place old bricks, broken tiles and plant pots in the area between the bricks.  This will be the “Basement” and will attract all types of bugs that like damp places and maybe reptiles like frogs or newts.
  • Place the pallet on the corner bricks with the top of the pallet facing down like a floor to make the “first floor”.  Fill this with old and rotten wood and branches, the more decayed the better. This will attract wood lice, beetles , spiders.
  • Place the second pallet face down on top of the first.  Fill this with old garden canes and other sticks and branches. The canes might attract leaf cutting bees and the sticks could attract all sorts of beetles.
  • Place the third pallet on top of the second floor and fill this with all sorts of plant and leaf litter.  This will attract earwigs, centipedes, millipedes and beetles.
  • Place the last pallet on top of the third floor and fill this with fir cones and dry sticks.  It is meant to be a place where insects can spend the winter.
  • Get some old garden compost/fertiliser bags and tack these on top to make a roof.

As an option, you can place clods of earth on top to anchor the plastic and provide another habitat for insects and beetles.

Whichever method you use your bug hotel will be ready for your first guests.

 The bug hotel in our main picture is in the garden of Caroline Cade in the Dogsthorpe area of Peterborough. 

Matthew’s our next guest

Langdyke is organising another online event – this time a conversation with the boss of one of the area’s largest nature attractions.

Matthew Bradbury

Following on from our very successful first conversation with Gardener’ s World expert Adam Frost in April, we are joined on May 20 by Matthew Bradbury, chief executive of the Nene Park Trust.

The hour-long online meeting starting at 5pm  uses Zoom.  You can join by getting a logon link – you don’t have to install any software.

He will  chat  about his love for nature, the work of the Trust and his thoughts on the John Clare Countryside project.

If you’d like to join the meeting please email Langdyke chair Richard Astle on

He will send you the Zoom invite.



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.

How to … make a feeder

In the latest of our How to … series of articles –  in which we dish out simple advice on ways to better enjoy nature in your garden – Keren Thomson sets out a simple way of turning an apple into a tasty treat that will attract more birds to your garden  …


Here’s a recipe for young and old  to follow to create an apple bird feeder for your garden.

Children will  also enjoy helping to make this simple feeder but please note they may need a little adult supervision.  

This recipe makes four feeders.

Step 1: Get your ingredients together

All you need:

Two large eating apples (any variety)
Jar smooth peanut butter
Bird seed and dried mealworms mixed (mealworms optional)
Apple corer or skewer
Knife to spread the peanut butter
String or garden twine
Chopping board
Sharp knife (adult use only)
Large eyed yarn needle or child’s plastic needle – cheap and easy to buy online using search terms:  “large eye plastic yarn needles” or “children’s plastic safety needles”

Once you’ve got all the ingredients together this is how to do it:

Step 2: Get mixing

Mix the seed and mealworms together in a tray.

Step 3: String and apples

Cut the string in approx. 4 x 40 cm lengths and tie a large knot in each length at one end.
Thread the needle with a length of the string.
Place the apples on the chopping board and cut them horizontally using the sharp knife. . *If using a corer, core the apple before cutting in half.

Step 4: Make a hole

Using the skewer bore a hole from the uncut edge through to the flat cut edge (use circular movements to make the hole big enough).

Step 5: Add peanut butter

Liberally spread the cut face and sides of the apple with the peanut butter.

Step 6: Dip in

Press the peanut butter sides of the apple in the tray of seed/ dried mealworms mix, ensuring well covered.

Step 7: The messy bit!

Gently thread the string through the hole in the apple.

Step 8: Hang it up

Hang your new bird feeder from a tree or post.

















Step 9: Enjoy the birds

Alternatively, if you just want to place on the floor for the ground feeders do not bore the hole or thread the string.