All posts by David Rowell

Spectacular bird walk

Langdyke members are invited to Frampton Marsh – the premier RSPB Reserve in Lincolnshire – for a special walk on Saturday, February 1.

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.

Event organiser and leader Brian Lawrence says: “Geese such as Pink-footed are also occasionally found on the grass fields and in the last few winters a small number of Whooper Swans have over-wintered at Frampton.

“If the weather is good there is often a spectacular murmuration of Starling in the late afternoon. 

“The grass fields are also home to hunting Merlin and Peregrine and it is a wonderful spectacle to see the birds rises in great flocks as the Peregrine passes overhead. On the saltmarsh we often see Marsh and Hen Harrier as well as Short-eared Owl.”

The number of birds on the reserve is dictated by the tides as birds feed on the mud-flats of the Wash at lower tides before being driven off by the rising tide.

Brian says: “The best Saturday is February 1 as High tide is at 10:28. However this will require being at the Frampton by 10:30 and I therefore suggest that we need to leave Helpston by 9:30am.”

The walk will be lead by Brian, who is a volunteer at Frampton Marsh RSPB, and knows the reserve very well.

You can either meet at Helpston Post Office at 9:30am on February 1 or at the Car Park at Frampton RSPB (O.S. Grid TF356392) at 10:15 (approx).  (The nearest Post Code is PE20 1AY)

The paths are quite good but can be muddy in winter. There is one set of steps down from the sea-wall. There will be a walk of about 2.2 Miles (3.5Km), including stops in the three hides.

Frampton can be very cold, especially if the wind is from the North, North East or East, so you will need to wrap up well and stout boots will be needed. We will probably be out for 3 hours walking around the reserve. 

There is a visitors centre at Frampton which is heated, has toilets, and serves hot drinks, rolls, biscuits etc but no cafe.  Therefore if you are staying to the afternoon you’ll need to bring your own packed lunch. 

Entrance charge for the reserve is £2.00 per person or £1.00 per child. (RSPB members free).

If you are interested in coming to this wonderful reserve please contact Brian  on 07798 683503 or email 

Make a date:  Saturday February 1.
 (9:30am at Helpston Post Office or 10:15am at Frampton Reserve Car Park)(Nearest Post Code PE20 1AY)

Pictured above are Dunlin and Knot in flight. Photo: Brian Lawrence

December in pictures

This fantastic winter sunset was what greeted walkers who went for a bird-watching ramble around the Maxey-Etton reserve and nearby Cut earlier in December.

The picture was captured by Mick Thomson and we have chosen it as our image of the month for December.

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

Participants on the walk, which was led by Bob Titman, were also treated to this spectacular starlings murmuration, captured by Angela Trotter.

The spectacular Starling murmuration over Etton Maxey; Photo: Angela Trotter

Winter is well and truly with us now and the colours in our reserves reflect that.

These Hawthorn berries make a vibrant statement in contrast to the other colours of the season.  They were spotted and photographed by Sarah Lambert during a visit to Swaddywell.

A seasonal view of Hawthorn berries on a bush at Swaddywell. Photo: Sarah Lambert

Sarah also took this image of Swaddywell in all of its winter glory.

The magnificence of Swaddywell in winter. Photo: Sarah Lambert

As usual our volunteers have carried on with their work on the reserves.

Clearing out a nest box was one of the tasks at Swaddywell when Kathryn Parsons came across this spider sheltering from the cold.

A spider found in a bird box at Swaddywell. Photo: Kathryn Parsons

As always there was plenty  of work to do during the month. A good bonfire helps clear space and keep the cold away from volunteers at the same time. This photo at Etton Maxey was taken by Keren Thomson,

Bonfire time at Etton Maxey during one of the Monday work parties. Photo Keren Thomson

A few days later similar clearing up duties were underway at Swaddywell in this image captured by Sue Welch.

Tidying up during a work party at Swaddywell. Photo: Sue Welch

The History and Archaeology group has also been busy on the Torpel Manor site, seen here making delicate repairs to an ancient wall. The photo was taken by Mary Purdon.

The History and Archaeology group busy on a wall on the Torpel Manor site. Photo: Mary Purdon

While we all sit down to enjoy our Christmas lunch let’s not forget the Trust’s flock of sheep – who work 24/7 to keep the grass down across all of our reserves.  They enjoyed an early Christmas feast during one of the work parties at Etton Maxey, tucking into some sugar beet. The occasion was captured by Kathryn Parsons,

Some of the Langdyke sheep enjoying a Christmas-time lunch of sugar beet. Photo: Kathryn Parsons







Events for 2020

A New Year means a new set of events are on offer from the Langdyke Countryside Trust.

2019 proved to be an exciting year with the organisation holding a number of celebratory events to make its 20th anniversary.

They included the launch of the Trust’s vision for nature, setting out a plan to preserve the heritage and landscape across John Clare Countryside in Tribland.  You can find details of the Trust’s Vision for Nature on the website here.

There were also events at the Torpel Manor site on the edge of Helpston and at the Etton Maxey nature reserve (pictured, above) as well as a series of arts workshops at groups and schools across the area.

In 2020 the Trust – which is a registered charity – will continue with its vital work, looking after its series of nature reserves across the area.

At the same time there are number of events open to all to attend. 

They include:

January 1: The traditional New Year’s Day walk, this year along the River Nene from a meeting point at Castor Church (1pm).

February 1: A visit to RSPB Frampton, near Boston with a chance to see winter waders, ducks and birds of prey. Meet outside Helpston Post Office at 9.30am.

April: An indoor evening talk on a wide range of local matters.  More details soon on the Trust website.

May 14: Evening walk around Castor Hanglands with a chance to hear the spectacular sound of the nightingale.

May 28:  Evening guided orchid walk at Southorpe Meadow and Barnack Hills and Holes.

June 9: Evening guided walk around Swaddywell Nature Reserve

June 27: Summer at Barnack Hills and Holes with guided walks and activities for young and old.

July 18: Afternoon walk around Old Sulehay Nature Reserve taking a look at all things botanical.

August: Summer holiday afternoon fun for all the family at Etton Maxey Nature Reserve.  All kinds of activities that will help the school holidays whizz past.

Families and individuals are welcome to attend any of the events.. Admission to them is free to Langdyke members.  Non-members are asked to make a small donation in the region of £3.  

Because of its charitable status the Trust is reliant on its teams of volunteers who meet weekly at Swaddywell and Etton.

New volunteers are always welcome. It gives you a chance to get out and enjoy the fresh air while at the same time supporting nature and carrying out tasks that will help to promote the natural world around us. The work is not too onerous and each working party ends with tea or coffee, a piece of cake and  a chance to chat.

November in pictures

Here’s a handsome chap worthy of our image of the month award for November.

This Hebridean Ram was captured in all his glory by Sarah Lambert during a walk at Swaddywell Nature Reserve.  He is part of the Langdyke flock of sheep who work all year around to help keep our reserves in tip top condition.

He and his Hebridean ewes are currently grazing at Swaddywell.  Another large mixed flock of Jacobs, Hebridean and Soay ewes keep the grass down at Etton Maxey.

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

Voles have been capturing attention during the month.  Volunteer Malcolm Holley took this image as he was out and about inspecting some special areas created to attract small mammals when he found this one at Etton Maxey. That’s Malcolm’s boot on the left – the vole is on the right!

A vole at Etton Maxey: Photo: Malcolm Holley

This bank vole was seen in the undergrowth at Swaddywell and captured on camera by Duncan Kirkwood.

A bank vole in the undergrowth at Swaddywell. Photo: Duncan Kirkwood

Field fare are a common sight at this time of the year on the reserves. Steve Zealand captured this image

A fieldfare at Etton Maxey. Photo: Steve Zealand

The colours of autumn are, of course, at their spectacular best during November. Sarah Lambert took this shot of Swaddywell.

Autumn at Swaddywell Nature Reserve. Photo: Sarah Lambert

As usual our volunteers have been out and about busy working on the reserves. At one of the Etton Maxey working parties John Parsonage was on hand to put a new owl box up into a tree alongside the Vergette wood meadow paddocks. Keren Thomson took the photo.

John Parsonage putting up an owl box on the edge of Vergette Wood Meadow at Etton. Photo: Keren Thomson

There are volunteer work parties at both Etton and Swaddywell on a weekly basis and new helpers are always welcome. See the website home page for more details here



TV personality at event

Our friends at the  Wildlife Trust have a big event in January featuring TV personality Gordon Buchanan.

The audience at the event will be treated to spell-binding stories of the natural world told by a man who has experienced danger  face to face.

Animal families and me with Gordon Buchanan is at Hinchingbrooke Performing Arts, Huntingdon on January 16 at 7pm.

Tickets are £22 (£17 for Wildlife Trust members).  You can book at




Step into the New Year

Make a resolution to step into 2020 by joining our traditional New Year’s Day walk.

This year the walk will start at Castor and – weather permitting – give you the chance to brush off the cobwebs with a walk along the River Nene to Waternewton.

The preferred route is an amble along the river bank, an easy but possibly muddy, three miles. The problem is the route, taking in the Nene and over a weir before returning,  frequently floods in winter so it may not be possible on the day.

The route of the New Year’s Day walk from Castor to Waternewton

So organiser Elaine Wakerley has another walk up her sleeve should it not be possible.

Anyone wanting to take part should meet at St Kyneburgha Church, Castor (pictured above) ready for a 1pm start.

There is parking along the roadway and at the rear of the village hall.
Clothing and footwear relevant to the conditions is suggested.

Enjoy a Wednesday walk

A Wednesday afternoon walk in December hopes to take in the spectacle of a fabulous Starling murmuration.

The murmurations happen during the winter months – usually from October to March – but peak in numbers in December when more birds come over from Europe and join our resident birds.

The December walk is on Wednesday, December 4 between 2pm and about 4.30pm.

The walk is being led by Bob Titman.

Anyone wanting to take part should meet at the Etton Maxey reserve car park in time for a 2pm start.

Bob says the route is yet to be finally decided but expects it to proceed from the parking area through the reserve on to the footpath between Vergette’s and Slurry pit through the Etton pits complex returning along the Maxey Cut.

Bob said: “The exact route can be decided nearer the date dependant upon what is around at the time.”

Anyone planning to take part is advised to make sure they wear clothing and footwear appropriate to the weather conditions.

The event is free for Langdyke members but non-members are asked to make a suggested donation of £3.

October in pictures

Brown Hares have become a familiar sight to visitors of the Etton Maxey nature reserve.

They are often seen darting around in the undergrowth. But it’s not everyday that someone captures a photo of them.  So we have selected this shot – captured by Steve Zealand – as our image of the month for October.

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

A pair of Ospreys have also been sighted on the reserve and along the Maxey Cut.  This image was taken by Martin Browne.

An Osprey, seen on Maxey Cut, Photo: Martin Browne

Martin also took this shot of a Stonechat at Etton Maxey.

Stonechat, Etton Maxey reserve. Photo: Martin Browne

The fungal foray around Castor Hanglands and led by David Cowcill proved a popular event and walkers saw a wide variety of specimens.  This was one of the many finds, photographed by Brian Lawrence.

One of the many finds during the fungal foray at Castor Hanglands Photo: Brian Lawrence

As usual it’s been a busy month for the volunteers working on the various reserves.  Without them the Langdyke Countryside Trust would not be able to maintain the landscape it cares for in tip top condition.

The volunteers carry out a wide variety of tasks including clearing undergrowth, controlling trees, maintaining fences and keeping an eye on the trust’s flock of sheep.  Most of the work parties, working out of bases at Etton, Swaddywell and Castor,  are advertised via facebook, but if anyone is interested in taking part they can contact the trust through the website emailing:

The work suits all age groups, shapes and sizes and can be carried out at your own pace and to your own capabilities.  It usually ends with a cup of tea or coffee, cakes and a good chat.

One of the tasks at Etton Maxey has been removing hawthorn bushes from one of the areas so that the sheep don’t get too tangled up in them when they graze the area in the spring.  Keren Thompson took this picture.

Removing hawthorn bushes from a sheep grazing area in North Wood at Etton Maxey Photo: Keren Thompson

More volunteers, including some from a group of ex-Perkins employees,  can be seen hard at work as Swaddywell in this image take by Chris Gray.

A busy day at Swaddywell. Photo: Chris Gray

A group of Langdyke volunteers from the southern group were among those who answered a call for help to clear the old stationmasters garden at Ailsworth.  Mike Horne captured the action.

Langdyke members were among the volunteers busy at work tidying up the stationmaster’s garden in Ailsworth Photo: Mike Horne


September in pictures

Here is a lovely summer sight to savour as autumn colours take over in the countryside we all enjoy.

This photograph of a Common Blue butterfly was captured at Swaddywell Pit Nature Reserve by Langdyke member Brian Lawrence. We have chosen it as our image of the month for September.

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

During his walk around Swaddywell, Brian also took this photograph of blackberries on a bush at the reserve.

Blackberries at Swaddywell. Photo: Brian Lawrence

During September there  has been a relatively rare find growing near the water’s edge  at Vergette Wood Meadow, Etton.

Trifid Bur-marigold Bidens tridentata at Vergette Wood Meadow. Photo: Sarah Lambert


This is Trifid Bur-marigold – also known as Bidens tridentata – found on the edge of the lake , the first record of this species locally since 1976, when Terry Wells recorded it at Upton.

Sarah Lambert, who took this photograph, says it is a late flowering annual species that favours nutrient-rich mud at the edges of rivers, ponds and lakes, and is very uncommon away from the Nene valley.

Sarah wrote on Facebook: “It is a declining species, specially in south-east England, so a good one to have in a Langdyke Trust reserve.”

The turtle doves at Etton Maxey have again been regularly seen during August ahead of their expected migration.

A turtle dove at Etton Maxey. Photo: Martin Browne

This image of just one of a small, but healthy, number was captured by Martin Browne.

Other bird life at the reserve included this Partridge family.

The Partridge Family! Breakfast time at Etton Maxey. Photo: John Parsonage


The picture was taken by John Parsonage.

As usual, our working parties have been busy carrying out tasks at our reserves.

Clearing the pond at Etton High Meadow. Photo: Keren Thompson

This image shows work underway to clear the pond at Etton High Meadow of rotting and damaging plant life.  As well as cleaning up the water, branches were removed from surrounding trees to let light in and undergrowth trimmed away. The photo was taken by Keren Thomson.

It’s not all work and no play as this party image of the Western reserves work team shows.

Party time at Swaddywell. Working party members enjoy lunch after another hard working session Photo: Sue Welch

Sue Welch took this picture of the team enjoying their well deserved annual barbecue.