Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Hampton Nature Reserve

Last Thursday I attended a Froglife training day in Peterborough. The day focused on habitats and their management. Looking at why management is carried out; what are the benefits of doing so and what might the consequences be if we did nothing.

A very interesting day, with the highlight being my first ever visit to Hampton Nature Reserve! The reserve is a three hundred acre site on the edge of Peterborough and is home to Europe’s largest population of Great Crested Newts (Triturus cristatus), estimated at over 30,000 individuals. The area is a former clay extraction site for brick production which has left a legacy of over 300 ponds and an amazing array of species, both aquatic and terrestrial. The site is legally protected as SAC, SSSI and Natura 2000 site.

The site is managed by Froglife and owned by Value Nature, part of the O&H Hampton group.

view looking southwest across part of the reserve

reptile basking area
Above shows a south facing bank, there are lots of open bare areas ideal for reptiles to bask and the scrub at the top of the bank provides a safe refuge for them if disturbed. You may just be able to see in the above image that the scrub is being managed to give it more edge and a scalloped look. This allows reptiles more security from predation!

Below this part of the reserve has a real uniqueness, due to the way the clay had to be extracted in these linear lines with the earth piled into small heaps. Although my images do not do it real justice, some compare it to a moonscape but, to me it looks much more like a sand dune landscape!

These two images probably show off the mounds and pools landscape best and note just how close to urban development the reserve is!
This whole area is in early succession and is low in nutrients which is good as this suits the rare species that the area supports. Succession is probably being held back by a combination of things; grazing there are lots of rabbits and deer; and a domination of a single Calamagrostis grass species which grows quite matted and suppresses the growth of other species.
Paul talking about management for the Great Crested Newt and and one of the rarest plant species in the UK the Bearded Stonewort

This is a fabulous and unique area and probably not at its best in early February! The site does not have public access but I hope I get the opportunity to return later in the spring when it will look very green with a riot of colour as the flora blossoms.