In 2020, Wildlife Trust for Beds, Cambs and Northants was awarded a PEBBLE fund grant of £2,000 to improve the chalk grassland habitat at Cherry Hinton Chalk Pit nature reserve.
Cherry Hinton Chalk Pits is a Local Nature Reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest located to the South East of Cambridge. It carries a rich local history as it covers the site of two important, disused quarries, Lime Kiln Close and East Pit.
Quarrying finished in Lime Kiln Close approximately 200 years ago and nature has reclaimed the site with woodland featuring impressive ash, field maple and cherry trees. East Pit, the larger quarry, was worked up until the early 1980s. Surrounded by steep chalk cliffs, the base of the pit was reprofiled in 2009 enabling grassland habitat and wildflowers such as milkwort, harebell and kidney vetch to spread over the bare chalk.
Adding further botanical importance to the site, rare moon carrot only grows here and at two other locations in the country. Glow worms can also be seen here, creating a special spectacle on summer evenings in June and July. This site requires careful conservation management in order to enable its varied habitat to thrive and to allow more delicate chalk grassland species to spread.
The PEBBLE fund was used for vital conservation management and invasive species control, to protect rare species, provide habitats and increase biodiversity. It also aimed to protect threatened species including Moon carrot; Moon carrot rust; Basil thyme.
Work parties of staff and volunteers removed the invading buddleia, scrub, rosebay willow herb and creeping thistle - and this has had a secondary benefit, enabling visitors to appreciate the delicate wildflowers that are now thriving and gradually colonising the bare chalk areas of this ex-quarry site. The bare chalk areas will continue to gradually evolve into 'early successional stages' (a 'successional habitat' is the first stage in a habitat’s journey towards becoming a forest. The early stages are beneficial to a wide range of invertebrates and lower plants including rare mosses and liverworts) and then through into species-rich chalk grassland.
Another element of the funding went into tree surgery and tree maintenance, cutting back or removing potentially dangerous trees, so visitor safety within the site has improved.
By protecting threatened species, alongside the historical importance of this site, this project will encourage more visitors from the local urban community. Thanks to its proximity to a busy residential area of Cambridge, many locals visit this reserve for exercise, dog walks or general leisure. Combined with the educational opportunities that this site offers through both its diverse fauna and flora and deep local history, it provides a great benefit for local community education and wellbeing.
Posted: 17 May 2022