CNHS local wildlife

There are many interesting local wildlife sites around Cambridge, some are managed by the City or County Council, others by the Wildlife Trust or are in private ownership.   There are volunteering opportunities organised at the LNRs, mostly on Tuesdays.  Details of Wildlife Trust sites in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Northamptonshire and Peterborough are on the Trust website. Follow the links above, which open in a new window.

Data from our projects is lodged with the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Environmental Records Centre.  The Cambridgeshire group of the British Bryological Society has regular local meetings during the winter half of the year and from these Jonathan Shanklin have started to compile a gallery of Cambridgeshire liverworts.  The Cambridgeshire Flora Group has monthly excursions during the summer.  If you have a casual record to submit either send it to CPERC if it is local, or put it into iRecord.  The BSBI has published guidance on field meetings.

Survey / Field Study reports

Since 2004 the Cambridge Natural History Society has been surveying areas of Cambridge. In 2014 CNHS started revisiting those it had surveyed ten years previously. The list below is of the areas surveyed, with links to the survey reports. These are pdfs and open in a new window. Those marked ‘members only’ are password-protected.
Coton Footpath : 2004 / 2014 (Members only or available in Nature in Cambridgeshire)
Coe Fen : 2005 / 2015 (Members only or available in Nature in Cambridgeshire)
Grantchester Meadows : 2006 / 2016 (Available in Nature in Cambridgeshire)
Coldham’s Common : 2007 / 2017 (Available in Nature in Cambridgeshire)
Ditton Meadows : 2008 / 2018 (Available in Nature in Cambridgeshire)
Cherry Hinton : 2009 / 2019  (Available in Nature in Cambridgeshire)
Coton Countryside Reserve : 2010 / 2020
The Backs : 2011
Trumpington Meadows : 2012
Great Kneighton : 2013

Cambridge   There are many City Wildlife Sites and nine Local Nature Reserves near Cambridge.  CNHS has included several of them in its general surveys and species found are submitted to the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland’s database and to other appropriate recording projects.

Cambridgeshire   The Cambridgeshire Flora Group is in the process of updating the Cambridgeshire vascular plant flora on a parish and 10km grid square basis. Records from our general surveys will be included.

Cherry Hinton There are several City Wildlife Sites and Local Nature Reserves in the Cherry Hinton area.  These include the Cherry Hinton Chalk Pits (Lime Kiln Close and East Pit), the Beechwoods and Cherry Hinton Brook.  In addition Giant’s Grave and Cherry Hinton Hall are significant green spaces.  Together these formed our survey project for 2009.  We returned in 2019.

Chesterton area The Chesterton survey comprised St Andrew’s churchyard and the Bramblefields and Logan’s Meadow LNRs.  The “Nature of God’s Acre” project carried out a survey of the churchyard during the summer of 2006. 

Coe Fen  Our project for 2005, ‘The Coe Fen Survey’, involved surveying the flora of the meadows from Coe Fen to Paradise LNR.  The Coe Fen species list has 430 botanical records and includes the most recent Paradise species list.  The botanical entries on the list have been vetted by Charles Turner, but other groups are unchecked.  The final species added to the list in 2005 was the Harlequin ladybird, which was found in Paradise on the last day of the year.  Following restoration work on the bridge over the Cam, which provided a disturbed habitat, a further 6 species were added in August 2006.  A “BioBlitz” took place on Coe Fen in July 2012 and several additional plant species were added.  Cambridge University Student Green Belt Society and the Tuesday volunteers do some conservation work in Paradise LNR.    A full report of the 2005 Survey appeared in Nature in Cambridgeshire Number 48.  CNHS returned to the area in 2015.

Coldham’s Common  & Barnwell LNR During 2007 and 2017 we carried out a Coldhams survey comprising of Coldham’s Common and the Barnwell LNRs.  The listing of the flora includes species found in the area in the past, together with our latest findings [updated 2009 August].   Over 480 vascular plants have been identified including over 200 not previously reported in the area.

Coton Countryside Reserve  Cambridge Past, Present & Future (Cambridge Preservation Society) has created a Countryside Reserve on land it owns in Coton.  There are a number of open access walks in the area.  Further information about the Reserve Project.  There are occasional volunteer sessions, which will involve practical conservation tasks eg pollarding, tree planting and general woodland management. The CNHS project for 2010 was a survey of the Reserve and surrounding area.   We return in 2020.

Coton Footpath   A two-year project for the CNHS, which concluded at the end of 2004, was to explore the flora (& fauna) along the Coton Footpath and its environs, between Wilberforce Road and the M11.   We surveyed the footpath each month during 2003 and 2004 and logged what we found.  This was intended as a project for beginners as much as for experts.  We may have occasional walks in future to see the yellow vetchling and slender tare.  Our species list has over 700 flowering plant species and over 440 other species listed.  The footpath, which was widened and resurfaced during the summer of 2005, runs along the south side of the University West Cambridge Development, which has included surveys of the ecology of the area.  Further work, which included widening the path between Wilberforce Road and the Cavendish Laboratory and clearing the ditch took place during the summer of 2006.  We returned to the area in 2014.

Devil’s Ditch  The largest and most impressive of the three “linear” SSSI sites, which runs from Reach to Ditton Green.  There is a full report on the flora by Alan Leslie, which appears in Nature in Cambridgeshire, 53.   Conservation work takes place on some sections, and also on the nearby section of the old road at Beacon Course. 

Ditton Meadows  In 2008  we carried out a study of Ditton Meadows. The first survey visit took place on 2008 January 1, and regular monthly surveys commenced on March 30.  The final visit was on September 28.  We logged over 370 plant species.  We returned to the area in 2018.

RSPB Fen Drayton Lakes   The Fen Drayton Lakes are a major RSPB nature reserve and can be reached from Cambridge by guided bus. 

RSPB Fowlmere   The Fowlmere nature reserve is easily accessible from Cambridge. 

Fulbourn   Fulbourn Fen is a noted local nature reserve managed by the Wildlife Trust.  The Fleam Dyke is a nearby SSSI and St Vigor’s Churchyard is also worth a visit.

Grantchester Meadows  During 2006 and 2016 we carried out studies of Grantchester Meadows, similar to those that we did for Coe Fen in 2005 and 2015. The area is popular for walks, but note that during the winter the paths by the river can be very muddy and Wellington boots are advisable.

Great Kneighton  The Great Kneighton survey includes the monads TL4554, TL4555, TL4655 and TL4654. This area includes the Clay Farm open space, part of the Guided Busway, farmland, Addenbrookes Hospital, Nine Wells LNR and the Red Cross Drain CWS.  It formed our study area for 2013.

Great Wilbraham Common   Great Wilbraham Common is a SSSI which supports neutral grassland communities of the calcareous loam grassland type.

Hilton Farm, Landbeach   A large meadow has been set aside for wildlife, and includes a pond, several copses, an orchard, hedgerows, and a ditch. Access is restricted.

RSPB Lakenheath   This RSPB reserve is just over the border in Suffolk.  Designed to attract Bitterns, it has also attracted Cranes, which bred in the UK for the first time for 400 years.  It also hosts Golden orioles in a poplar plantation.

Lark Rise Farm, Barton   Lark Rise Farm is owned by the Countryside Restoration Trust, which  has transformed land, which was an intensively farmed wildlife desert into a productive farm, which teems with wildlife.

Little Wilbraham Fen Little Wilbraham Fen is an SSSI which has a large area of fen and neutral grassland with scrub and open water communities.  A nearby field is designated as open access land, and the County Council manage the adjacent D’Engayne’s Fen.  There is wildfowling during the shooting season, which runs from August 12 (snipe) to February 1 (pheasant).

Magog Down  The Magog Trust is creating an area for conservation and informal recreation on the Gog Magog hills just south of the boundary of the City of Cambridge, off the A1307 road to Linton and on Haverhill Road, Stapleford.  Magog Down is owned and managed by the Governors of the Magog Trust who bought it in 1989. It covers 163.5 acres of previously intensively farmed arable land. It is freely open to all, all year round.  It has: Two meadows sown with wild flowers and grasses native to chalk grassland. Six woods, planted between 1990 and 1992, with 24,000 trees native to the chalk meadows of over a century ago.  It is seeing the return of ground-nesting birds, like the skylark, and native flowering plants like the cowslip. 


Orwell clunch pit  We were asked to make regular surveys of the flora of Orwell clunch pit, which is a designated SSSI.  There were three formal visits and several informal ones during 2005 and we compiled a species list, which contains over 200 entries.

Protected Road Verge S48 – Madingley Slip Road  The County Council have over 90 protected road verges, which are designated because of their botanical interest.  Such protected verges are marked by prominent posts.  Each protected verge can have a designated warden to keep an eye on it.  The County Council is also planning to extend the scheme to designate Village Verges, which would be local verges with good wildlife interest.Jonathan Shanklin is looking after S48, which is the east bound slip road off the A428 leading to the Madingley roundabout.

Roman Road   The Roman Road is a SSSI for much of its length.   Friends of the Roman Road and Fleam Dyke was set up to help protect it and its wildlife.

Stow cum Quy Fen  This is a SSSI, which possesses areas of floristically rich calcareous loam pasture.  In addition a number of ponds formed on chalk marl (old coprolite workings) are present and these support a range of aquatic plants. 

The Backs  The study area for 2011 was The Backs, which for the purposes of the study included the area within TL4458 roughly between Grange Road to the West, Kings Parade to the East, Magdalene Bridge to the north and Silver Street Bridge to the South.  A write up was published in Nature in Cambridgeshire.

The Bird Sanctuary  The Adams Road Bird and Wildlife reserve is managed by the Sanctuary Club.  To arrange a preliminary visit to the reserve please contact the Secretary.  There are occasional work parties, starting at 9:30.

Trumpington Meadows  The Trumpington Meadows country park opened in 2013, and includes Byron’s Pool LNR. It is now a Wildlife Trust nature reserve. Work carried out includes improvements to the river and creation of a reed bed.  The Meadows formed the CNHS study area for 2012.

Wandlebury  Wandlebury Country Park has a monthly volunteer session on the 3rd Saturday of each month, which will involve practical conservation tasks eg pollarding, tree planting and general woodland management. Please met at the car park notice board at 10:30am, wearing suitable clothing and stout boots, and bring a packed lunch. Please phone Jon Gibbs, Head Ranger, on 01223 248706 for more information.  There is currently no comprehensive list of the fauna and lower flora of the site and surveys are welcome.

Waterbeach  Waterbeach is a large fen-edge parish, which covers four ten-kilometre grid squares : TL46, TL47, TL56 and TL57.   First records for the area date back to 1860, and there were further records in the 1940s.  Since then only occasional records of the flora have been added to the data held by the CPBRC, which lists 205 species for the parish.  The Cambridge Flora Group carried out an initial survey near the village centre on 13 May 2006.  Jonathan Shanklin carried out further surveys during the following 12 months.  Notable or rare species recorded include: Birthwort, dragon arum, deadly nightshade, dwarf spurge and hairlike pondweed.  Good King Henry, marsh stitchwort, fen pondweed, long stalked pondweed and greater water-parsnip were reported in the past, but may now be extinct in the area.  Two species new to Cambridgeshire were found in the parish: Corky-fruited water-dropwort and Narrow-leaved ragwort.

Wicken Fen Vision Area  The National Trust is extending the Wicken Fen National Nature Reserve to cover much of the land between Wicken and Cambridge. 


Useful links