The Hampton Nature Reserve on the edge of Peterborough is a post-industrial wildlife wonderland. The terms ‘brownfield site’ or ‘wasteland’ can’t be used here, although the phrase ‘lunar landscape’ has frequently been used in the past!
The site contains hundreds of wildlife-rich ponds and lines of distinctive grassy hillocks created by the extraction of Oxford clay for brick production over the past century. It is now a core area of the Peterborough Brick Pits Important Plant Area (IPA) as designated by Plantlife, due mainly to its international importance for stoneworts (a group of complex aquatic algae often treated as honorary higher plants).
The land between the ponds also supports some interesting species such as the uncommon slender bird’s-foot trefoil (Lotus tenuis). The site is also a stronghold for mere wainscot (Chortodes fluxa), a moth who’s caterpillars feed in the stems of wood-small reed (Calamagrostis epigejos) which dominates the hillocks. It also supports Europe’s largest population of great crested newts (Triturus cristatus) – around 30,000 of them!
Several of the site’s seven stonewort species were recorded from the ponds surveyed, including the nationally scarce hedgehog stonewort (Chara aculeolata), rough stonewort (Chara aspera), bristly stonewort (Chara hispida var. major), and the site’s star species – bearded stonewort (Chara canescens) for which this one of the very few locations in the country.
Bearded stonewort is one of only two algae species (both stoneworts) protected under Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended), meaning that it is illegal to intentionally pick, uproot or destroy the plant. This rare species appears to be thriving on the site due to the implementation of a radical pond restoration programme involving scraping out wildlife-rich established ponds to expose the bare clay which this species requires.
The Ecology Consultancy has developed a wide ranging repertoire of aquatic assessments and can provide experts who are able to undertake surveys for aquatic algae, aquatic higher plants and great crested newts as well as water voles, otters, crayfish and other aquatic invertebrates. We can even provide ecologists who are qualified divers and able to undertake underwater surveys – an ideal technique for some crayfish and aquatic plant assessments!