Brownfield sites are rapidly becoming some of the most valuable environments for many species in the UK. Often the last ‘wild spaces’ left for local communities these sites are unexpected havens for many invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles and plant life. The varying topography and low nutrient soils create perfect micro-climates for basking, nesting and hunting.

The Cambridge railway sidings were one such example of a species rich brownfield site. Recently transformed into the Cambridge North station this site was lost. Bramblefields nature reserve in Chesterton is adjacent to the new station. It therefore seemed logical to try and re-create some of the conditions lost by the development in this reserve.

An area of low species count was chosen on the reserve to do this. A low nutrient substrate was put down on top of a weed suppressant membrane. Then a varied topography was created with small pools and wood piles. A calcareous seed mix was put down to hopefully gain a few nectar rich plants for this summer.  The area will be monitored closely in the coming seasons to see what species are attracted. Hopefully exciting updates will follow!

Last Saturday, on what felt like the first day of warm weather in forever, a community event happened that really lifted the spirits. At Paradise nature reserve a group of residents gathered to divide the clumps of Snowdrops that grow at the Owlstone road end of the reserve. The aim was to create more areas where the Snowdrops could prosper and delight us all come next spring time. Although not a native species the Snowdrops have been a feature at this end of the reserve for many years after a local resident began the tradition of planting them there. It was felt that they needed some attention after the ditch slubbing earlier this year gave them a set back. Hopefully they will more than triumph next spring.

If you need some motivation to get outside this Easter holiday you could go Wood anemone spotting at Byron’s Pool reserve. This beautiful plant is one of the few flowering plants found on the woodland floor at this time of year. The flowers look delicate but they are in fact very sturdy and well able to withstand the strong winds of April, they are even sometimes referred to as Wind flowers.  If the weather is sunny the flowers will be open but if it is cloudy or near evening they will close and droop.

 

Twenty-eight tonnes of gravel have been put in to the section of Cherry Hinton Brook next to Sainsbury’s, Coldhams lane, with much ingenuity and problem solving!

This obviously took a lot of hard-working volunteers to achieve but the benefits to the habitat outweigh some temporary achy backs!  The Wild Trout Trust, Friends of Cherry Hinton Brook and the City Council all worked together to raise the bed of the stream. By reducing the depth in key locations the cross-sectional area of the local water is reduced but the velocity of the local water is increased. This means that the quality of the habitat is improved as the deposition of fine sediment is reduced and the bed gravel is left clearer which is most welcome for many gravel loving species.

This section of the brook is monitored every month for freshwater invertebrates. It will be great to watch how the species count grows as the improvements take effect.

 

Volunteers from Sentec, a local company, came for a few hours after work and helped create a fantastic hibernaculum for amphibians and reptiles at Logan’s Meadow reserve. The technique was very simple just piling up some fly tipped paving slabs and covering them with the removed turf but the result was slightly hobbit-esque but extremely valuable for these species.