Our local habitats

Within our three counties there is great variety and subtlety of habitats, and each of our nature reserves has a distinct and special identity that supports its own network of wildlife. We invite you to get to know a bit more about some of these habitats and experience some of the variety near where you live.


Bedfordshire

Bedfordshire is a small county with diverse habitats and some gorgeous landscapes. Our reserves show off some of the very best that Bedfordshire has to offer.

Chalk hills, old quarries and meadows are perfect flower and butterfly haunts. Pegsdon Hills, Blow’s Downs and Totternhoe Quarry are three examples really worth a visit.

Towards Northamptonshire, the geology changes and there are wonderful limestone landscapes and flower meadows.

The Ouse, Ivel and Flit river valleys yield woodland, marsh, gravel pits and flood meadows in lovely fragments. Our Ouse Valley Living Landscape will join up, improve and extend these, and you can get a feel for the shape of things to come at Felmersham Gravel Pits, Pavenham Osier Beds and The Riddy on the River Ivel.

The unique geology and landscapes of the Greensand Ridge, which runs diagonally across the county has created lowland heathland landscapes - rare in our area - clothed in purple heather and yellow gorse in summer and brimming with rare insects, lichen and fungi as well as woodland. Visit Cooper’s Hill, King’s Wood and Rammamere Heath for a taste of this rarest of habitats in this area.


Cambridgeshire                  Beechwoods, Wildlife Trust

Big skies, bluebell-carpeted woodland and wide, peaty fen and reedbeds, as well as gorgeous flower meadows over rolling chalk landscapes are all hallmark Cambridgeshire habitats.

The Great Fen encompasses fen landscape par excellence, but also woodland, scrub and open water. The Ouse Washes are tidal marsh and floodplain, vital for wetland and migrating birds.

The broadleaf woodland of south-west Cambridgeshire is full of songbirds, fungi, bluebells and small mammals. Try Gamlingay Wood, Buff Wood and Waresley and Gransden Woods, for some of the best year-round walks in the three counties.

Chalk and limestone grassland are the places to see fabulous displays of cowslips, wildflowers including orchids, and bees and butterflies feeding on the nectar. Houghton Meadows, Chettisham Meadow and Upwood Meadows are just three examples to visit for spring and summer flower spectaculars.

Economic activity in the landscape has produced now abandoned chalk, clay and brick pits which shelter species that have struggled in the wider landscape. Try Roswell Pits, Dogsthorpe Star Pit and Cherry Hinton Chalk Pits for concentrations of birds (and their songs), plants and mammals in unique fragments reclaimed by nature.

Northamptonshire                        Ditchford. Photo by Henry Stanier

This county’s natural riches are a mixture of ancient landscapes, such as the Rockingham Forest Woodlands and Harlestone Heath, and landscapes that people have altered and abandoned as the mineral wealth ran out, such as the Nene Valley, Stoke Bruerne Brick Pits, Twywell Hills and Dales and Collyweston Quarries.

The Nene Valley is already internationally important for migrating wetland birds and linking the reserves along its course to create a Living Landscape will enhance this combination of wetland, woodland, grassland and scrub that supports a huge variety of wildlife. One of the best places to see some of the riches that the Nene has to offer is Summer Leys. At Irthlingborough Lakes and Meadows, our newest reserve in Northamptonshire, we will be restoring 30 hectares of historical floodplain grazing marsh which will help to attract new species of wetland birds to the site.

Old Sulehay, Short and Southwick Woods and Collyweston Quarries in the north east of the county show the contrasts in Northamptonshire’s landscapes as lowland river valley gives way to ancient woodland and limestone grassland. In and around Northampton itself are green lungs in the form of meadows and woodland at Bradlaugh Fields and Lings Wood.