Barton Gravel Pit
Know before you go
Dry chalky ploughed field, rough grassy track, difficult when wet.
Take B655 from Barton-le-Clay towards Hitchin. On the right-hand side of road before Hexton village look for a sign for public bridleway.
When to visit
Opening timesOpen at all times
Best time to visitMay to June, July to September
About the reserve
Wildflowers were once common in our cornfields, but modern pesticides have all but eradicated them in an attempt to 'clean up' crops. Not so in this former quarry, which may be small but it is an oasis for many plants that were once common along field edges throughout the county.
The floor of the former pit has been filled in to raise the level to that of the surrounding fields. The ground is cultivated annually to mimic the conditions of traditional farming, but no cereal crops are grown, nor fertilisers used. This disturbance encourages annual plants to thrive including Venus's-looking-glass, knotted hedge-parsley and various species of poppy. Ground pine keeps a precarious grip on the margins of the pit.
The chalk grassland of the undisturbed areas are a blaze of colour in late summer with knapweed and scabious attracting insects to feed on their nectar. The rare great pignut also grows here. Mature beech trees provide the right conditions for the white helleborine orchid to survive.