Back to reserve map

Barton Gravel Pit

A small gravel pit now a safe haven for chalk grassland

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.


The map below is for indication purposes only and does not show the Wildlife Trusts definitive land boundary.

Species and habitats

Farmland, Grassland
Poppy, Cowslip, Harebell, Viper's-bugloss, Beech

Nearby nature reserves

Hexton Chalk Pit
1 miles - Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust
Pegsdon Hills and Hoo Bit
1 miles - Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire
4 miles - Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust

Nature reserve map

Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2012. For indicative purposes does not show exact boundaries.

Reserve information

3/4 of a mile east of
Map reference
TL 098 299
Best time to visit
May - Jun
Jul - Sep
Get directions
Find out here
Public transport
Plan your journey
Opening Times
Open at all times
1.10 hectares

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.
Walking information
Dry chalky ploughed field, rough grassy track, difficult when wet.
Park with care on road verge and walk uphill on the bridleway for 1/4 mile until path veers right. The reserve is 100m on the left.
Dogs must be on lead
Grazing animals
Reserve manager
Tel: 01234 364213