Lolham Bridges – Bainton Pits
John Clare described the road that now runs north to West Deeping from Helpston, across nine bridges and over two railway crossings in his poem The Flood
On Lolham Brigs in wild and lonely mood
I’ve seen the winter floods their gambols play
Through each old arch that trembled while I stood
Bent o’er its wall to watch the dashing spray
In Clare’s time some of the land around Lolham Bridges would have been one of the three open fields of the pre enclosure agricultural system and would have been regularly flooded in winter, but the seven lakes that now make up Bainton Pits, to the west of the road, were only created in the last forty years as a result of gravel extraction.
With the completion of gravel extraction, Bainton Pits has now become an important wildlife site. It is home to large numbers of wintering duck, including wigeon, goldeneye, pochard and occasionally smew; over 200 plant species, including five orchids, and 32 lichens, 2 of which are found no where else in Cambridgeshire.
Kingfishers breed here and signs of otters are frequently reported. In the summer nightingales sing from the scrub land and from the more established hedgerows and hobbies hawk for insects over the ponds. Sedge warblers too are a common summer visitor – their distinctive and loud song can be heard from around the site.
Bainton is a good place too to see two species of local bat – Daubenton’s which can be seen hunting low over the surface of the main pit at dusk and Noctule, a large, high flying bat, frequently stooping in pursuit of its prey.
On summer eves with wild delight
We bawled the bat to spy
Who in the ‘I spy’ dusky light
Shrieked loud and flickered by;
And up we knocked our shuttlecocks
And tried to hiy the moon,
And wondered bats should fly so long
And they come down so soon
Bats are thought to have been more affected by the intensification of agriculture than any other British animal. The felling of old trees and the loss of nesting holes in roofs and barns combined with the reduction in food sources, particularly beetles, have led to some species declining by over 90%.
Bats are very difficult to identify on the wing, but three species can still be found around Helpston and picked out in the summer sky with some confidence.
Pipistrelle bats are very small and can often be seen hunting over gardens and by the light of street lamps in Helpston itself. They make their nests in roofs and lofts.
Noctule bats are much bigger – about the size of a swift – and fly higher in the sky, swooping down to catch their prey above fields and hedgerows. Noctules have been seen recently at Bainton Pits and hunting over the fields at the top of Health Road and over Swaddywell and Ben Jonson Pits. They nest and roost in trees and can live for ten years and more.
Often called the water bat, Daubenton bats are also very distinctive in the way they hunt, flying low over water, searching for water based insects, such as mayfly, and sometimes even small fish! The main pit at Bainton is a good place to look for them in April and May.
Click the name of the bird or animal to hear its call.
Note | Access to Bainton Pits is restricted to members of Bainton Fisheries only.