Barnack Hills & Holes National Nature Reserve

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Barnack Hills & Holes

Barnack Hills & Holes is managed as a national nature reserve[1] and Site of Special Scientific Interest[2] by Natural England, a non-departmental public body vested in 2006. It is situated in the village of Barnack in the unitary authority area of Peterborough in the United Kingdom. There are 222 NNRs in England covering over 350 square miles (900 km²) and practically every kind of landscape. This site has been selected by Natural England as one of its 35 Spotlight Reserves.

Arising from the rubble of a medieval quarry, the Hills and Holes is one of Britain’s most important wildlife sites. Covering an area of just 50 acres (22 ha), the grassy slopes are home to a profusion of wild flowers. This type of meadowland is now all too rare; half of the surviving limestone grassland in Cambridgeshire is found here. In 2002 it was designated as a Special Area of Conservation, to protect the orchid rich grassland as part of the Natura 2000 network of sites throughout the European Union.[3]

The unique hummocky landscape was created by quarrying for limestone. The stone, sometimes known as Barnack Rag, was a valuable building stone first exploited by the Romans over 1,500 years ago. Most famously, stone from Barnack was used to build Peterborough and Ely Cathedrals. By the year 1500 however, all the useful stone had been removed and the bare heaps of limestone rubble gradually became covered by the rich carpet of wild flowers that can be seen today. The limestone was originally formed in Jurassic times. It is made from the remains of billions of tiny sea-creatures which lived in a warm shallow sea that covered the area 150 million years ago.[4]

Barnack’s rich flora supports a wide variety of wildlife, especially insects, and a number of nationally scarce species are found. Limestone grasslands are traditionally grazed with sheep and at Barnack, grazing is carried out in autumn by up to 300 sheep. These remove the summer growth and build-up of leaves, stalks and grass tussocks that would otherwise die back to form a dead layer, or litter, on the ground. Without grazing, the build-up of coarse grasses and litter would rapidly choke the rarer lime-loving plants.[5]

It is a popular spot for locals to walk their dogs, go for walks and den building. In winter, the reserve is filled with people from the surrounding area who come to sled down the small hills.


  1. ^ Barnack Hills & Holes NNR Natural England (retrieved 27 May 2008), declared under Section 19 of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949
  2. ^ Barnack Hills & Holes SSSI Natural England (retrieved 27 May 2008), notified under Section 28 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981
  3. ^ Barnack Hills and Holes SAC Joint Nature Conservation Committee (retrieved 1 June 2008), designated under Article 3 of Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora
  4. ^ Barnack Hills and Holes NNR English Nature (former), 2004
  5. ^ Rollins, Julian Land Marks: Impressions of England’s National Nature Reserves English Nature, 2003

See also[edit]

Coordinates: 52°37′39″N 0°24′48″W / 52.6276°N 0.4132°W / 52.6276; -0.4132