Felmersham Gravel Pits is a 21.6 hectare Site of Special Scientific Interest between the villages of Felmersham and Sharnbrook in Bedfordshire.
The site is managed by the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire.
Lewis Dickinson led the walk. He explained that the site was important for whorled water-milfoil and bladderwort.
During the second World War gravel was extracted from Felmersham gravel pits to be used in the construction of local war-time air fields and other military needs. Over the decades the disused and flooded gravel pits have been managed as a nature reserve and they provide a protected area for many varieties of flora and fauna. It is also important as bird sanctuary, both as a breeding habitat and for birds on migration.
It is one of the best sites in Bedfordshire for dragonflies and damselflies. One problem managing the site is that areas have become overrun with Water Soldier. You can view an interesting video showing its removal using the Truxor Amphibious Vehicle
Lewis explained that there was some concerns raised with the removal of the Water Soldier as they were hoping it would attract the Norfolk Hawker dragonfly to the site. As a compromise, the Water Soldier is being removed from most of the lakes but is being left in one contained area.
To start the walk we crossed the road and headed North East where we had good views of damselflies, dragonflies and butterflies. There was lots of dragonfly activity, some ovipositing, a lot of aerial combat and one unfortunate dragonfly being eaten by another. After 1.5km we turned right as if we continued on our path we would have reached the fishing lakes which tend to be more shaded with less diversity.
We tried to spot Bladderwort in some of the lakes. There were no yellow flowers visible, but some people thought they could see the small hollow sacs that are used to capture and digest tiny animals such as insect larvae, aquatic worms, and water fleas.
We passed a couple of active badger sets and we saw a couple of Buzzards circling and calling overhead. Crossing the road, we continued in a circle back to the car park where we had excellent views of a Brown Hawker perched conveniently on a low branch.
We didn’t keep a species list, but some of the species we saw were:
Small Red-eyed Damselfly
Dock bug (Coreus marginatus)
Forest shieldbug (Pentatoma rufipes)
Hoverfly Helophilus pendulus
Mother of Pearl
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Unless captioned otherwise, photos are by Peter Hassett licensed under CC BY-NC-SA
Click the pictures for a larger view.