The inaugural meeting of the Lincolnshire Branch of Butterfly Conservation was held at the Bailgate Methodist Church Hall, Newport, Lincoln on Saturday, 12th May 1984. Consequently, the Lincolnshire Branch was officially established.
In the Beginning...
The Branch formulated a plan of acquiring and maintaining a wild area, especially for butterflies. This would be preferably somewhere that already had some entomological interest but where, with careful management of the habitat, individual species numbers could be maximised. This would then become a focal point for the Branch and a major asset in the task of educating the public in the merits of butterfly conservation in the countryside.
Branch Chairman, Peter Cawdell, had found a hitherto undiscovered place and the rest of the committee didn't need any convincing that Stainfield Pit was indeed the ideal site for our purpose.
The pit was created by extracting clay to build up river banks. When no longer required, Anglian Water filled the pit with water and used it as a fish nursery.
Observations there over several years had produced useful information. Whilst being mostly neglected, occasional tidying up operations by the owners, the Lincoln Division of Anglian Water, were having some detrimental effects on butterfly populations and other wildlife.
Branch contacts enabled us to be represented at the Lincolnshire Agricultural Show in 1985. It was here that Peter Cawdell made contact with the AWA Lincoln Division Fisheries & Conservation Officer, Peter Kalinowski at their stand. Relieved that he was not dealing with yet another water bill query, he expressed interest in our idea and admitted they knew nothing of the natural history value of the site.
Things progressed slowly but surely and, in 1986. a formal management agreement on a long-term lease was drawn up by the Lincs. BBCS. This was duly signed by AWA, who had by this time, an extremely enthusiastic Conservation Officer in Dr. Tim Cole. We were to receive marvellous co-operation from AWA and Tim in particular. The reserve name was also changed from Stainfield Pit to Snakeholme Pit. This was influenced by the adjacent Snakeholme Farm and provided a dis-association to Stainfield Wood, across the road, owned by the Forestry Commission.
The AWA were now keen to show that they were fulfilling their new obligations to nature conservation under the Wildife and Countryside Act of 1981. To this end, they proposed opening the reserve to the public in 1986 but this was resisted by the Lincs Branch. The Branch felt that more preparation work was needed and that a grand opening in 1987, the European Year of the Environment, would be more appropriate.
The scientific committee of the branch had several on-sitemeetings to develop a management plan. The route of the path around the reserve was decided and involved constructing two sets of steps down the steep bank to the water's edge. This path was mowed and the sides trimmed regularly to be in perfect condition for the opening. Special wooded waymarking arrows were put in to direct people one-way round in anticipation of a large crowd at the event. The top meadow and parts of the bankside vegetation were cut down in Autumn 1986 to control the coarse grass and scrub and to encourage the flowers which responded magnificently to this regime.
A large wooden sign was carved and attached to the main gate. Locks and chains had to be put on this gate to keep out illegal rubbish dumpers and horse grazers who had used the site in the past. Considerable amounts of rubbish were removed. The lay-by itself was being used by Lincolnshire County Council to store hundreds of tons of road-making gravel and a direct approach by the branch to the Highways Department persuaded them to remove all of this at considerable expense. Several days of work with JCB and lorries resulted in a very attractive rural setting.
The media were invited to attend a preview of the reserve on Tuesday 14th July 1987 hosted by BBCS and AWA in readiness for the official opening by Sir Peter Scott on the following Saturday.
A film crew from BBC television's Look North magazine programme conducted interviews with AWA officials and BBCS members about the reserve and it's wildlife. They spent two and a half hours filming. The result was several minutes of TV time on their programme that same evening. Both members and reserve received a very high profile.
BBC Radio Lincolnshire not only conducted interviews on site, in the same vein as the TV crew, but gave 'plugs' in their transmissions throughout the day.
Both Lincolnshire Echo and Lincoln Target sent reporters and photographers and gave considerable publicity to the event.
Anglian Water supplied their mobile display unit, situated just outside the reserve, to illustrate the work of the conservation department, creating nature reserves on their land. Snakeholme Pit was given suitable prominence.
The occasion also saw the official launch of the 'Snakeholme Pit Nature Reserve' full-colour leaflet.
The cover was designed by BBCS Lincolnshire Branch committee member, Annette Binding, depicting our branch emblem, the White Admiral, Honeysuckle and a sketch of the reserve in the background
The text and photographs inside the leaflet were compiled by the branch.
The cost was borne by AWA and the leaflet proved a very useful means of publicising the conservation of butterflies in Lincolnshire.
5,000 leaflets were printed for distribution throughout the region.
The last words acknowledge that it was produced to mark the European Year of the Environment.
We also received a grant from the NCC for half the cost of a brushcutter, an indispensable tool for tackling the vegetation that need to be kept in check.
British Sugar Plc. (Bardney) gave us a grant of £50 for tools and Bardney Council donated an attractive seat to overlook the pond.
Planning for the Big Day...
Invitations were designed and sent out to approximately 50 guests including prominent county conservationists. A pond dip, moth traps, forest walks, branch sales, displays, barbeque, buffet tea and branch wardening were just some of the events which needed organising.
Car parking was made by cutting the grass verges of the lay-by and negotiating with the local farmer for the temporary loan of a nearby grass field.
The branch chairman and membership secretary were part of a small party who were treated by Anglian Water to a lunch with Sir Peter Scott preceeding the event.
Newspapers carried news of the opening and about a dozen signs were erected on all the approach roads, within a five mile radius, during the week before the opening.
On Saturday 18th July 1987, the culmination of seventeen months of planning saw over 400 people take part in the Opening Day Event. Although the weather was typically wet, the hard work put in by both BBCS and Anglian Water bore fruit, as the days event went like clockwork.
The AWA mobile display unit was again utilised together with BBCS membership and sales tables. They did very well and attracted further attention when Sir Peter Scott agreed to sign autographs.
The tempory car park of the grass field, on loan from the local farmer was soon full to capacity.
At 2.30 pm Sir Peter Scott officially opened the reserve, after speeches from himself and AWA. He was the escorted around the reserve by BBCS Chairman Peter Cawdell. Representatives of Bardney Parish Council who had provided a bench seat situated overlooking the Pit itself and most of the reserve were introduced to, and photographed with, Sir Peter. He admitted to being very impressed with the reserve.
The guests departed at 4.00 pm and cups of tea were organised for the 60 people who stayed, as well as a visit to Stainfield Wood across the road.
The festivities continued into the evening with a Bar-B-Q and moth night, despite the heavy rain.
Next Significant Change...
1996 Environment Agency established and took responsibility for the Reserve
2013 Butterfly Conservation begin negotiations with the Environment Agency which concluded in November with the completion of transfer.
18th December 2013 saw the fomal handover of the Reserve from the Environment Agency to Butterfly Conservation.
Peter Cawdell (Chairman) and Derek Fox (Reserves Officer) represented the Linconshire Branch of Butterfly Conservation whilst Amy Turner and Caroline Tero represented the Environment Agency.
A new interpretation sign was erected to show the biodiversity of the Reserve
We will try and ensure that the Reserve is maintained to the best of our abilities for Butterflies, Moths and all wildlife.