This ancient pasture has a stream-fed pond and ancient, pollarded Black Poplars. It is a rare piece of unimproved grassland surviving in an area of rich soils and intensive farmland.
The site has strong populations of grass-feeding butterfly species such as Ringlet and Marbled White, and 21 species overall have been recorded. Though small, the site has a lot of rich invertebrate habitats. Lush vegetated ditches mean dragonflies and damselflies are present including Migrant and Southern Hawkers.
Some of the hedges are thought to date back to Tudor times. Such ancient hedgerows, with their diversity of shrubs and trees, are of great conservation importance.
Black poplars are a rare tree nationally, but here they are fairly numerous. There are sixteen on the site, with some having been pollarded. This traditional management is an important conservation measure, as the trees are susceptible to splitting when the crown becomes too large and crowded. The reserve’s trees are also contributing to national research work on the species.
The reserve was acquired through the efforts of a few Long Marston residents, a grant from Dacorum Borough Council and Butterfly Conservation. It was dedicated to Gordon Beningfield, the then President of Butterfly Conservation, in 1998.
Size: 1.2 hectares (3 acres)
There is limited parking space by the reserve, so it is suggested that visitors park at Wilstone Village Hall and walk across the fields.
Grid reference for Village Hall is SP 903 142 and the nearest post code: HP23 4PE
When walking from Wilstone, follow the public footpath alongside the children’s playground next to the Village Hall. Cross the canal via the footbridge and head across the fields towards Long Marston. Go straight on without turning left or right until you reach Watery Lane (aka Astrope Lane). Across the road there is a choice of 3 footpaths – the right-hand one leads immediately to the reserve entrance, which is through a metal gate on the left. Total distance: half a mile.
There is room for 2 cars directly by the reserve, but please do not block the farm gates.
The reserve is along Astrope Lane between Wilstone and Long Marston. The site is open access and a public footpath also runs along one side.
Wilstone is served by local buses.
Site access and Safety
Access is via footpath gates and stiles. Path bridges cross the stream and these may be slippery in the wet. The Public Footpaths run along the edges of the reserve, and access onto it is on a permissive basis.
When cattle and sheep graze the site each year dogs must be kept on leads and please clean up after your dog.
Most ticks are little more than an irritation, but a few can transmit Lyme disease, a rare and potentially serious illness which is treatable with antibiotics if diagnosed early. It is therefore important to be informed and take some simple precautions.
Notable nearby sites
College Lake, Bulbourne, Tring Reservoirs and Tring Park.
Paula Reid. Please email her at: @email