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
Having received little management for many years before acquisition in 1997, the grassland is developing well under careful mowing and a suitable grazing regime is being established.
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 in abundance, 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 and careful pollarding has recently been carried out. 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)
Grid Reference: SP 895 153 O.S. Map: 165
The reserve is along Astrope Lane between Wilstone and Long Marston.
There is very limited parking in the lane for about 2 cars - please do not block farm gates. Parking and other facilities are available at Wilstone Village, about 1/2 a mile away.
Walking from Wilstone head towards Long Martson/Gubblecote, after crossing the canal bridge turn left down Astrope lane. The reserve is on the right after about 1/4 mile. 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.
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.
Jez Perkins, Herts and Middlesex Branch Reserve Manager - tel: 07967 832627 and email: firstname.lastname@example.org