On Wednesday 17 March City of Lincoln Council’s Executive Meeting approved a proposal to enter into a 10-year Management Agreement, with Long Leys Residents Association (LLRA), for the general management and improvement of about 6% of the open space known locally as Hobblers Hole (an area just to the north of Whittons Park on Long Leys Road). The agreement will allow LLRA to organise conservation activity including:
- Working in collaboration with Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust to remove vegetation and a build up of silt and soil from the Hobblers Hole ephemeral (seasonal) pond. This will allow greater water retention to help amphibians in the spring/summer breeding season.
- Maintaining and improving a 2 metre width path across Hobblers Hole from Newt Hollow to Whittons Park to ensure improved accessibility to the area for those with prams or reduced mobility.
- An annual mowing & removing cut vegetation from a 10 metre x 70 metre section of grassland, helping wildflowers to compete with the existing nettles, brambles and willow herb.
- In the longer term the development of a nature trail, to tie in with the planned £150,000 upgrade to the Whittons Park Children’s Playpark.
Once this plan is finalised, LLRA will be inviting the community to volunteer in conservation and maintenance activity. In the meantime if you would like to register your interest in these activities please email LLRA@long-leys.org with your contact details and you will be kept informed. Further details are available in the pdf, LLRA Management Plan.
Area Covered by the Management Agreement
Hobblers Hole is classified as a Local Wildlife Site and was gifted to the city by George Whitton in 1945.
Historically, Hobblers Hole was enclosed for grazing with a stock-proof fence and was used by West Common horses upto 1995 when point-to-point races ran on West Common. Prior to 1965 it was also used for the horses when Flat Racing under rules was taking place. Lack of grazing since then has resulted in overgrown grassland developing to scrub, with plants such as willowherb, thistle, nettle and bramble swamping other plants.
The agreement covers the Hobblers Hole pond and the area surrounding it, together with a 10 metres wide strip which follows the established path from Whittons Park to Newt Hollow, an area of about 2,000 m2 (0.5 acres) of the 3.1 hectare site. (See image)
The agreement includes a range of terms and conditions and safeguards to ensure the site remains available for the public at all times.
Work on Hobblers Hole Pond
The Hobblers Hole pond has been visited by generations of Lincoln children. One local resident recalls “I am 97 now but clearly remember that there were always children on Hobblers Hole it was popular because of the pond.”
The Hobblers Hole pond tends to appear following winter rain and then gradually disappear as it dries up over the summer. A lack of recent grazing has resulted in it drying out earlier in the year, which is not helpful to breeding amphibians. 2021 has been one of the better years for the pond in terms of rainfall, with the pond fairly full and frogspawn already present.
One of the key activities, which will be carried out in the November 2021 – February 2022 period, will be to remove the vegetation which has established itself in the area covered by the pond in winter. This should lead to reduced water consumption.
In addition, some of the silt and soil which has been deposited in the pond will be removed, to create a slightly deeper pond centre, returning it to the state children probably found it in the 1930s. This will extend the period when at least some of the pond has water it, allowing more time for amphibians to develop.
The area will also be included in the LLRA 6-monthly litter picks, once COVID guidelines permit.
Wildflower Section & Path
As well as ensuring the path across Hobblers Hole is as accessible and useable as possible, a 5-metre strip either side of the path will be cleared each year. In the first year of maintenance some Willow Herb and other root matter will be cleared by hand. In subsequent years, cutting is likely to be done with either scythe or petrol strimmer depending on the volunteer numbers and skills. It is hoped that, in summer months when the path is drier, visitors from St George’s and the Albions can use this route on their way to Whitton Park.
Potential Nature Trail
In future years, LLRA will look to develop a nature trail with various possible features including a “bug hotel”, and the possibility of a “forest school option” with natural materials in close proximity to allow children to build a wigwam or other den to enhance the visit to an upgraded children’s playpark at Whittons Park.