By Caroline Steel, former Head of Conservation at Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust.
Between West Common and Yarborough Road and Burton Road, the slopes of the Burton Ridge are buzzing now we’re well into summer. Hobbler’s Hole is turning pink and purple with flowers of great willowherb, rosebay willowherb and thistles.
The wildflowers provide abundant pollen and nectar for different types of bee, butterfly and beetle and seeds will fatten up the goldfinches as autumn approaches. Is it my imagination, or are there more goldfinches around this year: they have a very distinctive call.
Ragwort is not a friend to horses (it is highly poisonous) but is good for insects, famously the cinnabar moth with distinctive orange and black striped caterpillars. I’ve seen them elsewhere in Lincoln this year, but not in this area. Have I missed them?
The pond in Hobbler’s Hole had been dry for some time and had become overgrown with great willowherb. The exceptionally wet winter meant water stood there till well into the spring, so there is a chance that newts or other amphibians had a chance to breed. A single great crested newt was recorded from here in 2013. I’ve been surprised that the willowherb hasn’t taken over the area this summer, which gives hope that restoration of the pond wouldn’t be too difficult. Could it be done? A good range of pond and marsh plants are still there including purple loosestrife, bittersweet and gypsywort.
At the top of the hill, all the way along the ridge, the soil conditions are different and meadow wildflowers can be found. Lady’s bedstraw is still common, but the flowers are being engulfed by brambles and scrub except where the rabbits and deer keep the vegetation down. The rabbits will sometimes pose to have their pictures taken!
At the top of Hobbler’s Hole (and also near Higson Steps further to the north along the Burton Ridge) you can find large anthills, quite a rare sight these days. Green woodpeckers feed on the ants and you can often hear their loud laughing call, known as a ‘yaffle’.
Grassland butterflies to look out for are gatekeepers, meadow browns and ringlets along with peacocks, red admirals and small tortoiseshells. Anyone interested in butterflies can join in the Great Butterfly Count organised by Butterfly Conservation. It runs from Friday 17 July to Sunday 9 August and details are available on https://bigbutterflycount.butterfly-conservation.org/about
For foragers, blackberries will be ripe in a month or so and there is a lovely patch of raspberries ready now! I wonder if the raspberries arrived of their own accord or if they were planted many years ago?
For those not familiar with Hobbler’s Hole the map below may assist.