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.
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Ed Shaw says
A nice article, thank you. Would be great to see the pond restored.
Alan Skeates says
I grew up on Burton Road almost next to Curtis’s Garage and so Hobbler’s Hole and Whitton(s) Park were easily accessible via the jitty from Mill Road to Yarborough Road. Hobbler’s Hole was where we did our sledging when the snows came in early January. I can just about remember the roadworks in the early 1950s when the junction of Burton and Yarborough Roads was realigned and the roundabout constructed. A lot of the spoil from the roadworks was dumped into Hobbler’s Hole and formed flat mini-plateau dropping away cliff-like into the field. A spring from the escarpment exited through this rubble and then made its way through the grass to the bottom of Hobbler’s Hole. I believe it was this spring that fed the pond and the depression in Hobbler’s Hole was at times quite boggy as a result. I remember the pond being permanent not seasonal and I wonder if the spring has now dried up. There was another pond in the adjacent field and I remember lying quietly in the grass observing the newts. I spent many happy hours observing nature in Hobbler’s Hole and I’m very pleased that it has had a reprieve.
Thanks Alan for the great insight into how Hobblers Hole evolved in the 1950s. We will be digging out the pond area in the next few months. Currently the pond appears around January, with the heavy winter rains, and then disappears around June/July time. There is a fair amount of foliage and a number of Hawthorn trees which tend to dry up the pond. Once the foliage and root systems have been removed, and the pond slightly deepened in the centre, it will be interesting to see if the pond remains for longer. We understand that the area did used to get sporadic grazing, which kept the undergrowth and trees in check, but this has not happened since the 1990s.
Did wonder what the park was called back in the 1950’s. Did you call it Whitton Park or Whitton’s Park in those days?
Alan Skeates says
Yes, there were cows and the occasional horse. They grazed in the Hole and the field next door. What has happened to the field next to Hobbler’s Hole? Did it belong to the Curtis family, who lived in the gothic house jutting out into the ridge?. As a matter of interest, who does the area known as The Pits belong to? I see from Google maps that it is still largely untouched and it would be nice if it could be conserved as well.
As far as I can remember, it was always ‘Whitton’s’ park, never ‘Whitton’. Whether this is strictly correct I don’t know. Just like we used to call Castle Hill Castle Square. No doubt all the exciting rides have gone, ie the shaker, the king’s crown and the slide (always bring candle grease!). It must have been quite a place when it opened in the 1930s, with the stage and paddling pool (closed, along with the drinking fountain, in the early 1950s during the polio epidemic).
Alan Skeates says
Hobbler’s Hole was the scene of an unexplained event in my life, in 1966. It was late August, and very warm. I went out for a walk and whilst in Hobbler’s Hole sat down at about 2ish. Next thing it was 5.30. I remember nothing. A complete time lapse. Has anyone else experienced anything like this?