Social Evening at the Stone House, Stapleford, 25 August


Patricia Mirrlees had kindly invited us to her house ‘The Stone House’ on Mingle Lane.  About 15 of us assembled at 6.30 pm and were invited first to explore the garden, and then to admire the views from the flat roof of this iconic building.


Afterwards Patricia served tea, coffee and soft drinks outside and we settled down to get to know each other and indulge in some ‘green’ conversation.  The evening wasn’t exactly balmy, but still and not too cold – and later on a bat flew overhead!


Patricia is keen to promote biodiversity not only in her own garden but also in our local villages.  This proved a stimulating topic!  Councils’ mowing of road verges was discussed.  In the spirit of Plantlife’s ‘No Mow May’ and other initiatives, it would be wonderful if councils could refrain from over-enthusiastic mowing, and perhaps leave certain areas for residents or eco-minded local groups to look after.  For example, it was suggested that the triangles in front of the Johnson Hall and at the Gog Magog Way/Bar Lane junction in Stapleford would be suitable for wild flowers.

Hedgehogs were another area of interest, and the threat to them from increasing numbers of badgers – apparently Stapleford is no longer considered safe for hedgehogs for this reason.  Muntjac deer are also on the increase.

The possibility of doing a biodiversity audit was raised.

We discussed two local wildlife sites – Stapleford Parish Pit, which is being looked after by a group of volunteers and seeing a gradual return of plant species, and the ‘pocket park’ established by Ciba-Geigy on Granhams Road, Great Shelford, which appears somewhat neglected at present.


However, there were also reality checks:

  • Councils hire contractors to do their mowing. They generally use the cheapest.  It’s unlikely that the workers, who are probably not local, can factor in different requirements for different areas.
  • Parish councils may be sympathetic to demands for support for biodiversity, but they have little ready cash. For any given proposal or problem brought to their attention it is best also to suggest a solution, ideally one entailing little expenditure and little extra work for the councillors and clerk.
  • Proposals to expand areas for wildlife are unlikely to be welcome to a majority of residents; certainly not before a great deal of education on the importance of nature.
  • For the natural environment to flourish, it is not enough to leave things alone. We are not living in an ecologically-balanced, sustainable world full of natural predators and checks and balances.  Wildlife has to be managed, or dominant/poorly predated species (ivy, rats, muntjac, pigeons) take over at the expense of ecological diversity.  So, for example, road verges do have to be mown sometimes in the absence of animals grazing them (although it was suggested that it could soon be possible to use GPS to inform a verge management plan, rather as is currently the case with combine harvesting).
  • A biodiversity audit, or wildlife survey, would be time-consuming – who would do it, when, where, and what would the results be used for?


So lots to mull over, and no doubt return to.  Many thanks to Patricia for her hospitality, and to all who came and joined in the discussion.


Patricia is happy to have other visitors.  You can contact her at .

Nature Walk from Stapleford Saturday 18 September


For the latest in his series of nature walks, John O’Boyle is going to lead us along Bury Farm track.  Meet at 2 pm outside the Granary.  The walk will take about an hour; may be extended at walkers’ request!

As before suitable clothing and stout footwear is advised and also long trousers as a precaution against any nettle/brambles.  Sun protection is also advised if appropriate and water if it’s a hot day.  This walk will be at participants own risk.


Nature walk – Jenny’s Path, Great Shelford, 21 August


Despite the unpropitious weather seven of us set out at 2 pm to explore Jenny’s Path, which runs from Great Shelford to Hauxton.
At the start of the walk we heard the joyful sound of bells ringing for a wedding at nearby St. Mary’s church  A well informed local historian was a member of our party and told us that the path was named in honour of Jenny Morris who campaigned for many years to obtain a right of way for this path to Hauxton and led to its Permissive footpath status.  She also pointed out the archaeological site near the end of the walk where Saxon grain storage pits had been excavated.
We saw several impressive large Oak and Ash trees during our excursion and an enormous Walnut with immature nuts covered in green cases.  Also hedgerow plants such as wild hops, both male and female plants.  The latter were garlanded with aromatic bunches of flowers known as cones.  Early Autumn fruits were developing such as sloes.
A day-flying moth stimulated discussion on the difference between moths and butterflies, the conclusion being there is no clear distinction. Several species of slug were active in the grass verges and we discussed the ‘baddies’ which attack garden plants and also the ‘goodies’ which are carnivorous and consume the ‘baddies’ in addition to snails.
All were happy to extend the duration of the walk to about 4 pm.  The damp weather was not as bad as forecast and an enjoyable time was had with some connections made and exchange of email addresses.
We plan another walk along Bury Farm track on Saturday 18th September meeting at 2 p.m. outside the Granary.  Confirmation and further details will be posted on this website.
John O’Boyle