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A new lease of life for Waterford Heath

PUBLISHED: 17:30 20 March 2012 | UPDATED: 21:10 20 February 2013

A Grizzled Skipper butterfly, Credit Andrew Kerr

A Grizzled Skipper butterfly, Credit Andrew Kerr

Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust will be looking after Waterford Heath near Hertford for at least the next 84 years. Sarah Buckingham takes a closer look at the wildlife that will be protected on the 100 acre site...

Waterford Heath was once a sand and gravel quarry. Extraction finished in the early 1990s and work was carried out to create a community nature park. In the next phase of Waterford Heaths life, the focus will be on providing perfect habitats for important species, whilst retaining the open nature of the site for local people to enjoy.

The owners Lafarge have leased the site to the Trust until at least 2096, which means that long-term plans for the protection of wildlife can now be developed. This is very important for continuity in habitat management and exemplifies what the Trust is trying to do across Hertfordshire in creating a living landscape, where we work with others to improve our towns and countryside for wildlife.

Waterfords wildlife

Grizzled skipper butterfly

These tiny butterflies, with a maximum wingspan of 3cm, are locally very scarce. They live at Waterford Heath thanks to the abundance of wild strawberry, which is one of their favourite food plants in the larval stage.

The Trust has been awarded 50,000 from the SITA Trust to restore habitats at Waterford Heath for this particular species, to ensure the colony survives. Nationally, grizzled skippers are in decline, and listed as a priority species in the UKs Biodiversity Action Plan.

Willow warbler

Another declining species which finds a refuge at Waterford Heath, willow warblers are on the amber list and have been falling in numbers over the last 25 years. They look very similar to a chiffchaff, but can be distinguished by their song.

Common spotted orchid

Look out for these striking plants between June and August. As their name suggests, they are quite common compared to other species of orchids, and will grow in many different habitats including woodland, roadside verges, hedgerows, old quarries, sand dunes and marshes.


A tiny bird, the goldcrest can be found in or near conifer woodland. Their thin beaks are particularly good for picking insects out of pine needles.

The similar firecrest is a much rarer bird, with a black eyestripe and broad white eyebrow stripe.


The River Beane runs through the reserve, and is a good place for kingfishers to catch their prey. Look out for a flash of blue!

Birds of prey

The heath provides a great viewpoint to see buzzards, red kites, kestrels and sometimes sparrowhawks.

Events at Waterford Heath

Discover Waterford Heath Nature Reserve

Saturday March 17, 10am to noon

Join the Reserves Officer Andy Brown to find out how the Trust is working to improve habitats at Waterford Heath, hear about the species the reserve supports and enjoy a walk around the reserve. Meet at 10am at the Vicarage Lane car park.

Search for grizzlies

Saturday May 19, 10.30am to 12.30pm

Join Butterfly Conservation (BC) and see if you can spot the elusive grizzled skipper butterfly as part of BCs Save our Butterflies Week.

Hopefully there will be moths to see too, from a moth trap set up the evening before. Meet at Vicarage Lane car park. For more information contact Andrew Wood at Butterfly Conservation:


For directions to Waterford Heath Nature Reserve and a location map, visit


Wildfowl Walk

Sunday March 11, Little Paxton

Visit Little Paxton for a guided walk to see the wildfowl, and visit nearby Grafham Water in the afternoon (bike hire available). Paxton Pits Nature Reserve is five minutes from A1(M). From the Black Cat roundabout on the A1(M) (the junction with the A421 to Bedford) drive north for 5 miles and take the exit signposted St Neots and Little Paxton. The nature reserve is signed (left) from the edge of Little Paxton village. Cost 2.50.

Book with Dave Laming at Mid Herts Local Group on 01438 798213 by March 3. Car share can be arranged. Meet 10am at Paxton Pits car park.

Mad March Hares

Sunday March 23, Royston

Enjoy a spectacular day out to watch hares and their mad March antics on Therfield Heath. Two mile walk. Meet 10.30 am Therfield Village Green.

Optional pub lunch/own refreshments -picnic seats available on green. For more information contact Val Fullforth at North Herts Local Group on 01462 623667.

Survey the Colne Valley for water voles

Saturday March 31, Denham

Come and learn how to identify and survey water voles - you could become a surveyor for the Trust in the Colne Valley! No previous experience required. Colne Valley Park Visitor Centre, Denham Country Park, Denham Court Drive, Denham, UB9 5PG 10am-1pm Booking essential. Contact Jennifer Gilbert at or on 07909 914962 for more details and to book.


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