Shepreth L-Moor - a retrospective      2013

Name: Shepreth L-Moor

Location: Near Shepreth, Cambridgeshire

Status: Nature Reserve/SSSI

Interesting for: wild flowers, insects, birds, fungi.

About the L-Moor

Shepreth L-Moor, or Cottagers’ Allotment, so named because of its shape, is an area of rough marshy pasture land of a type which has become rare in Cambridgeshire as a result of land drainage and intensive agriculture. The entire Moor belongs to the Wildlife Trust and is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

The majority of the parish of Shepreth lies on Cretaceous deposits - marly chalk often overlain with river terrace deposits of sand and gravel, but along the course of the Guilden Brook is a layer of silty clay alluvium which impedes drainage, and to which the Moor owes its marshy nature and its survival from ploughing.

Until 1823 Shepreth was farmed on the traditional open field system. In that year the Shepreth Inclosure Award abolished the old system and the Cottagers were dispossessed of their ancient rights to graze the hundred acre Carver Field. They were given an allotment of 18 acres of unproductive land in lieu, upon which each cottager occupying not more than 10 acres was allowed to pasture one bullock or cow from 1st May to 1st December each year.

As you walk round you will become aware of a variety of plant communities that is not obvious at first sight. This is due to the difference in the degree of wetness in different part of the reserve. Most of the western end is very wet and supports sedges and reed beds, while the higher land to the east is dryer and on the highest points, the anthills, attractive chalk flowers flourish. Notice that the plants growing on the hills differ from those at your feet. On the hills are Thyme, Bedstraw, Horseshoe Vetch and Sheep’s Fescue. On lower areas are Salad Burnet, Milkwort Cowslip and  Carex flacca, with Meadow Sweet and Marsh Pennywort in damper areas. It is important that the anthills are themselves protected. They are a favourite food of the Green Woodpecker which visits regularly.

Most of the plants and birds are characteristic of fens and marshlands, although the drier areas support numerous Cowslips. The flowers include the rare Parsley Water Dropwort  (Oenanthe lachenalii).  This plant grows nowhere else in Cambridgeshire except on Wicken Fen. There are also flourishing colonies of Adder's-tongue fern  (Ophiogiossum vulgatum) and numerous Twayblade. Spotted, Bee, Pyramidal and Marsh orchids can also be found, but they are few.

The L-Moor is crossed by the Cambridge - Kings Cross railway line, and is bordered to the West by the Guilden Brook, an attractive chalk stream which rises at Fowlmere and flows northwards to join the River Cam near Barrington.

The Moor is grazed by cattle and rare breed sheep from late Summer to help control the vegetation, so if you take your dog with you when you go for a walk, please keep it on a lead, and clear up after it!

Recent Photos (clockwise from top)

1. The L-Moor under snow

2. Spring violets

3. Really wet grassland

4.  Mitrophora semilibera

5. Glow-worm

6.  Cordyceps gracilis

7.  Strangalia maculata  on Meadowsweet

8. Autumn Gentian

9. Southern Hawker Dragonfly