Trip reports

Coploe Pit: 21 January 2024

Amy Wolstenholme 


A record number of volunteers showed up to our session in Coploe Pit for 2024 – eighteen! This meant we were able to clear a huge amount of bramble and Clemantis from the steep sides. We used loppers, bowsaws, mattocks and the extremely useful tree poppers, which helped us get roots out of the ground without disturbing the soil too much. We cleared a vast section along one side, leaving the tree line at the top as a wind break.  


As we worked we observed plenty of creatures – including a vole, goldfinches, a red-kite, and a friendly robin who, like last year, followed behind us eating insects from the exposed soil. We also found two live Roman snails – an improvement on last year! They were safely relocated to an undisturbed part of the chalk pit. Several native 7-spot ladybirds were also uncovered from beneath the bramble and were moved aside.  


Volunteer Warden Ray pointed out important plant species for the chalk pit as we worked. The stalks of Autumn Gentian could be seen, as well as some patches where Harebell grows in the summer. We cleared away spear thistle leaves to protect these sites. We also saw several winter stalkball fungi, which like to grow in the chalk pit’s alkaline soil.  


This year the bonfire was blazing as we worked – so at lunch time we had baked potatoes and baked beans! Fortunately, we had just enough potatoes for so many volunteers. It was extremely windy during our session (gusts up to 50 mph) and so the hot food was very welcome! As usual, we also had hot tea from the Kelly Kettle and plenty of biscuits! 

The section cleared in 2023 on the left, with the same tree left as a standard marked by an arrow. The section cleared in 2024 on the right. 

A seven-spot ladybird

Roman snail in hibernation with  protective, calcium shell 'door'

Tulostoma brumale Pers. - Winter Stalkball

Coploe Pit: 19 February 2023

Amy Wolstenholme 


Coploe Pit – a small, steep-sided chalk pit – is a miniature haven for chalk-loving wildflowers, and the insects and butterflies they support. Ringed with bramble and Clematis (Old Man’s Beard), it is important to cut back these encroaching, dense species to expose the soil and allow the wildflowers to grow.  


On a bright, balmy February day, the CCV met once again to do battle. Armed with loppers and rakes, we cleared several sections of the steep slope. Interestingly, we observed emerging flowers which are usually indicative of ancient woodland – Dog’s mercury, Bluebells and Cowslips. Another mystery of the chalk pit is the presence of Valarian, which usually prefers wetter soil. We also uncovered many Roman Snail shells, but sadly found no living inhabitants. Several species of ladybird were observed, including the bright-yellow 22 spot.  


Many birds watched us as we worked, including a pair of robins that followed behind us, no doubt enjoying the insects we uncovered with our raking. Red kites and buzzards circled several times overhead. Unusually a raven passed over, mobbed by crows and seagulls as it went. During tea break we watched a kestrel hunting in the adjacent field and listened to the skylarks. This was accompanied by an amazing ginger cake supplied by Ray!  

By the end of the day, we had produced a giant pile of brambles and Clemantis, which John is eager to burn. Hopefully we will all be invited to this bonfire event with equally giant marshmallows!  

The south side of the pit. Cleared sections of the slope indicated by black brackets, with the arrow indicating a tree left as a standard. White bracket indicates a cleared pit. 

The view across the fields behind the chalk pit.

Saying hello to a yellow ladybird (finger for scale).