|Inholms Clay Pit Nature reserve
North Holmwood, Dorking
The site was created by removal of clay to make bricks in the long-defunct Dorking Brickworks. We know that the access tunnel under Inholms lane was created in the mide 1950s, so I assume that the first phase of succession started about 1961, making the site almost exactly the same age as myself! This shows up as the tallest birches, forming a block in the SE of the site. The remainder of the site was dug out, then basically left alone to recolonise. (Some topsoil was probably added, but thankfully there is little evidence of this in the soil profile now).
The site was designated for its general biodivsersity. The most obvious species of interest are the orchids, D. fuchsii, which carpet the site in June. Less obvious but equally valuable are the insects (including green hairstreak and small blue butterflies, and Roessel’s bush cricket). We have created an insect cliff in the hope of re-attracting the solitary bees that turned up when the site was younger are barer. There are small numbers of common lizards, while buzzards may be seen circling overhead. Lichens (Peltigera canina and several Cladonia species) form lichen heath – a scarce habitat in Surrey – on unstable slopes.
The key point about this site is its demonstration of ecological succession, and how each stage has features and species of interest. The freshly disturbed clay slopes benefit insects and lichens; the birch scrub is excellent for foraging birds in summer, and mycorrhizal toadstools in the autumn. Around the outside of the site are sliver-thin fragments of ancient woodland that persisted in medieval hedgelines, shown up by bluebells, dogs mercury and wood anemones. These plants will recolonise into the site – at about 10m per century!
Access is NOT off Inholms lane itself, but Holmbury Drive in the North Holmwood estate. Unless the ground is very dry, wear shoes that can stand a little mud!The best recent discovery is that the site has dormice living in the old boundary hedges. These charming but elusive animals like thick scrub, which we will need to maintain in places for them. Birds seen over winter 09/10 include a woodcock and goshawk, as well as buzzards woodpeckers sparrowhawks siskins and lapwings.