Paxton Pits Nature Reserve is an extensive complex of former and active gravel pits close to the A1, north-west of St Neots.
Scrub and woodland surround the more mature pits, with large numbers of warblers in spring and summer and the highest population of Nightingales in Cambridgeshire (Peaking at 28 pairs but more often around twenty). More than 60 breeding species, including Turtle Dove (declining) Kingfishers, Grey Herons, Little Grebes and one of the largest inland Cormorant colonies in the UK (c. 100 nests). The shingle islands on two of the lakes make Paxton Pits one of the most important sites in the Ouse Valley for breeding Lapwing, Redshank, Ringed Plover and Common Tern (with Oystercatcher breeding occasionally).
Spring and autumn can be good for passage migrants, with Avocet, Black-tailed Godwits and Garganey in recent years. In winter, the pits play host to large numbers of ducks, especially Pochard and Tufted Duck. Smew, Black-necked Grebe and Goosander are annual. Bitterns turn up most winters and sometimes in summer. Rarities in 2015-16 included Richard’s Pipit, Great White Egret, Ring-necked Duck. Great Reed Warbler and Yellow Browed Warbler.
Access from car park at north end of Little Paxton village (signposted from Great North Road). Grid ref: TL 195 629. The visitor Centre opens almost every day. except Dec 25th. Trails and footpaths provide access to much of the area (see board in car park). Three hides and viewing screens give views of the lakes.
Access to working areas is strictly forbidden. For more information about the reserve, events and recent sightings, visit www.paxton-pits.org.uk
Information on the Reserve and events are available from the Visitor Centre.
Birdwatching on the “New Workings”. The pits to the north of the Reserve continue almost to Buckden. Those closest to the A1 (A1 Pits and Sailing Lake) are used for water sports and can be visited by existing footpaths. The other pits (Washout, Island, Diddington and Pumphouse Pits) currently fall within the working quarry and are strictly private. However, there is limited viewing from public footpaths around Diddington. Park at the public Car Park in Diddington Village. A footpath runs north around the northern edge of the two Pumphouse Pits. Going south from the Car Park there is a path that leads past the current extraction area and conveyors giving views of Diddington Pit before heading through a small wood and back to Little Paxton. There is no short circular walk from Diddington at present.
Most of the New Workings will fall into the Reserve eventually and there will be new footpaths and hides when this happens. Please keep to the paths or you will be challenged by staff from the quarry or the Diddington Estate. Please be polite and comply with their requests as the future development of the site for birding and wildlife conservation can only happen through mutual cooperation and respect.
Jim Stevenson, Senior Ranger, Paxton Pits Nature Reserve.