Lovell Hill Ponds, Guisborough by
Lovell Hill Pond itself (the present area is named after
it) was situated about 500 metres to the north of the two large pools visible from
Wilton Lane. It was a large body of water, probably about the size of a small lake,
but, unfortunately, a small child drowned here in the 1940s and it was subsequently
drained. This area is now covered in Pine trees.
The present site is set within an undulating, well-wooded
agricultural landscape and is situated on the east side of Wilton Back Lane between
Wilton and Guisborough. It is the result of flooded mine workings and consists of
two main pools with small islands, ideal for breeding waterfowl. These pools are
situated at the northern end and are edged with great reed mace, sedge and rushes.
The main scrubby vegetation consists of damp willow carr, hawthorn and blackthorn,
with occasional silver birch, ash, sycamore and oak trees.
Unfortunately, the main area is on private land owned,
I believe, by ICI but leased to a local farmer. The area is fenced off and isolated
from the agricultural fields surrounding it and is now a Site of Special Scientific
Interest under the auspices of Natural England. Its SSSI citation in 1999 was based
on the outstanding assemblage of dragonflies and damselflies it contains. The range
of habitats is ideal for flying insects in general and Odonata dragonflies and damselflies,
in particular. The following species are known to breed at the site: Azure Damselfly,
Variable Damselfly (nationally scarce and on the northeastern edge of its range
here), Common Blue Damselfly, Large Red Damselfly, Blue-tailed Damselfly, Emerald
Damselfly, Southern Hawker, Common Hawker, Four-spotted Chaser, Ruddy Darter and
Common Darter. The pools and surrounding habitats also support populations of both
Great Crested and Smooth Newts.
As the site is privately owned, access is restricted and
safe parking is non-existent unless key access is obtained. The area is patrolled
by a gamekeeper of the local shooting syndicate and, during the late autumn/winter,
regular shoots are undertaken, with as many as 20 guns present, so if you are visiting
the farm pond during this period take care.
The site can be viewed from a small, unofficial pull-in
off Wilton Lane, which is accessed off Bolckow Street, Guisborough, just before
the former Maternity Hospital. If approaching from the north, off the A174, follow
the signs to Wilton (near the former ICI Wilton Works main entrance) and drive southwards
down Wilton Lane to view the ponds on your left.
There are no well-worn tracks through the area but viewing
of the main ponds from the central track (an old railway line), which bisects the
2 northern ponds is an ideal location. However, as mentioned, this would entail
walking across private agricultural land to gain access.
The present site is the main breeding area for Sedge and
Grasshopper Warblers and Reed Bunting, and the prime area for all waterside birds
recorded at Lovell Hill. Moving south through the area are ditches and small ponds,
now sadly overgrown with mainly blackthorn and hawthorn bushes. The south end is
more open, an area I try to keep free of incursions by hawthorn and blackthorn and,
of course, bramble. There are two medium-sized ponds edged with reed mace, sedges,
rushes and the main body of horsetails present on the marsh. This area is also good
for Sedge and Grasshopper Warblers and is ideal for breeding Willow Warbler, Blackcap,
Garden Warbler, Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat. Another large pond (known as
the ‘Farm Pond’) is situated behind what used to be Dunsdale Farm (demolished in
the 1970s), now replaced with cow sheds, and is accessible as a right of way runs
from Wilton Lane, opposite Court Green Farm entrance, to Dunsdale. Parking is still
difficult, however, though good views of the pond are possible from this track.
Little Grebe (occasionally) and Tufted Duck (regularly) breed here and a pair of
Ruddy Ducks were present for 4 weeks in 2007
Natural History studies commenced in 1970 and bird ringing
from 1972 onwards, and is still ongoing. Over the years, 152 bird species have been
recorded, with 3 new ones added this year alone: Marsh Harrier (2), Red Kite and
Yellow-browed Warbler (2). Sixty-one species have bred, 34 on a more or less regular
basis and 14 irregularly, the best of the latter probably being Water Rail, Shoveler,
Garganey and Little Grebe. Fifteen species of warbler have been recorded, of which
8 usually breed annually.
From 1970 to 1986, dragonflies and damselflies were studied
and identified; however, the person with expertise in this field moved out of the
area in 1987 and the total of 18 species could well be increased if a similar expert
could be found to investigate them further. In a good year, butterflies include
Green-veined White, Common Blue, Orange-Tip and, in the last few years, Speckled
Wood, Comma , Ringlet and Clouded Yellow.
Being an isolated site makes it ideal for bird studies
and over the years around 18 papers have been published on different aspects of
the biological lives of principally the warbler species. Some studies are still
ongoing for future publication.