Several days ago, Julie and I decided to make the most of the pale, February sunshine, and having gathered our winter coats, walking boots and binoculars, we ventured out, travelling the short distance to our favourite local nature reserve.
Now known as ‘Ness End Farm’, the reserve, run by the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust is still referred to by many of its regular patrons by its original name of ‘Far Ings’. This is despite the fact that the ‘Far Ings’ moniker was transferred to a more recently-created reserve, equipped with a modern visitor centre and cafe, half a mile east of the founding site.
Whilst both sites are well worth visiting, the original remains a firm favourite among many, with this popularity evidenced by its often-packed car park.
My own, enduring enthusiasm for the site once prompted me to write a feature article, which was published in 2004 in the county magazine ‘Lincolnshire in Focus‘.
On returning home, I dug out the old article and decided to add it to this site. Here it is:
Open for Visitors
Originally published in September, 2004
Far Ings reserve west of Barton-upon-Humber is one of the area’s success stories – not only because it represents one of the main Bittern sites in the UK, but also sensitive management, coupled with an ambitious vision are serving to create a win-win situation for environmentalists and local authorities alike.
The Humber estuary is the UK’s main east-west corridor for migrating birds, making the North Lincolnshire coastline the ideal area for enjoying this spectacular summer invasion. Whilst there are several key sites to do this, the Far Ings Nature Reserve is perhaps one of the most significant.
Ornithologists have long speculated on the mysteries of bird migration, and although the means of navigation remain a matter of conjecture, experts are unified in the belief that migration is a natural phenomenon, driven by the need to find food, and is extremely perilous.
Notwithstanding the hazards associated with these gruelling journeys, numerous migrants arrive safely to Britain, enabling us to enjoy their delightful songs and courtship displays. During late spring and early summer, many of these visitors will undoubtedly find their way to Far Ings.
The reserve, situated north of the A1077 Barton to Ferriby road, occupies what was once a flood plain – Ings is an old English word meaning ‘wet pastures’. The resulting rich clay seam influenced the land’s use for brick and tile making from Roman times through to the early twentieth century when stocks were depleted.
The abandoned workings became filled with water, forming flooded pits perfect for reed and willow. These were quickly colonised, producing a haven for wildflowers, invertebrates and birds – an ideal location for a nature reserve.
Despite its common name, the Bearded Tit is not a tit at all – many ornithologists prefer its old country name of Bearded Reedling. Its beautiful plumage and striking appearance once made it a target for fowlers who had the birds stuffed and mounted as ornaments.
The old works’ potential was recognised by the late Sam Van Den Bos, then chairman of the Lincolnshire Trust’s Barton area group, and the one hundred acre site was acquired in 1983. Although there was already a diversity of species occupying the old pits, a great deal of work was necessary before Van Den Bos’s vision could be realised.
One of the first major projects began in 1986 when a layer of top-soil was scraped from formerly cultivated land, creating an area of shallow water and islands – environment well-suited to wading birds such as Greenshank, Spotted Redshank and Green Sandpiper, all winter visitors. This area, known as ‘The Scrapes’, has also been a successful nesting site for Redshank and Lapwing.
Freshwater lakes and reed beds were subsequently created to replace the large tracts of the county’s wetlands lost through land drainage. Here, the nutrient-rich water of the reed bed sustains a profusion of invertebrates. These in turn support a variety of fish, along with birds such as Heron, Grebes and an assortment of Duck.
In winter the pits attract many species of wildfowl, either as a permanent wintering ground or a temporary ‘stopover’ on route to destinations elsewhere.
A more recent ambitious expansion programme has seen the creation of five further pits across the road from the visitor centre. There are no short term rewards in projects such as this and it will take between three and five years for the pits to develop into the planned complex of open water and reed beds.
The thirty-five acre development, including the Blow Wells, woodlands – an area key to the long term water-quality management of the site – was bought by the Trust from local farmers in 2000, with cash generated from the sale of clay. This mutually-beneficial business deal resulted in 300,000 tonnes of clay being bought by the North Lincolnshire Council, from Far Ings, and transported to Barton for reclamation of contaminated land at a former chemical works.
Whilst the Blow Wells development represents an exciting and prestigious project, it is only one facet of the hard work that has been, and continues to be carried out here. The restoration of reed-beds, together with reed-cutting management are all tasks that must be tirelessly observed if the notable successes of the site are to be maintained.
The reed beds are only one of a number of habitats at Far Ings and collectively a wide variety of species is supported, including 230 species of wild flower, 50 nesting bird species and more than 250 species of moth.
The result of this careful habitat management continues to attract both dedicated birdwatchers and casual enthusiasts, keen to enjoy the profusion of wildlife and pleasant surroundings on offer. Therefore, an extensive footpath system, together with footbridges and hedgerows, has also been created.
With its clear policy of continuous improvement much has been achieved at Far Ings since the site’s purchase. This same principle is guiding the reserve toward a new and exciting project, one that will see the leasing of a former outdoor pursuits centre pit to link Westfield lakes to the Barton Reedbed, creating a continuous reserve along Far Ings Road.
The reserve’s achievements will be officially acknowledge later this year  when National Nature Reserve status is bestowed to the site. It is anticipated that the prestigious title will generate increased revenue, as well as provide a boost to green tourism in the area.
This recognition, together with a development programme geared toward environmental education, looks set to make Far Ings a showcase site for the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust in the region.