The Friends of Paxton Pits Nature Reserve is the voluntary group which supports the conservation of Paxton Pits, one of Cambridgeshire’s premier nature sites.
Started in 1995 and registered as a charity in 2008, it now has a membership of over 2,500 – a benchmark figure reached in 2020 when celebrating its 25th birthday. The Friends is fundamental to the success of Paxton Pits, alongside Huntingdonshire District Council (HDC), and has a broad membership made up of those who visit regularly or occasionally, from near or from afar; those who want to support the Reserve because it’s there, and those who want to get more actively involved.
As well as raising vital funds for the Reserve through various activities and events, the Friends helps Paxton Pits Nature Reserve and its visitors in a huge variety of ways including: practical conservation; management planning; wildlife monitoring; the provision, improving and maintenance of visitor facilities; formal and informal educational activities; as well as providing a huge wealth of information and expertise. The Friends also produce publications, including leaflets and the annual report on the birds and wildlife of Paxton Pits, and run the Reserve’s website.
A major achievement for The Friends in recent years has been its leading role in securing the expansion of the Reserve from its current 192 acres to more than 700 acres during the next 10 years. The extension is part of the approval for Aggregates Industries’ plan to extract the remaining gravel deposits at Paxton Pits, and it will be managed by Huntingdonshire District Council (HDC) – with “a little help from The Friends”, of course.
This range of activities would not be possible without the support of the broad membership of The Friends, the active volunteers (over 140) and the Reserve’s many other supporters.
Fundraising and support
The Friends raise funds through sales at the Visitors’ Centre, membership subscriptions, book sales, the Kingfisher Lottery, donations and at public events to promote the Reserve. A net income of around £31,000 was generated during 2018 and around £27,000 was used to pay for major projects, such as the new viewing platform on Heronry South Lake, and upgrades to other existing structures on the Reserve.
In 2015 the Friends made a significant contribution to the new Hayden Hide, then the new Cobham Hide and in 2017 helped to build the new Outdoor Shelter and to rebuild the Kingfisher Hide and improve access along a boardwalk.
The Kingfisher Lottery has already contributed three tern rafts to Heronry North Pit and recently has funded the new screen at Washout Pit and the upcoming kingfisher bank near Cobham Hide.
The Friends has also made a substantial contribution to the extended Visitors’ Centre, and support was provided for the Environmental Education Centre opened in September 2010 by the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, and Northamptonshire and HDC.