Butterfly Conservation - saving butterflies, moths and our environment
Butterfly Conservation
Hertfordshire & Middlesex Branch
Saving butterflies, moths and our environment

Millhoppers Pasture

Our Branch Reserve

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Other Butterfly Conservation Reserves
Conservation Work

This tranquil reserve is approx 3 acres (1.2 hectares) in size and consists of unimproved grassland surrounded by a variety of large trees and hedgerow. The site was acquired by the efforts of a few individuals from the adjacent village of Long Marston, a grant from Dacorum Borough Council and Butterfly Conservation. It was finally secured by Butterfly Conservation and dedicated to Gordon Beningfield in 1998 who sadly passed away just before the opening.

The reserve management has recently been taken over by a small team of volunteer wardens

Habitat Management and Volunteering

Habitat management is vital to create and maintain a varied ecology in order to enhance the Lepidoptera (butterfly and moth) species on the reserve and promote other wildlife. To make this possible volunteers are needed for the newly established work parties.

Work parties are now held every month on the first Sunday of the month and started in August 2017.

The Work Parties start at 10 am and finish around 2.30 pm (with a break for lunch) - Parking by the reserve is limited and so it is suggested that volunteers park at Wilstone Village Hall and walk across the fields (see directions below).

If you would like to volunteer at any time and would like more information please contact: Paula Reid (email: reidpaulaj@yahoo.co.uk)

2017 - a review of recent work and future activities

Jez Perkins had had to stand down as the reserve warden for personal reasons and Chris Hilling, Christine Ridley, Paula Reid and Peter Mellitus are now the reserve wardens.

Grassland management

Over a period of time other more aggressive species had begun to predominate the grassland and so one of these, Common Hogweed was removed to prevent further seeding. The removal of sapling Blackthorn evident in some areas of the grassland has been started, as has cutting back of the encroaching Blackthorn hedge line. These activities will continue throughout the winter of 2017/2018. This autumn the grassland vegetation will be mechanically cut until grazing can be re-established. Regular cutting or grazing will reduce the more aggressive species and allow a grassland sward to predominate in the future.

Estate Maintenance.
The reserve historically contained a marshy area alongside a small stream. The stream bed had become overgrown with vegetation and a recent Work Party dug up and removed most of this material. One of the tasks for the wardens is to re-establish a water source within the reserve, in order to preserve the marshy habitat and provide an additional habitat for increased wildlife diversity. This work will continue throughout the winter of 2017/2018.

Essential to enable wildlife grazing is to secure the perimeter. A section of the fence line has been cleared and some repairs completed to enable inspections and enclosure of future grazing livestock. This work will continue throughout the winter of 2017/2018.

Butterfly transects, although starting late in the 2017 season, have been walked this summer and the species recorded are:

Small Skipper

Orange Tip


Large Skipper

Common Blue

Speckled Wood


Small Copper

Marbled White

Large White

Red Admiral

Meadow Brown

Small White



Green-veined White

Small Tortoiseshell


Moths recorded at Millhoppers

169 species of moth have previous been recorded at Millhoppers. The new wardens are looking to arrange future moth trapping events with the Herts Moths Group. Once details are available the website will be updated ~ www.hertsmothgroup.org.uk/

Millhoppers Pasture History

The strange name possibly originates from a stream-crossing to an old mill long since untraceable. Others contend that it derives from mill-stones laid to enable people to cross the stream. The entire area then was much wetter. Millhoppers is a rare example of a remnant of ancient countryside encircled by arable land. It contains a large section of unimproved grassland. Some of the hedges are thought to date back to Tudor times. It possesses a pond fed by a stream and a public footpath provides access on one side.

The site has a large stand of blackthorn scrub which provides good cover for birds and mammals. There are 16 black poplar trees in the hedgerow. This a nationally rare tree, but not uncommon locally.

The Black Poplars

The Black Poplars at Millhoppers

The first years

At the beginning, the main efforts were directed to cutting and raking off grass. In addition, the vigorous blackthorn scrub and large banks of nettles had to be contained.

In the summer of 2001, a new bridge was built across the stream. It is a good, secure structure, which can safely carry grass cutting machinery. Cattle were introduced to the reserve in 2003, and it was planned that they would graze both in the autumn and the spring. These animals were provided and cared for by a local farmer but unfortunately in 2006 grazing was no longer possible.

This meant that more cutting and raking had to be undertaken, whilst new animals were found to graze the reserve.

In 2007, an 'Awards for All' grant was obtained, and a new Reserve interpretation board was designed and leaflets printed At the beginning our main efforts were directed to cutting and raking off grass. In addition the vigorous blackthorn scrub and large banks of nettles have to be contained.

In 2009, John Noakes stood down as the first Reserve Manager, and Jez Perkins took over. We are most grateful to them both for their dedication and hard work in managing Millhoppers since the Branch acquired it.

The cows crossing the new bridge

The cows crossing the bridge soon after they arrived in 2003
© photo: John & Margaret Noakes

Directions and location of reserve

Unfortunately there is limited parking space by the reserve and it is suggested that if visiting, you park at Wilstone Village Hall and walk across the fields. There is room for 2 cars directly by the reserve - please do not block farm gates (Reserve grid reference SP899148 - map 165)

When walking from Wilstone, follow the public footpath alongside the children's playground next to the Village Hall. Cross the canal via the footbridge and head across the fields towards Long Marston. Go straight on without turning left or right until you reach Watery Lane (aka Astrope Lane). Across the road there is a choice of 3 footpaths - the right-hand one leads immediately to the reserve entrance, which is through a metal gate on the left. Total distance: half a mile. (Grid reference for Village Hall is SP903142 [Landranger Map 165] or postcode HP23 4PE).

For more detail click on map >> >>


Public transport

Wilstone is served by local buses.

Site access and Safety

Access is via footpath gates and stiles. Path bridges cross the stream and these may be slippery in the wet. The Public Footpaths run along the edges of the reserve, and access onto it is on a permissive basis.

When cattle and sheep graze the site, dogs must be kept on leads.

Please clean up after your dog.

Most ticks are little more than an irritation, but a few can transmit Lyme disease, a rare and potentially serious illness which is treatable with antibiotics if diagnosed early. It is therefore important to be informed and take some simple precautions.

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