Have you visited the Orwell Clunch Pit? New sign tells of unique site's significance

The Orwell Clunch Pit and Glebe Field SSSI sign

The Orwell Clunch Pit and Glebe Field SSSI sign unveiled with the Bishop of Ely Stephen Conway and Monica O'Donnell of Natural England. - Credit: Nick Chambers

We have a rich and biodiverse area with the likes of Therfield Heath, RSPB Fowlmere and more nearby - but did you know about the Orwell Clunch Pit?  

The pit is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest - like a significant proportion of the heath. It and nearby Glebe Field are the focus of a new sign informing villagers and visitors of the significance of the SSSI and the area's historical, archaeological and ecological value. 

Clunch - a form of hardened sections of chalk that includes fossil fragments - was formed at the site and it was previously quarried, but the quarry has been disused for a century. It is now home to rare chalk grassland rich with flora and fauna. 

The pit is accessed via Quarry Lane from High Street. It's on a chalk outcrop called Toot Hill at the western end of a ridge where Bronze Age and Iron Age settlements have been found.

From Toot Hill, five counties can be seen -  Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire - including Royston -  Essex, and it is just possible to see the Suffolk border.

The Glebe Field is described on a 1686 map as the ‘The Furlong on the backside of the Church’, the flora and fauna of the Glebe Field are very similar to that of the SSSI.

Wildflowers from the field were used to re-seed the SSSI. Without the Glebe Field, which is owned by the Diocese of Ely, it would not be possible to properly graze and maintain the Clunch Pit as an SSSI.

From the top of the field it is possible to see the gothic folly at Wimpole Hall. Constructed of clunch, it was designed by architect Sanderson Miller and built under the direction of Capability Brown in 1769. 

The new sign was unveiled by Bishop of Ely Stephen Conway and Monica O'Donnell of Natural England. Anthony Browne MP,  and Cllrs Sebastian Kindersley and Aidan Van de Weyer, were also in attendance, joined by sign designer Nick Chambers and representatives from the village and surrounding area. 

Mr Chambers said: "The unveiling ceremony went really well – we couldn’t have had better weather."

Anthony Browne said: "The Orwell Clunch Pit, is a hidden but spectacularly beautiful Site of Special Scientific Interest. The sign is a beautiful guide to the history and ecology of the area."