North Lincolnshire is unusual as it has large areas of wind blown sand deposits known as coversands. Ecologically they are of interest for their vegetation, which is a mix of acid heathland and calcareous grassland. Industrially they were important as a source of sand.
The sand pits at Messingham provided sand for local industries. No longer used, the pits have filled with water and the area is now an important local nature reserve, managed by Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust. There is a short “waymarked walk”:https://www.lincstrust.org.uk/sites/default/files/2018-10/Messingham%20Sand%20Quarry.pdf through the reserve to two bird watching hides overlooking the lakes.
With the Woodland Wanderers group from Scunthorpe U3A, I spent an enjoyable afternoon at the reserve. The pits have filled up with water and now form a series of lagoons fringed with beds of reeds. There were white water lilies in flower, although we were too late for the bogbean. There are wet areas where water loving plants like meadow sweet, ragged robin and yellow iris grow, along with different species of orchids. On drier areas natural heathland survives. Yellow rattle, a partial parasite of grass thrives here.
The wide range of plants encourages insects of all sorts. We saw dragonflies and butterflies as well as the black and orange caterpillars of the cinnabar moth on ragwort. One dark brown moth was aptly named the Chimney sweep moth. Frogs hop across the paths and there are swans, ducks and gulls on the ponds.
This was my first visit and I had a wonderful time. I haven’t seen so many different wild flowers in such a small area for a long time. It also made me realise just how many names I’ve forgotten.
The sand pits aren’t easy to find. Taking Brigg Road out of Messingham watch for the signpost to Cleatham and Kirton and turn right down this road. The reserve is through a gate with a Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust sign (fifth turning on the left). A rough track leads to a small parking area by the reserve. If you reach Shallow Grove Farm on your right, you have gone too far!