Ely Wildspace

The eastern edge of Ely harbours valuable habitat for wildlife, including lakes, reed beds, seasonally flooded meadows, woodlands and grasslands. These areas support an impressive array of wildlife and are highly valued by many people who visit the area [for a brief guide on what to see at the Ely wildspace click here]. Through discussions with Ely residents (at a public meeting and on market stalls), relevant landowners, our members, and ecological experts (Wildlife Trust, Natural England and others) we’ve identified an area - which we’re calling the Ely Wildspace - that needs to be conserved and managed in an integrated way for the combined benefit of both wildlife and local people. We believe that protecting the Wildspace from harmful development is essential for safeguarding Ely’s remaining wildlife and securing a vital recreational resource for a growing city.
Map of the Ely Wildspace. Click on numbered areas for more information.

Ely Wildspace is critical for the survival of wildlife in the area. Some of the species found here are of national conservation importance. In recognition of this Natural England, the government’s advisor on the natural environment in England, has designated most of the Wildspace as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), giving it the highest level of protection at a UK level. For more information on the Ely Pits and Meadows SSSI’s and why it was designated please visit the natural England website by clicking here

East Cambridgeshire District Council have also recognised that the area is an important recreational resource and are in the process of developing a country park, overlapping with much of the Wildspace. While we support the idea of improving access to some areas, we believe that any development must be done with a light touch and in line with the SSSI designation.

A description of each of the 'areas’ within the Ely Wildspace, as depicted in the map above, are listed below:

1. Roswell Pit


Roswell Pit supports many breeding birds including the great crested grebe and kingfisher and provides foraging and resting areas during winter for other birds such as the bittern. With a wide variety of habitats many other species are found here including water voles, otters, a number of bat species, nightingales, terns and many plants including the bee orchid and giant horsetail. This area is also nationally important for fossils, as the outcrop of the Kimmeridge Clay has yielded a diverse assemblage of fossil reptiles. It is also a recreation facility, providing access to sailing and angling.

2. Ely Common

The common is a popular walking and recreation area. It is also a beautful wild flower meadow supporting species such as adders tongue fern, and there are historical records of green winged orchids.

3. Springhead Lane meadow

This area supports species such as grasshopper warblers, water rail and redwing and provides hunting grounds for barn owls.

4. Pocket Park

A park close to the city centre, this area provides open green spaces that are used by many people for recreation.

5. Railway loop land

This shallow wetland surrounded by reeds supports many wading birds including snipe, woodcock and bitterns. Cetti's warbler can also be found here, as can stoat.

6. Queen Adelaide Pits

Queen Adelaide Pits lie to the east of the river and Adelaide Way. They are very important for wetland birds including bittern, marsh harrier, bearded tits, hobbies and a variety of wildfowl. The pits are in private ownership but can be viewed from Adelaide Way.

Queen Adelaide Pits are known to older residents as the Beet Factory Settling Ponds. What is now the Potter site at Queen Adelaide was a sugar beet factory until May 1981. Sugar beet were washed prior to processing and the muddy water pumped into the pits so the soil particles could settle before water was released into the river. Later in the processing lime was used. You can listen to this and other stories about the settling ponds, past and present here.

7. Cuckoo Bridge reed beds

Sedge and reed warblers are found in these reed beds, the area also supports little ringed plover, cuckoo, little grebe and a number of dragonfly species. It is also a fantastic spot to see spawning bream under the bridge!

8. River flood meadows

The flood meadows are important breeding habitat for lapwing, and also support many otehr bird species including, kestrel, yelow wag tail, barn owl. Roesel's bush cricket, a rare sight in the UK is also found here.

9. Lisle Lane field

A meadow used for grazing, where species such as water cress, buttercups can be found (photo to be added soon).

Want to learn more?

Click on the links below to find out more about Ely's wild spaces and how to get involved.

Get Involved: We are running events all through the year.
Using Heritage Lottery funding: memories of Ely Pits and Meadows.