forbes hole lnr, long eaton

Grid ref: SK 496325

Owner: Erewash Borough Council

Main partners: EBC, Friends of Forbes Hole, Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, Long Eaton Natural History Society


Main habitat types

  • Pond and typha
  • Willow carr
  • Hawthorn scrub
  • Neutral grassland

'Railway ponds are ecologically unique in Britain and perhaps also in Europe'. So said Dr. Max Wade of Loughborough University addressing Long Eaton Natural History Society in 1981.

When Forbes Hole, a fine example of a railway pond, came under threat of development in 1991 the Borough Council stepped in to acquire the site and ensure its future.

By careful and sensitive management it is the intention to maximise the site’s recreational and educational potential in ways compatible with its status as a Local Nature Reserve.

Forbes Hole is one of a series of borrow pits dug in 1839 during the construction of the railway network. The gravel extracted was used as ballast in the building of the railway embankments. It is not known how the pond was so called as the name Forbes does not appear on the local register for the period. It has been suggested that it may have been the name of one of the workmen who made the original excavation, but no evidence to support this has been found. Recent speculation, as yet unconfirmed, suggests the name may have been Thorbes.

The site is part of the Trent flood plain and the main feature, the pond, is excavated into the sands, gravels and river sediment of the locality. The hole would have filled, soon after excavation, with flood water from the nearby river. The pond is particularly important because the date of creation is known, making it possible to study its development and colonisation over time. In fact, Long Eaton Natural History Society have studied the area and kept wildlife records for many years.

In 1982/83 the site was classified as a Grade 1 site on the County Biological Sites Register. When offered for sale by British Rail in March 1991, the site was purchased by Erewash Borough Council. The Council, realising the importance of Forbes Hole, declared it as the Borough Council’s first Local Nature Reserve on 6th November 1991.

The 3.3 hectare site contains a number of habitats ranging from open water, through willow oarr to dry woodland and includes areas of grassland and scrubland, as well as a mature hedgerow. This represents a good variety of habitats in a relatively small area. The site, initially created by man, has been allowed to develop into a semi-natural site of great importance to wildlife.

The dry woodland contains several species of tree but is dominated by Sycamore, Oak, Ash and Alder. Shrubs include Hawthorn, Elder and Guelder Rose, which provide berries for resident and over wintering birds, such as Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Song Thrush and Redwing.


The pond is one of only four locations in the country which contain Water Violet. Other species of note are Common Clubrush and Fine-Leaved Water Dropwort. It was once noted for giant carp, but it is believed that they perished during exceptionally cold weather in the early 1980’s. Tench are thought to be still present. The Willow Carr contains many old trees which provide nesting sites for birds. Flowers found at the edge of the Carr include Marsh Bedstraw, the aromatic Water Mint and the delicate Lady’s Smock.

The most notable species in the grassland is Yellow Rattle, but other flowers include Birds-Foot Trefoil and Meadow Vetchling. This habitat is important for insects, the most obvious being moths and butterflies which include the Cinnabar Moth, the Common Blue, Small Copper and Orange Tip butterflies.

The scrubland includes Bramble and Dog Rose which give good cover for nesting birds such as Wren, Lesser Whitethroat and Linnet. Clumps of Stinging Nettle and Ragwort provide food plants for butterflies. The mature hedgerow contains Oak, Ash, Hawthorn and Birch, providing a habitat for small mammals such as Wood Mouse, Common Shrew and Hedgehog.

There is a small car park off Fields Farm Road. Wheelchair access is limited to the north side of the ponds.

Community Links:

The Friends of Forbes Hole regularly take part in action days carrying out essential conservation work on the site such as clearing the pond of reeds. In February 2006 quite extensive work was done to coppice a number of bushes and trees which were crowding the water fringes and grass banks on the north side of the reserve. The brashings were used to create a series of habitat piles. The picture below shows work in progress and the team who gave their time to complete this important work.

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