pioneer meadows lnr kirk hallam

Grid ref: SK 455396

Owner: Erewash Borough Council

Main partners: EBC, Derbyshire Wildlife Trust


Main habitat types

  • Neutral grassland
  • Mixed broad leaved woodland and plantations
  • Hedgerows over 400 years old

The fields and pond which constitute Pioneer Meadows are surprisingly little known. Surprising, because the variety of habitats provides a haven for wildlife and a very pleasant spot for quiet recreation.

The meadows have not always been as attractive as they are today. In 1979 the Ilkeston Advertiser reported on the pond as a ‘filthy fishing spot’, neglected and uncared for. Since then Erewash Borough Council has carried out improvements, making the meadows a valuable spot for both people and wildlife.

Pioneer Pond was originally dug for ironstone by Stanton Industries and is recorded as an ironstone pit on the very first Ordnance Survey map in 1881. At that time a tramway ran alongside the pond and was used for the transport of raw materials. The colliery ‘Dale Abbey No. 1’ was also situated nearby. The pond has always been a local fishing spot. The Pioneer Club rented the fishing rights for many years and when the club left, the pond kept the name ‘Pioneer Pond’. However, it was not until 1988 that the fields around the pond became officially known as Pioneer Meadows.
Pioneer Meadows was never more popular than on 2nd June, 1953. On Coronation Day, the largest children’s party in the Borough was held at the meadows in a huge marquee. Despite the rain, 725 children were treated to Punch and Judy, a carnival band and a fancy dress competition.
Although all the habitats at Pioneer Meadows are valuable, the feature that makes the site particularly important for wildlife is the undisturbed meadow surrounding the pond. The grassland is rich in different species and is becoming a rare habitat in the British countryside, as 95% of such grasslands have been lost since the last war.

Pioneer Meadows is classed as a Grade 1 site on the County Biological Sites Register. The land is now owned by Erewash Borough Council, having been bought from British Steel in the early 1950’s in connection with land purchases for the Kirk Hallam housing estate. Pioneer Meadows was declared a Local Nature Reserve in 1994.

Amongst the grassland species here is Common Toadflax, which can produce as many as 32,000 seeds per plant. Devil’s-bit Scabious is also present, the name ‘Devil’s-bit’ referring to the rootstock which in autumn looks as though it has been bitten. A third species on the meadow is Lady’s Smock, which is also known as Cuckoo Flower due to the ‘cuckoo spit’ produced by Leaf-Hopper larvae.

The rich grassland gives rise to a wealth of insect life including the colourful Small Copper and Common Blue butterflies. The large clumps of Cow Parsley and Hogweed are especially important for many species of hoverfly. Small mammals also find the grassland a rich feeding ground, while in turn the Kestrel comes to the meadow in search of mice and voles. The woodland surrounding the pond provides a very pleasant area in which to walk and a contrast to the open meadow. The predominant species are Common Oak, Goat Willow and Ash. Along the floor of the woodland are plants such as Bramble and Dog Rose which provide important cover for nesting birds like the Wren and Dunnock. The Speckled Wood butterfly prefers the shade of the woodland here, while the Holly Blue needs the wood’s Holly and Ivy trees to lay its eggs on. Pioneer Pond itself supports a reed species and a variety of rushes, pondweeds and waterweeds. Five species of Damsel and Dragonflies have been recorded around the water as have many water bird species including Coot and Moorhen. The presence of the Common Mayfly shows just how much the water quality has improved in recent years. Fishing is available by day ticket administered by a local club.

The main car park is off Wirksworth road, Kirk Hallam and wheelchair/pushchair access is available around the reserve on well defined paths. There is a further sign-posted entrance off Dallimore Road which does not always support wheelchair access due to hedges and plants overgrowing the path.

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