The 1972 Thomas Report and Photos

Introduction to The Thomas Gravel Pits Report 1972

By Ioan F. Thomas

We are fortunate to have a report prepared by Ioan Thomas which predates the meticulous survey prepared by Keith Gabriel in 1975.

Mr Thomas has been at the heart of Natural History in this part of the Country for years. He was Head of Biology at Oundle School. He was also instrumental in supporting the formation of the Wildlife Trust in this area. In summary, he has had a lifelong devotion to the preservation, promotion and observation of Nature. We are fortunate beneficiaries of his dedication not least demonstrated by his holding what is probably the only extant copy of Mr Gabriel’s survey.

Whereas Mr Gabriel’s work is a comprehensive survey of flora and fauna existing at Barnwell Country Park in 1975, Mr Thomas’s much shorter contribution is a fascinating overview of the history of the transformation of a gravel pit works into a country park. He establishes a benchmark context date of 1940 and his report is completed in 1972 – only 3
years before publication of Mr Gabriel’s Survey.

His work documents how industrial gravel pits gradually change from barren land to a populated area through gradual colonisation by both flora and fauna.

His report understates the significance of his find of Leptodora kindtii: an early, temporary coloniser of the gravel pits and rare due to its sensitive habitat requirements. For those interested, it is worth following the link about this waterflea to be found at the bottom of his report.

He then goes on to describe the arrival and progressive stages of colonisation of larger species including the acceleration of this process through human intervention.
This is a very useful and readable report. We are grateful that Mr Thomas has been kind enough to share his work with us. We hope that it will help stimulate interest in our Park and its continuing evolution.

The combination of Mr Thomas’s Report and Photos are an important natural historical resource. They provide a comparative benchmark for similar interventions by mankind.

Photographs from Mr Thomas

Mr Thomas actively recorded progress of the Park both in writing and using photography. He has given us a collection of colour photos which give us snapshots of the progress of the Park from 1958 to 1973. These photos are an invaluable resource which help to illustrate the gradual change in the Park’s environment from the disruptive activity of man through extraction of a resource to what might be best described as a balanced resettlement by Nature. This balance between nature and the involvement of human activity shall remain a continuing preoccupation.

click / tap to enlarge & view captions

Notes to Pictures:

Pic 1: Report cover as prepared by Mr Ioan Thomas. This is the outline picture of Leptodora kindtii a rare species of waterflea which was discovered by Mr Thomas inhabiting the recently excavated pits within what is now Barnwell Country Park. This serves to illustrate the importance of this discovery.

Pic 2,3,4,5: Interpret of Tables. Each small square on each horizontal line shows one week in the year - so there was just room for 52. The height of each block is to give an indication of the relative abundance of that species at different time of the year. The scale changes with each species. So the huge numbers of Lapwing were 600 in week four and only 400 the next week - and then very few in the rest of the year. Tufted Duck were in big numbers in the winter, but many fewer at other times of the year. In terms of interpretation, the most instructive group are the three species of Wagtails: when Grey Wagtails were never seen in the summer (and are always very few); the Yellow Wagtails, which are migratory, are only seen in the summer; and the Pied Wagtails are around throughout the year.