Marl Pits

On another bright, chill, morning we sought Christmas presents at Old Milton, where the pavement display outside Serendipity offered

an embarrassment of fantastic figures which we managed to resist.

Our next venue was Lymington High Street where a well stocked toyshop encouraged visitors;

and Santa displayed the skills of Friends hairdressers.

When parking at the back of this main street, Jackie always marvels at the bucolic views beyond the chimney tops,

which can, themselves be seen across the crow-lined fields from Main Road.

Commoners once enjoyed the right to gather fallen branches for fuel and to dig out lime rich clay from the marl pits. These ancient privileges are no longer granted.

Trees must lie where they fall in order to benefit the lively ecology of the forest.

The marl has been dug out for centuries, leaving the pits that we now see, and, with the growth of new trees and shrubs, cut out the light to the ancient specimens of flora and fauna, gradually changing the nature of the land and killing off previously extant plants and insects.

We were led to Crockford inclosure, where the fallen birch above was photographed, by smoke spirals curling into the air. Nearby we witnessed a group of people

working hard at the bottom of these steeply sloping sided pits in the land.

Naturally I investigated with my camera.

It was in the clearing where brushwood was burning that I met Alison who gave me my information. The workers are all volunteers working for the forestry commission on this important recovery project. In order to return the pits to their pristine condition the larger trees are felled by contractors; the unpaid enthusiasts cut and

burn the smaller boughs

and leave neat piles of sawn logs to house wildlife, gather mushrooms,  and return eventually to the soil.

My informant explained that the steep sides are retained to stop ponies tearing up the terrain and tearing up and out into the road opposite.

The pit site crosses under this thoroughfare to a previously cleared area to where, according to one of the gentlemen to whom I spoke,

a rare diving water beetle has returned. My informant didn’t know exactly which one, but he said it was very rare. Given that most are apparently black and the brown one is ‘just about holding its own’ (New Forest National Park Authority) I have chosen this illustration of a brown one.

As one might expect, a robin took great interest in the proceedings.

This evening we dined at The Wheel Inn. We Both chose thick, meaty, beef burgers with crisp onion rings, plentiful fresh salad, and more chinky chips than we could eat. These followed tempura prawns for Jackie and a veritable shoal of whitebait with doorsteps of brown toasted bread. Each starter was lavishly garnished with excellent salad. Jackie drank Kaltenberg lager and I drank Ringwood’s Best bitter.




  1. Your curiosity and foray into local history reminded me that I am reading a fascinating book about the Knepp Estate in West Surrey called ‘Wilding’. The owners decided to remove all human interference and influence from the dying farm and in a remarkably short time returned lost or almost lost insects, birds, plants and animals to the land. It’s a remarkable story – do you know of it?

    1. I visited the Knepp Estate earlier in the year – you probably need to do more than one half day safari to get a full flavour of what it is like but it was certainly interesting.

  2. You mean you didn’t purchase Spiderman? How did you resist that? ?

    Love the day out, and the food sounds delicious, especially the onion rings – they’re going on the shopping list first thing tomorrow!

  3. Serendipity One is packed to the gills with gifts. The restoration activity in the forest is an interesting foresight. Thanks for letting us have a peep.

  4. I’ve just looked up ‘marl pits’, not having heard the term before. Anyway, pleased to see what the forestry commission has been doing in the area to support wildlife.

  5. Beautiful photos, Derrick!
    Some great preservation work being done! And it makes me so happy that people care!
    Wowza! Santy is lookin’ good! 😉 😉 (Wink Wink to Santy!) I can’t wait to see him, in person, in a few weeks! 😉 😀
    Cooper likes the doggies standing outside the shop and I like the gingerbread peoples! 🙂
    Hope the beetle and the robin got along! 😉
    HUGS!!! 🙂

  6. I remember the marlpit oak as being important … did they hang people from it – but I can’t remember why. I’ll have to check with my brother, I’m encouraged by these volunteers efforts.

  7. Great informative and entertaining post Derrick, appreciate the explicit detail in the describing the Pits and their role in the ecology.

    1. Thanks very much, More. Because our son’s birthday is on 19th we don’t decorate until afterwards, but we are ready to go, and are well. I trust you are, too.

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