Breaking News!


Dear Friends,

Our Annual General Meeting was due to take place on July 29th this year, and as it is very difficult to know exactly what the situation will be regarding the COVID-19 virus by then, we have reluctantly decided that the best way forward is to 'meet' by email, or post for those who do not have email. We look forward to getting back to normal for 2021!


The first note will go out to Members on 20th June asking for nominations for the Committee. We must receive your nominations by July 1st. Please make sure that anyone you nominate confirms to us that they agree to be nominated.

On July 7th, our second note will be sent to Members. This note will include the Minutes from the 2019 AGM, the Annual Reports for 2019-2020, and the list of the nominees for the Committee. We must receive your votes for Committee Members and any questions arising from the reports, by July 15th.

On July 29th we will send out our final note giving detals of the selected committee members, including officers, and as far as possible the answers to any queries.

Helen Whatnell

Chair, Friends of Holt Island Nature Reserve


Deja-vu – where has she been? A question we have been asking ourselves for the past few weeks.

Last year “our“ swan gave pleasure to many whilst nesting on the Island, on The Waits side, producing a family of 8 cygnets, all of which eventually reached adulthood being a remarkable achievement. Well, she was clearly hiding nearby – maybe in isolation -- and in the last few days (article written May 10th) she proudly presented another batch of 8 cygnets to her admirers at The Waits.

We wish them all well and let us hope they are as successful as last year, and learn to practice social distancing!!

Nigel Sprowell - Friend

swan and sygnets 2020

 sygnets 2020

Photographs © Nigel Sprowell



In early May we were delighted to see ‘our’ swans presenting their new family of eight cygnets. She successfully raised a similarly large brood last year all the way through to adulthood, which was a fantastic achievement. Sadly, however, this year I must report that very recently, and one by one, she lost three of her cygnets, reducing the family to five. These remaining five appear to be growing well (as seen here just over a month later), as were the three that have been lost.

Swan Family June 2020It is not unusual to suffer casualties, albeit they had arguably passed the extremely dangerous stage when they could easily have been predated by corvids (crow family), mink or pike, for example. Alternatively they may well have been predated by foxes, or even otter, or may just have succumbed to illness. Dare I even suggest that maybe they suffered from too much ‘love’ from their admiring public, perhaps by consuming far too much unhealthy bread!

Photograph © Ian Jackson

Like us humans, ducks, swans and all bird life need a balanced diet and too many carbohydrates is not good for them, providing little nutritional value - equivalent to junk food for birds! They need a varied diet - natural plants and insect proteins - to mature properly. It is too easy for ducklings, cygnets and the like to get an easy meal from bread handouts, which may make them reliant and does not encourage them to forage for their important nutrient foods.

It's wonderful to see the ducks and swans with their young and a real joy for the children to be with them and to feed them, and I certainly do not wish to discourage this in any way. But, perhaps, we should just think about what they are being fed. Maybe, reduce the size and quantity of bread, and consider alternatives such as floating duck pellets, crushed biscuits, cereals, oats, bird seed, sweet corn, and even defrosted peas and shredded lettuce leaves – they all go towards providing a balanced healthy diet for our avian wildlife.

This is just a thought for you – and we all I’m sure, wish all our birds well, including of course ’our’ swan family, and so please, please continue to enjoy them.

Note: floating duck pellets can be purchased from Just Cards in Bridge Street.

Nigel Sprowell - Friend


Children and staff from Westfield Junior School in St. Ives just happened to be visiting the Island at the same time as when ITV local news were visiting the Island to film and interview Paul Claydon our Countryside Ranger about the construction of our new boardwalk by our volunteers (watch the VIDEO here).



This year’s floods have caused considerable damage to the older boardwalk non-slip strips, and as a result they will need to be replaced before the Island can be safely opened to the public.

This work would normally be done by our Practical Volunteers under the direction of our Huntingdon District Council Ranger, but given the Government’s recent announcements HDC will not be using volunteer parties at this time. Our Ranger will carry on the work on his own when he can, but we do not know how long the repairs will take. Be assured, we will open as soon as it is safe to do so.

However, in the interests of our visitors’ and volunteers’ safety in the current crisis, when we do open we will not be opening our interpretive centre, the Holt. This is necessary to protect everyone as it is an enclosed space and very difficult to clean thoroughly.


Once the Island is safely opened again you are very welcome to book visits, and we will continue to open and close the Island for you. However, we will not be opening the Holt (for the reasons explained above) and will not be able to offer you volunteers to help. There are a lot of activity worksheets and our Education Pack available on the website to download, for use on the Island.

Holt Island is an oasis of tranquillity in the centre of St Ives town. The Island provides a variety of habitats which attract a wide range of birds, mammals, plants and insects.

Holt Island BadgerFormerly used to grow willow for basket-making, the Island became overgrown when this ended. This changed its appearance and attracted many different types of wildlife. Today the island is home to mammals such as voles, shrews, deer, badgers, bats and foxes. Plants such as yellow flag iris, purple loosestrife and comfrey thrive. Tortoiseshell, red admiral and peacock butterflies can be seen along with dragonflies and damselflies. And a huge variety of birds including kingfishers, warblers, and blackcaps can be seen. For more information about what you could see CLICK HERE.  Photo © Nigel Sprowell.

The Island has a raised boardwalk, which makes the Reserve accessible to prams and wheelchairs, and there is plenty of seating, some with picnic tables. The Holt cabin, complete with bench seating, a nature table, books and children's activity sheets and displays is worth a visit. For more information to plan your visit CLICK HERE.

We have events and activities taking place throughout the season – see the links on our home page for more information.

We have an amazing video on YouTube which tells you all about Holt Island and shows it in its Autumn glory  CLICK HERE TO WATCH

For a downloadable information leaflet CLICK HERE.