Holt Island Nature Reserve: update on opening

As some of you may know, Holt Island was underwater for almost 6 weeks from just after Christmas. This has affected the old non-slip surface on more of the boardwalk, and this coupled with reduced capacity to work on the Island means that, with regret, we will not be able to open from Easter as we had hoped. We are working hard to ensure that the Island is safe, and we now plan to open on the first May bank holiday weekend unless we are able to complete the work sooner – watch this space. We do have swans nesting again opposite the Waits and as we have been unable to remove “Chill Bill” the snowman (due to both flooding and Covid restrictions), he will remain in place until the swans have left the nest. This means that when we do reopen that the grass path will remain closed. Thanks for your continued support



The Environment Agency measures water levels regularly along the River Great Ouse including at St Ives lock. The water levels on Holt Island are close to the levels measured at this station but will be a little higher due to the mediaeval bridge and the new bridges slowing the water down which in turn raises the level.

On Christmas Eve the waters came up very fast and were at their highest for a good number of years. They reached 1.52 metres above datum level at the lock, the highest in this century. It was several days before it went down round about New Year.

On 14th January the water level rose sharply and went up to 1.24 metres where it stayed. During the next four weeks the water remained high, going up to 1.33 metres, only dropping down on 10th February. Two days later it was back down to normal levels. On the Island at the information board, the water measured 1.35 metres at its highest for the Christmas flood and 1.14 metres in January/February. For further information on the flooding read the full story HERE


The Owl Box has sadly failed to attract an owl. But it is certainly popular with hornets! This was filmed on a sunny day in September (WATCH VIDEO). Thank goodness they are up high! But true to say although they look fierce you are more likely to be stung by a wasp than a hornet. They are valuable pollinator and keep down pests and so in fact are a gardener’s best friend.


During the lockdown HDC Ranger Paul Claydon has been keeping up maintenance on the Island. The volunteers were not allowed to work between March and July, but they are now back in action. In July, as part of the installation of non-slip panels on boards that have lost their tar chippings, it was found that the main beams supporting the wooden bridge just inside the Island had rotted. To read more about the work that has been carried out on the island CLICK HERE.


1st Sepember 2020 - Work continues on the bridge and should be completed shortly. To read about the latest work CLICK HERE

10th September 2020 - Bridge re-construction is now complete. We hope to open the Nature Reserve to the public towards the end of the month. To read all about the completion CLICK HERE


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.