Sandwiched between the River Nene and the Peterborough to Cambridge railway line there is a little sliver of brownfield land, the remains of the old Peterborough East station, which is probably the most botanically important area in the city centre. If you travel on the Cambridge train you can pick it out by the startling chrome-yellow sheets of Biting Stonecrop Sedum acre that are in flower at the moment.
The best quality habitat is to the west of the Frank Perkins parkway, and is easily accessible from a well-used footpath to Stanground. The area forms part of a more extensive corridor of brownfield land along the railway, which further east is included within the Wildlife Trust's Stanground Wash nature reserve. The substrate is formed from railway clinker, which is very nutrient poor and highly base-rich when fresh, but over time the calcium ions leach out leaving areas of more acid substrate. These unusual properties encourage a very rich flora, with both calcicole and calcifuge species growing in close proximity.
Peterborough East station shares many characteristic species with the railway land at Stanground Wash, including Viper's Bugloss Echium vulgare, Common Stork's-bill Erodium cicutarium and Perforate St.John's-wort Hypericum perforatum but it also has strong populations of several species that are not known from the nature reserve, such as Heath Speedwell Veronica officinalis, which is considered to be Near Threatened in England, and Grey Sedge Carex divulsa subsp. divulsa.
|Viper's Bugloss, a typical brownfield species|
|Heath Speedwell, a calcifuge species which is well-established adjacent to the railway fence|
|The sprawling mats of Wall Bedstraw on typical railway substrate|
|Wall Bedstraw only reproduces by seed|
|Sheets of Southern Beard-grass, with noticeably purplish awns|
|A single spike of Southern Beard-grass|
|Detailed structure of Southern Beard-grass florets|
The invertebrates of the site have scarcely been looked at, but even based on a half-hour of superficial examination, are interesting. Biting Stonecrop Sedum acre supports the rather local bug Chlamydatus evanescens, at one of its most northerly British locations; Stork's-bill Erodium cicutarium has the very local squashbug Arenocoris falleni and the only currently known Peterborough population of the burrower bug Odontoscelis lineola at the northern limit of its British range; and two Nationally Scarce weevils, Sibinia primita and Gronops lunatus, are associated with Pearlwort Sagina spp.
The whole site is included within the Fletton Quays Opportunity Area and will be developed in the near future. Listed buildings on the site will be protected and enhanced, and it is to be hoped that the same enlightened attitude will be taken to this biodiversity hot-spot, which could provide a colourful and low maintenance area of open space for all the residents of the city to enjoy.