Orwell Clunch Pit is an environmental treasure in the heart of the village. It is an old quarry site of about 4 acres, accessible from the High Street via Quarry Lane or through the Glebe field above St. Andrew’s church, or via a footpath from Hillside. The Clunch Pit has been owned by the Parish Council since 1974 and was designated in 1985 as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in recognition of its valuable chalk grassland flora and fauna, which are rare in this part of the country.
For the first twenty years or so of Parish Council ownership maintenance work in the Clunch Pit was achieved through volunteer working parties. Despite these valiant efforts the scrub gradually encroached over more and more of the grassland habitat.
Major clearance in 1999 checked the steady encroachment of bramble, hawthorn and other scrub, and reseeding of the cleared areas with seed gathered from the site the previous season has resulted in the regeneration of a superb grassland habitat. The Clunch Pit is managed, in association with the adjacent Glebe field, with light summer grazing by sheep and an annual clearance of emerging bramble. This management regime has achieved tremendous results in terms of wild flowers and ground flora and the Clunch Pit now produces fine shows of cowslips, wild thyme, buttercups, orchids and much more.
During 2004 and 2005 comprehensive surveys of the flora of the Clunch Pit and the Glebe field WERE CARRIED OUT. These surveys identified a total of 220 species and compared them to those identified in earlier surveys in 1975 and 1982.
The Clunch Pit is appreciated by a wide section of the community as a place for quiet contemplation (with a view – rare in these flat lands!), or to exercise dogs, or for children to play. In addition to its environmental credentials, the Clunch Pit is also used as a village gathering point and for outdoor celebrations. For many years the Pit has hosted an annual village barbeque and the beacon at the top of the pit has been the focal point of a number of special celebration events: (eg: fireworks at the millennium and a beacon to commemorate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee).
Access to the Clunch Pit for disabled people and those with pushchairs was improved in 2005 by the installation of a new gate and improvement of the access route from the car park. From the car park on the high street exit via the top left corner, follow the path up the hill to the wheelchair accessible kissing gate.