A Tribute to Marney Hall

It is with sadness that the Friends learned of the death in November of Marney Hall. Marney served as a member of the Friends of Holt Island Nature Reserve committee for six years, and her expertise and support will be greatly missed.  She carried out botanical surveys of Holt Island, and also the Thicket, which greatly informed our understanding of the flora and ecology of these habitats. Whilst on the committee Marney organised a very popular and well attended guided walk around the Island and each year she would host the Anglia in Bloom judges when they came to visit the Island as part of Anglia in Bloom.

As well as Holt Island, Marney's expertise had a real impact on the local environment. As an ecologist with the Nature Conservancy Council she  became an expert in butterflies, particularly those species that were struggling, while working at the Monks Wood ecological research centre.  Her most noted achievement was on the re-introduction of the swallowtail butterfly to Wicken Fen.

Marney was also involved with St Ives in Bloom, serving on their committee for over ten years (serving as Chair for four years).  She set up a specialist nursery growing and selling native wild plants, then developed her own garden design consultancy, with a reputation for designing gardens with a natural feel.

Marney could number a string of gold awards, including Chelsea, for the gardens she designed, both at home and internationally amongst her successes.  Her gold medal at Chelsea was awarded for a garden which promoted biodiversity, providing habitat for visiting birds, butterflies and other wildlife.

Marney was devoted to the countryside, British wildlife, and the local environment and her passion, expertise and enthusiasm will be greatly missed. 


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.