Durham Wildlife Trust owns or manages 25 nature reserves covering approximately 550 hectares of land, throughout County Durham and the Boroughs of South Tyneside, Gateshead, Darlington and the City of Sunderland.
The Trust’s reserves are managed to enhance biodiversity and they comprise a range of habitats including internationally important limestone grasslands, species rich upland hay meadows, semi-natural woodland, open water, reed swamp and fen meadow.
Situated near Wolsingham, Baal Hill Wood is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) occupying an ancient woodland site which at one time extended several kilometres north to Tunstall Resevoir.
The woodland was originally an upland oak/birch woodland, but is now part dominated by secondary birch woodland as a result of a series of clear fells and replanting over the last 100 years.
Not far from the village of the same name, BishopPyramidal Orchid Middleham Quarry is a large magnesian limestone quarry, notable for its very rich flora, characteristic of a habitat that is internationally rare. The reserve is also an excellent site to see butterflies in very large numbers.
The reserve is considered to be one of the country’s most important disused quarry habitats and is particularly rich in orchid species. Pyramidal, Common spotted, Fragrant, Bee orchids and most importantly, Dark-red Helleborines can be found there. Extensive areas of Common Rock-rose in the quarry support one of the County’s largest colonies of Northern Brown Argus butterfly.
Part of the Durham Coast SSSI and National Nature Reserve, Blackhall Rocks is the Trusts only coastal site. The reserve combines superb geological exposures with internationally important grassland communities to produce a site with a unique character both in terms of biodiversity and landscape.
The combination of the unique geology and the maritime influence, have provided conditions where internationally unique grassland communities have evolved. These support a very rich flora, including species such as quaking grass, rockrose, salad burnet and bloody cranesbill.
The wet gullies contain many locally rare plants, such as butterwort, broad-leaved wintergreen, Grass of Parnassus, brookweed and Bird’s eye primrose. The slopes of Blue House Gill have areas of low growing scrub with privet and willows, providing breeding sites and shelter for birds. A locally rare fern, sea spleenwort grows in several places on the cliffs.The insect fauna is also of interest with 15 species of butterfly recorded, including the Durham Argus butterfly and the cistus forester, a rare green moth, which breeds on cliff tops.
Low Barns Nature Reserve
Low Barns Nature Reserve is one of the County’s most important wildlife sites this 50-hectare wetland site located adjacent to the River Wear also contains mixed woodlands and species rich grasslands with a Visitor Centre and Coffee shop.
Wetland features include three lakes interconnecting streams, a number of mature ponds and a newly created reedbed all of which are visible from our spacious bird hides.
The Reserve is very popular with birdwatchers and over 200 species have been recorded with frequent sightings of the spectacular kingfisher. The small ponds on the reserve are excellent places to view damselflies and dragonflies, including the impressive southern hawker.
Many species of butterfly occur including dingy skipper and small copper. The plant life is extremely rich and is too numerous to list but includes burnet rose, centaury, restharrow and viper’s bugloss.
There is always something to discover no matter what the season.