Low Barns Nature Reserve and Visitor Centre is near Witton-le-Wear village and borders on the River Wear. It covers 50 hectares and is a Site of Special Scientific Interest providing a wide variety of habitats including grassland, scrub, woodland and a large lake with islands. Bird life is varied and abundant and includes the spectacular kingfisher. Large numbers of waterfowl can be seen in the winter.
Low Barns has now always been a haven for local wildlife. Until the 1960’s it was a working sand and gravel extraction site. After the extraction work ceased, the area was given to Durham Wildlife Trust and restored as a nature reserve. Thousands of trees were planted and the wildlife has returned.
Recently a project to develop the wetland areas has been undertaken at Low Barns Nature Reserve. The project covers a total area of 12 hectares at Low Barns Nature Reserve and includes the creation of Phragmites reedbeds, seasonally wet grassland and marsh. Public access has been improved around the project area with enhanced footpaths, new bird hides and the construction of a boardwalk through a reedbed. A wide range of information boards and guided walks and talks complements this.
The reserve has become important for wildlife due to the wide range of habitats including wet woodland, grasslands, open water and riverside. These areas are home to many different types of birds, mammals, plants and insects.
The site has been used as a constant effort bird ringing site. Throughout spring, summer and autumn standard mist netting techniques are used on a weekly basis at dawn to monitor songbird numbers.
Facilities within the Reserve include disabled access, a picnic area, butterfly garden, bird hides, covered observatory, pond dipping platforms and a bird-feeding station in the winter. The Centre also includes a purpose built classroom for school parties.
The Visitor Centre is open daily from 10 am – 5 pm between April and October and from 10 am – 4 pm at weekends from November to March. Further details are available from Low Barns Visitor Centre on 01388 488728.
Low Barns Nature Reserve and Visitor Centre
Low Barns is signposted from the A689 between Crook and Bishop Auckland. The site is also signposted from the village of Witton-le-wear, on the A68 between Darlington and Consett. Please note that car parking space is limited at Low Barns. There are regular buses running between Bishop Auckland and Crook.