Landscape In Bishop Auckland, County Durham
A 47 hectare nature reserve near Witton le Wear created on an area of former sand and gravel quarry and sewerage treatment works.
Low Barnes Nature Reserve, near to Witton-le-Wear, Bishop Auckland, is one of the north east's most important wildlife sites due to its wide ranging mosaic of habitats including wetlands, reed beds, mixed woodlands, the River Wear and species rich grasslands. Managed by Durham Wildlife Trust (DWT) the reserve is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and is home to a wide variety of birds, mammals, plants and insects.
Looking at Low Barnes Nature Reserve today you would probably find it hard to believe that it was originally an area of farmland which was then used for sand and gravel extraction until 1964. Following this the site was given over to DWT who restored it to a nature reserve. The site has also been home to a sewerage treatment works, and in 2003 this was removed and replaced with a new reed bed habitat and boardwalk for public access.
The site, which is 47 hectares in size, comprises three lakes with interconnecting watercourses, a number of ponds, reed beds, woodlands, grasslands and a wet pasture which help to support large numbers of wildfowl, including overwintering Whooper Swans, Bitterns and waders, as well as smaller wildlife such as amphibians, butterflies, damselflies and dragonflies. If you are really lucky you might see a Kingfisher, Otter or Tawny Owl.
There are a number of accessible bird hides around the reserve which are open to all visitors during formal opening hours and if you are a member of DWT you can purchase a key that allows access out of hours too.
Low Barns Nature Reserve is relatively flat terrain and has a good network of surfaced paths that link the hides allowing access for those of limited mobility. There is a visitor centre on site where you can purchase teas, coffees and cakes as well as local crafts. Most importantly there are toilet facilities too. The centre also includes a purpose built classroom for school parties.
The Visitor Centre is open daily from 10am - 5pm between April and October and from 10am - 4pm at weekends from November to March. Low Barns Nature Reserve is signposted from the A689 between Crook and Bishop Auckland and from the village of Witton-le-wear, on the A68 between Darlington and Consett.
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Parking is on site and access to the reserve is a short walk from the parking area past the visitor centre.
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There is a small car park on site.
Contributed by Andrew Gardner
I love being outdoors, in nature, and experiencing the relaxation it brings. Wandering through the northern countryside seeing unexpected buildings, historic places and occasionally surprised wildlife is one of life's great pleasures.
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