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Low Barns Nature Reserve

Regarded as one of Durham Wildlife Trust's premier reserves, this 50 hectare wetland site also contains mixed woodlands and grasslands. A recently refurbished visitor centre is open to the public at weekends and something of interest can be seen throughout the year.

Low Barns has developed following gravel extraction along the banks of the River Wear. Previously farmland, the gravel extraction ended in 1964 and the former owners allowed the Trust to take over and manage the water-filled pools for wildlife.

Wetland features include three lakes, interconnecting streams, a number of mature ponds and a wetland pasture. The river Wear flows through the reserve. There is grassland and scrub and there are some extensive areas of woodland, which include mature alder wood. With such a diversity of habitats, a wide range of plants and animals are found on the site.

Bird life is varied and abundant and includes the spectacular kingfisher. In summer the reserve is alive with birdsong as the resident bird populations are swelled by the summer migrants, including redstart, pied flycatcher and several warbler species. In winter large numbers of wildfowl can be seen including tufted ducks, mallards and mute swans. Grey herons can be seen in large numbers at various times of the year.

Patient visitors to the reserve may be rewarded by sightings of red fox, roe deer, water vole and otter. The small ponds on the reserve are excellent places to view damselflies and dragonflies, including the impressive southern hawker. Amphibians are also found, including the common frog and the smooth newt. There are many species of butterfly to be found - brimstone, ringlet and holly blue being some of the rarer species.

Up to 50 species of trees and shrubs can be seen including a number of conifers, which attract a large number of crossbills in the winter. The plant life is extremely rich and is too numerous to list but includes burnet rose, centaury, restharrow and viper's bugloss. Mosses, lichens and liverwort are common and a wide range of fungi is present throughout the site. Management on this reserve includes the removal of areas of woodland and scrub to maintain open waters and grassland on the reserve, and to manage water levels for birds and invertebrates.

General Information:

  • Visitor Centre

  • Coffee shop and picnic area

  • Toilets, including facilities for the disabled

  • Wheelchair accessible

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    Low Barns at Witton-le-Wear is signposted from the A689 between Crook and Bishop Auckland and also from Witton-le-Wear on the A68 between Darlington and Consett.

    Low Barns Nature Reserve Postcode for SatNav: DL14 0AG


    +44 (0)1388 488 728

    Durham Wildlife Trust
    Witton Le Wear
    Bishop Auckland
    County Durham
    DL14 0AG

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