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Bowness on Solway

A small reserve with a surprising diversity of habitats full of interest throughout the year. Great place to see butterflies, moths and dragonflies.


  • Spring is a good time to see flocks of migrating birds whilst frogs, toads and newts are at their most active in the ponds.
  • On sunny summer days over 20 species of butterfly can be seen and damsel and dragonfly patrol the ponds.
  • In autumn look out for fungi and watch birds feasting on haws and thistles.
  • Winter too is a good time to see birds such as barn owl, kestrel, sparrowhawk and buzzard.

Wildlife around the ponds

The ponds are a major feature of the reserve and range from temporary pools to permanent open water.  Around the ponds you can find specialist water plants such as s branched bur reed, yellow iris and distinctive smelling water mint. In spring the ponds are alive with great crested newts, frogs and toads which breed in the ponds. From late spring throught to autumn look out for dragonflies such as the emperor, which is  the largest dragonfly in Britain and also  four spotted chasers, common hawker, southern hawker and darters.  You can also see several species of damselflies such as common blue, azure and emerald.   Some of the ponds have recently been re-excavated to begin the process of colonisation again.

Good habitat for birds

Gorse, thorn and birch scrub grow on the drier areas and willow scrub in the wetter areas. This scrub mix provides an excellent habitat for breeding birds. In spring you can enjoy the sounds of willow warbler, willow tit and linnet and other song birds. In autumn and winter you might see wintering flocks of field fares and redwings feeding on the hawthorn which provides a rich winter food source. You may also see flocks of goldfinch feeding on the thistles.  Winter is a good time to see birds such as the barn owl or the hen harrier or even woodcock.

Grassland plants

In the open grassland areas you can find common spotted orchid, bird's-foot trefoil, tomentil and bedstraw.  Later in the summer the grassland is a blaze of purple knapweed.  Some of these areas are grazed in autumn and winter to encourage greater species diversity. The flowers provide nectar for a range of insects.

Butterflies and moths

The knapweed is very attractive to some species of butterfly.  Sunny days in late summer are a good time to see butterflies such as ringlet, small copper, large skipper and peacock. Over 20 species of butterfly have been recorded on the reserve and more than  350 species of moth!   

Keeping it special  

The nature reserve was given to Cumbria Wildlife Trust in 1977 by Tilcon. 

Getting here  

By car:From the B5307 the reserve entrance  is from the track near Biglands House approximately 1.25km/0.75 miles from Bowness on Solway village.
By bicycle:The reserve is on National Route 72 Hadrian's Cycleway.
By public transport:Buses run from Carlisle to Bowness on Solway village.

Nature Reserves Guide

Cumbria Wildlife Trust's Nature Reserve Guide, which provides information about all the Trust's reserves is available to buy now from our online shop.


Nearby nature reserves

Drumburgh Moss
4 miles - Cumbria Wildlife Trust
Orton Moss
9 miles - Cumbria Wildlife Trust
Gosling Sike
13 miles - Cumbria Wildlife Trust

Nature reserve map

Reserve information

Bowness on Solway village
Map reference
NY 206 617
Great for...
spring migrant birds
stunning views
Best time to visit
Jan - Dec
Get directions
Find out here
Public transport
Plan your journey
Opening Times
Open at all times
7.30 hectares
Local Wildlife Site (LWS)

Gated entrance. Some sections of the paths suitable for wheelchairs.
Walking information
There is a waymarked circular route around the reserve (1km/0.6 miles) which has boardwalks over wetter areas and a small number of steps. The reserve is divided by a farm track which provides a short-cut back to the road from several points along the trail.
Park on the verge at reserve entrance, please do not obstruct farm track through the reserve
Dogs must be on lead
Grazing animals
Yes in autumn and early winter
Reserve manager
Kevin Scott
Tel: 01228 829570