A peaceful upland with spectacular views Eycott Hill Nature Reserve is the perfect place for a low level walk, family picnic, or wildlife adventure! Enjoy colourful wildflowers, spot beautiful dragonflies and butterflies, keep an eye on the skies to see soaring birds of prey, and listen for the distinctive calls of lapwing, curlew and skylark.
March: the white flowers of wood anemone will start to appear, and look out for the wheatears as these handsome birds arrive from Africa for the summer.
May: several interesting wildflowers come in to bloom including the eye catching mountain pansy. The delicate flowers of common butterwort also come out at this time and you may see some of the earlier emerging dragonflies, including four-spotted chasers and large red damselflies.
June: another species that thrives in the uplands, mountain everlasting, comes in to flower and on sunnier days you should encounter good numbers of small pearl-bordered fritillary butterflies.
July to October: grass-of-parnassus and devil’s bit scabious are in flower and two of our larger dragonflies, common hawker and golden-ringed dragonfly can be found.
The first part of the reserve is made up of rough upland pasture and newly created hay meadow, great for wildflowers and flying insects. Hedgerows are being restored with young saplings planted alongside ancient trees to provide nesting sites and shelter for a variety of birds, and small mammals and reptiles can take cover in the dry stone walls.
As you enter the Site of Special Scientific Interest the habitats change and it gets much wetter underfoot. These wetlands are made up of swamps and mires and are very important for wildlife. The botanical interest in this part of the site contributes to the Site of Special Scientific Interest designation and includes high numbers of sedge and Sphagnum moss species. Naddle’s beck and its tributaries flow from the site to the River Glenderamackin and form an important part of the diverse habitat at Eycott Hill Nature Reserve.
During the project we’ll be planting to help re-establish woodlands and juniper scrub to make it an appealing home for many more species.
Eycott Hill is home to an impressive array of flora. Rare species include Sphagnum fuscum, lesser tussock sedge, bog sedge, and few-flowered sedge. Look out for grass-of- parnassus with its white star shaped flower, the carnivorous lesser bladderwort and round-leaved sundew, and the deep red flowers of marsh cinquefoil, a member of the rose family! Part of the reason for the sites designation as Site of Special Scientific Interest is the high numbers of sedge, 20 species, and Sphagnum moss, 18 species, that are present in the wetland.
Drier parts of the site are brightened by mountain pansy, wood anemone, and the unusual flowers of mountain everlasting. As the restored hay meadow becomes established you’ll be greeted by a dazzling array of brightly coloured and wonderfully scented wildflowers at the entrance to the reserve.
On the wing
Buzzards and ravens soar above Eycott Hill and the abundance of owl pellets on the ground is evidence of short eared owls on the site. The chances of spotting the distinctive wavering flight of the lapwing are high and you’ll probably hear its ‘peewit’ call. Curlew, snipe, wheatear, meadow pipit and skylark also breed on the site.
Butterflies, dragonflies, and damselflies add to the colour over summer. Look out for small pearl-bordered fritillary butterflies, four-spotted chasers, and large red damselflies. It is the only site in northern England where the dark deerfly, Chrysops sepulclaris, is found.
The undulating landscape has been shaped over millions of years. Evidence of volcanic activity is all around you from the ridges and hollows to obvious rocky outcrops. The importance of the site in terms of geology is recognised in its designation as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and the nationally important Eycott Volcanic Group of rock formations was named after this location.
The geology of Eycott Hill Nature Reserve - mini film (links to YouTube)
Keeping it special
An ambitious 5 year project funded by Heritage Lottery Fund will make the nature reserve more accessible and the land will be managed with wildlife as a priority. The intricate mosaic of upland habitats that should be found on the reserve, such as scrub and woodland, heath, wet flushes and grasslands; and the fantastic swamps and mires will be improved. The aim is to show how the uplands can be managed for the benefit of the wider environment by achieving several different things including habitat and species restoration; sustainable food production; carbon storage to help moderate climate change; cleaner water; and flood alleviation through water storage. The site will be grazed by a herd of Luing cattle, owned and managed by Newton Rigg Agricultural College who will use Eycott Hill Nature Reserve as a conservation grazing demonstration site for their students.
Subtle interpretation and seating will be installed close to a small car park so visitors can take in the views and learn a bit more about Eycott Hill Nature Reserve. A short way marked route (avoiding the boggiest areas!) will lead to a viewpoint with spectacular views, and small interpretation panels will be dotted around the site.
Latest news and events
To keep up to date with the latest news from Eycott Hill Nature Reserve and find out about our free events and training courses please visit the project page and sign up to the email newsletter.
Thank you to our generous members for their support and to our funders; the Heritage Lottery Fund, WREN, Cumbria Waste Management Environment Trust, the Garfield Weston Foundation, Natural England, and the Banister Charitable Trust, who made the purchase and project possible.