With excellent views over Morecambe Bay, this limestone promontory has an unusual assemblage of plants and interesting geological exposures. Great place for watching birds on the estuary.
- In spring look for green-winged orchids. Blue moor grass is in flower.
- Summer is a good time to see all the limestone grassland plants in flower.
- In winter watch wading birds such as curlew, redshank and snipe off the shore.
- All any time of year look out for Lancastrian whitebeam and take in the fine views over Morecambe Bay.
Humphrey Head is a limestone promontory which is important both for its flora and fauna and for its geological exposures. The nature reserve covers the western cliffs, which have the main botanical interest and the fields on top of the head,. Humphrey Head wood is not part of the reserve but has some old stunted oak trees and in spring is a carpet of bluebells and wood anemones..
Flowers of the limestone
Walking on the cliff tops in spring and summer you will see plants such as common and hoary rock rose, blue moor-grass, limestone bedstraw, green-winged orchid and wild thyme. Here the limestone grassland is grazed. Where the sheep cannot reach bloody cranesbill and spiked speedwell grow. On the cliffs, you can see yew, hazel and Lancastrian whitebeam. Look out for small outcrops of limestone pavement and the wind-blown hawthorn trees.
On the lower cliffs, towards the end of Humphrey Head the salt spray prevents many plants from becoming established. Here you can find thrift, Portland spurge and rock samphire which tolerate such conditions.
The fields on top of the head have been improved for agriculture in the past but the diversity of the grassland is gradually increasing with annual grazing and no fertiliser application.
Birds on the estuary
This is a good place for watching birds on the estuary, particularly when the tide forces them to the shore. Look out for shelduck, curlew and redshank. Peregrines regularly breed on the nature reserve.
Keeping it special
Humphrey Head has been leased from Holker Estate since 1992 and was established as a nature reserve in memory of Joy Ketchen, the Trust's first conservation officer.
By car: Follow the road towards the Head. Pass the farm and continue until a track with a public bridleway (part of Cumbria Coastal Way) leads off left. Park here. The reserve is reached by walking up the drive of the field centre and bearing right.
By bicycle: The reserve is 5km/ 3 miles from National Route 72 (Walney to Wear).
By public transport: Trains run from Barrow in Furness, Ulverston, Grange over Sands and Lancaster to Kents Bank. Buses run from Cartmel and Grange over Sands to Allithwaite and Kents Bank.