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Humphrey Head

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.

Highlights

  • 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.

Limestone promontory

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.

Getting here

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.

Nearby nature reserves

Brown Robin
3 miles - Cumbria Wildlife Trust
Grubbins Wood
4 miles - Cumbria Wildlife Trust
Meathop Moss
6 miles - Cumbria Wildlife Trust

Nature reserve map

Reserve information

Location
Near Grange over Sands
Grange over Sands
Cumbria
Map reference
SD 388 746
Great for...
birdwatching
butterflies
geological interest
stunning views
wildflowers
Best time to visit
Apr - Jul
Get directions
Find out here
Public transport
Plan your journey
Opening Times
Open at all times
Size
23.00 hectares
Status
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Walking information
The reserve is reached by walking up the drive of the field centre and bearing right. The walk to the highest point on the head and back is 2km/1.2 miles on grass with fairly small gradients. At low tide, it is possible to make this into a circular walk, via Humphrey Head Point and returning via the beach (2.9 km/ 1.8 miles), although this may involve crossing soft sediments in the channel just off the Point.
Parking
Park at the end of the track but do not block the track as rescue vehicles require access at all times. Parking is also possible on the beach at the road end.
Dogs
Dogs must be on lead
Grazing animals
Cattle at times
Reserve manager
Pete Jones
Tel: 01539 816300
mail@cumbriawildlifetrust.org.uk