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Whitbarrow - Howe Ridding Wood

Ancient woodland with exceptionally rich and interesting range of flowering plants. Coppice management benefits several species of butterfly and part of the reserve is a traditional orchard with Westmorland damson and apple trees.


  • In spring see wild daffodil and bluebell, damson and apple blossom and pearl bordered fritillary butterfly.
  • Summer butterflies such as high brown fritillary and plants such as dark red helleborine.
  • In autumn the damsons and apples are ripening in the orchard.

Ancient woodland

Howe Ridding Wood is the most northerly part of Witherslack Woods, a large expanse of ancient woodland on the western side of Whitbarrow Scar. Much of the nature reserve overlies the same Carboniferous limestone which forms the Scar.

On the cliffs and scree Yew and Lancastrian whitebeam can be found whilst on terraces, you will see ash, oak and birch along with small-leaved lime.  The ground flora is exceptionally rich with several nationally scarce species present such as dark red helleborine, hoary rock-rose, mezereon and rigid buckler-fern. Look out for green hellebore, wild daffodil and herb-paris.

The western edge of the wood is on the boundary of the limestone and the Silurian shale and Calf Close Wood, which overlies the shale, is a total contrast to the rest of the nature reserve with oak, birch and alder the dominant tree species. Bluebells are more numerous here.

Traditional orchard

At the northern end of the nature reserve is a small traditional orchard which has been replanted with Westmorland damson and apple trees.


You might spot both roe and red deer at Howe Ridding Wood. Buzzard, raven, sparrowhawk, woodcock, great spotted woodpecker, redstart and nuthatch are all regularly seen. The coppice woodland provide good habitat for butterflies including pearl-bordered and high brown fritillary.

Keeping it special

Traditionally, the woodland was managed by coppicing and this was re-introduced in 1994 with a plot being cut every year. The newly coppiced plots have to be temporarily fenced to keep out the deer to allow the trees to re-grow.

The nature reserve has been leased to the Trust by Natural England since 1998.

Getting here

By car: From the A590 take the road signposted to Witherslack. From Witherslack continue north along the minor road, pass Witherslack Hall School and continue for a further 1.5km/0.9 miles.  Park where a public footpath leaves the road on the right hand side and follow the path through the woods for 0.7km/0.4 miles until the reserve is reached.
By bicycle: The reserve is 5km/3 miles from National Route 72 (Walney to Wear).
By public transport: Buses run from Barrow in Furness, Ulverston and Kendal to Witherslack


Nearby nature reserves

Whitbarrow - Hervey Memorial Reserve
1 miles - Cumbria Wildlife Trust
Barkbooth Lot
2 miles - Cumbria Wildlife Trust
Nichols Moss
3 miles - Cumbria Wildlife Trust

Nature reserve map

Reserve information

Between Kendal and Grange over Sands
between Kendal and Grange over sands
Map reference
SD 435 882
Great for...
Best time to visit
Apr - Aug
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Opening Times
Open at all times
28.80 hectares
National Nature Reserve (NNR)
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Special Areas of Conservation (SAC)
Path to the reserve is often muddy and has steep sections.
Walking information
Howe Ridding Wood is 0.7km/0.4 miles from a public road and is accessed via a public footpath. From the reserve entrance, the main path goes as far as the orchard (0.7km/0.4 miles). There is no circular route and visitors must return along the same path (2.8km/1.6 miles total).
Park on right hand side of road 0.9 miles past Witherslack Hall School
Dogs must be on lead
Grazing animals
Reserve manager
Joe Murphy
Tel: 01539 816300