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Wreay Woods

Wonderfully diverse woodland reserve along the banks of the river Petteril. In spring, bluebells carpet the floor and dippers, grey wagtails, kingfishers and sometimes otters can be seen. PLEASE NOTE: Due to erosion by the floods, the public footpath has been closed by the council.


  • A great place to enjoy spring woodland flowers with carpets of bluebells and wood anemone.
  • In summer find yellow iris and wild angelica and listen for chiff chaff.
  • In autumn look for red squirrels and jays gathering nuts. Great time to find fungi.
  • Winter is a good time to see nuthatches, treecreepers and roe deer.  Keep an eye out for otter tracks.

Woodland in the River Petteril gorge

Wreay Woods follows the course of the River Petteril where a deep gorge has been cut through the land exposing the underlying red sandstone.

In spring the woodland floor is a carpet of bluebell, dog's mercury, wood anemone, wood sorrel and moschatel.  Ash, oak and birch are the predominant native trees.  You may see typical woodland species such as blackcap and long-tailed tit.

By the river

Wetter areas alongside the river are dominated by alder and willow, with yellow iris, marsh marigold and meadowsweet beneath. The river itself is rich in wildlife. Dippers and grey wagtails are the birds most likely to be encountered, but lucky visitors regularly report kingfisher. Unmanaged river channels such as this containing large woody debris, are now a rarity in the county. They provide ideal otter habitat and there are occasional sightings.

Woodland history

The diversity of the ground flora suggests that woodland has been present here since the middle ages although since that time it has been heavily modified by man. Large scale felling has occurred on a number of occasions most recently in 1973, and a number of non-native trees have been planted.

Keeping it special

Management is being undertaken to favour native species.  Sycamore and beech are gradually being removed.  Surgery has also been carried out on some of the beech trees to create habitats such as dead wood, sap runs and cavities thereby increasing the value of these trees for fungi, birds, bats and invertebrates.

The wood is owned by Cumbria County Council but has been leased by Cumbria Wildlife Trust since 1987.

Getting here

By car:  From M6 junction 42 take A6 towards Penrith for about 2km.Park in the lay-by on the left-hand side.  Take footpath on your right past Scalesceugh Hall and onto the reserve (400m).  Alternatively take the road for Dalston. Park in the picnic area and follow the public footpath under the motorway and onto the nature reserve (1.2km).

By bicycle: The reserve is 9.7km from the National Cycle Network

By public transport:  Buses run from Penrith and Carlisle to Wreay

Species and habitats

Bluebell, Wood Anemone, Dipper, Grey Wagtail, Kingfisher

Nearby nature reserves

Quarry Banks
2 miles - Cumbria Wildlife Trust
Gosling Sike
6 miles - Cumbria Wildlife Trust
Orton Moss
7 miles - Cumbria Wildlife Trust

Nature reserve map

Reserve information

Near Carlisle
Map reference
NY 444 497
Great for...
lichens and mosses
spring flowers
Best time to visit
Apr - Jul
Get directions
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Public transport
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Opening Times
Open at all times
17.70 hectares
Local Wildlife Site (LWS)
Unsurfaced paths with steep slopes and steps.
Walking information
The east side of the reserve is served by a public footpath which is unsurfaced and has some steep slopes with steps (1.2km/0.8 miles). The public footpath continues north along the river into Carlisle (6km/4 miles) and south to Wreay Village (1.2 km/0.8 miles)
Park in layby off the A6 near footpath to Scalesceugh Hall or in the picnic area off the road to Dalston.
Dogs must be on lead
Grazing animals
Reserve manager
Kevin Scott
Tel: 01228 829570