image of trees bordering green open space at Howe ridding nature reserve - copyright john morrison

Howe Ridding Nature Reserve © John Morrison

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


Between Kendal and Grange over Sands
A static map of Howe Ridding Wood

Know before you go

29 hectares

Grazing animals


Walking trails

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).


Path to the reserve is often muddy and has steep sections.


On a lead

When to visit

Opening times

Open at all times

Best time to visit

April to August

About the reserve

Wildlife highlights

  • 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.

Nationally rare Lancastrian whitebeam clings to the cliffs and scree, whilst small-leaved lime is found on terraces alongside the more common ash, oak and birch trees that tower over the delicate ground flora. 

Rare plants such as dark red helleborine, hoary rock-rose, mezereon and rigid buckler-fern are found here. 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 

Contact us

Joe Murphy
Contact number: 01539 816300

Environmental designation

National Nature Reserve (NNR)
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Special Areas of Conservation (SAC)