Humphrey Head

Humphrey head cliff and rocky landscape -c- john morrison

Humphrey Head Nature Reserve - Joy Ketchen Memorial Reserve © John Morrison

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.


Near Grange over Sands
Grange over Sands
LA11 7LY

OS Map Reference

Sheet no. 97
Grid reference SD 388 746
A static map of Humphrey Head

Know before you go

23 hectares

Entry fee

All donations are gratefully received.

Parking information

Car park

Bicycle parking


Grazing animals

Cattle at times

Walking trails

The walk to the highest point on the head and back is 2km/1.2 miles on grass with fairly small gradients.

Depending on the saltmarsh channels, it is possible to make this into a circular walk via Humphrey Head Point and returning via the saltmarsh. This may involve crossing soft sediment and can be impassible if the saltmarsh channels are too deep.


The reserve is accessed directly from a public road.


On a lead

When to visit

Opening times

Open at all times

Best time to visit

April to July

About the reserve

Humphrey Head is a striking limestone peninsula that’s important for its flora and fauna, as well as its geological exposures.

Wildlife highlights

  • Awe-inspiring peregrine falcons can be seen hunting for birds in flight
  • Watch the birds on the estuary as the tide forces them closer to shore – shellduck, curlew and redshank can be seen gathering on the saltmarsh around the head
  • Specialist plants tolerating the harsh conditions of the salt spray include thrift, Portland spurge and rock samphire 
  • 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.
  • Any time of year look out for Lancastrian whitebeam and take in the fine views over Morecambe Bay.

What makes Humphrey Head so special?

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 nature reserve but has some old stunted oak trees and in spring is a carpet of bluebells and wood anemones.

Plant life

The nature reserve's close proximity to the sea, combined with the underlying limestone rock give rise to an unusual combination of plants.

Rare plants such as spiked speedwell and spotted cat’s ear are found here further north than any other populations.

On the cliff top, the flora improves each year thanks to grazing and fertiliser-free management: limestone bedstraw, green-winged orchid, common and hoary rock-rose, wild thyme and blue moor-grass all grow well.  Here the limestone grassland is grazed.  Where the sheep cannot reach bloody cranesbill and spiked speedwell grow. 

Further down, bloody crane’s-bill and spiked speedwell succeed out of the reach of sheep, while Lancastrian whitebeam is abundant on the cliffs.

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.

Look out for small outcrops of limestone pavement and the wind-blown hawthorn trees.

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:

From Grange-over-Sands take B5277 towards Flookburgh. Just beyond Allithwaite turn left, cross the railway, turn left again and follow 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 without blocking the track as rescue vehicles require access at all times. The reserve is reached by walking up the drive of the field centre and bearing right. Parking is also possible on the beach at the road end.

By bicycle:

The reserve is 1km/0.6miles from National Route 700  The Bay Cycleway.

By public transport:

Trains run from Barrow-in-Furness, Ulverston, Grange-overSands and Lancaster to Kents Bank. Buses run from Cartmel and Grange-over-Sands to Allithwaite and Kents Bank.

Contact us

Pete Jones
Contact number: 01539 816300

Environmental designation

Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)

Upcoming events at Humphrey Head Nature Reserve

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