Tarn Sike

A wild open place, Tarn Sike's lime-rich flushes support orchids, bird's-eye primrose and other plants.


Near Orton
CA10 3SQ

OS Map Reference

OS 1:50,000 Sheet No. 91
Grid reference NY 665 076
A static map of Tarn Sike

Know before you go

3 hectares

Entry fee

All donations are gratefully received.

Parking information

No designated parking

Bicycle parking


Grazing animals

Cattle graze between September and March

Walking trails

The reserve itself is very wet and walking can be difficult due to the tussocky nature of the ground. Tarn Sike itself has deep water and other parts of the reserve may be extremely wet. There are no paths around the reserves, however there is a footbridge over the Sike.


Walking can be difficult on wet and tussocky ground.


Guide dogs only
Assistance dogs only

When to visit

Opening times

Open at all year round

Best time to visit

April to July

About the reserve

Wildlife highlights

  • Mallard, redshank, curlew, snipe, meadow pipit and skylark have all nested on the nature reserve and are frequently seen during the breeding season.

  • Teal and short-eared owl may be seen in winter.

  • An assortment of attractive orchids including fragrant, early marsh and northern marsh brighten the limestone grassland in summer  
  • In spring curlew, skylark and other birds start to nest
  • Summer is a great time for marsh orchid and bird's-eye primrose
  • Visit towards dusk in autumn to catch the starling roost

Wide-ranging habitat

Taking its name from the stream that flows flows through the nature reserve, Tarn Sike has a wide range of habitats.  This is due to the combined effect of the underlying peaty soils and limestone rock.

Areas of heath with Sphagnum moss, purple moor-grass and cross-leaved heath combine with lime-rich flushes containing cottongrass, black bog-rush, grass-of-Parnassus and bird’s-eye primrose.

You can also find bogbean, round-leaved sundew, butterwort, marsh marigold, meadowsweet and marsh cinquefoil. This is an excellent site for finding some quite uncommon sedges.


The wealth of flowers attracts many butterflies including common blue, green-veined white and small heath. In addition, emperor and fox moths can be found. 

From the lime-rich flushes we have records of 15 different species of snail.  We suspect that there is quite a rich invertebrate fauna here but much more work is needed.

Other wildlife

Fox, hare, stoat and short-tailed vole have been seen on the nature reserve.

What makes Tarn Sike nature reserve so special?

Nationally important Tarn Sike is part of Sunbiggin Tarn and Moors SSSI, which is nationally important for its rich and varied flora and for its breeding birds.

Keeping it special

In order to maintain the diversity of habitats and species, the nature reserve is grazed between September and March.

The effects of this management are monitored via vegetation surveys and fixed-point photography.

Recent history

Tarn Sike was purchased in 1981 with the help of an anonymous donation.

Getting here

By car: 

From M6 Junction 38 take the B6260 through Tebay to Orton.  In Orton take the right turn signed for Raisebeck and follow the sign for Sunbiggin Tarn, Asby and Soulby. Follow this road until a cattle grid is crossed and the road becomes open fell. Tarn Sike is reached by following the boundary wall on the north side of the road for approx 300m.

By bicycle:

Tarn Sike nature reserve is on National Route 68 Walney to Wear.

By public transport:

Buses run from Kendal and Tebay to Orton.

Contact us

Andrew Walter
Contact number: 01539 816300

Environmental designation

Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Special Areas of Conservation (SAC)

Upcoming events at Tarn Sike Nature Reserve

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