Whitbarrow - Hervey Memorial Reserve

image of limestone pavement at whitbarrow hervey memorial reserve - copyright john morrison

Limestone pavement at Whitbarrow Hervey Memorial Reserve © John Morrison

With stunning views of the Cumbrian fells and Morecambe Bay, this is a great place to walk and explore. Rich in wildflowers and butterflies.


Between Kendal and Grange over Sands

OS Map Reference

OS 1:50,000 Sheet No. 97
Grid reference SD 440 870
A static map of Whitbarrow - Hervey Memorial Reserve

Know before you go

100 hectares

Entry fee

All donations are gratefully received.

Parking information

Yes but limited

Bicycle parking


Grazing animals

Rare breed cattle and sheep

Walking trails

Once on the nature reserve, the terrain is less steep and a circuit linking the two public footpaths provides a walk of approximately 2.75km/1.7 miles. Unsurfaced public footpaths on the nature reserve.


Access on public footpaths from Witherslack Hall (now Oversands School) and North Lodge involves a fairly steep climb.

Access from the east has more gentle gradients. Access from any direction involves a walk of at least 1km/0.6 miles before the nature reserve is reached.


On a lead

When to visit

Opening times

Open all year round

Best time to visit

April to August

About the reserve

Wildlife highlights

  • In spring - limestone flowers such as early purple orchids, hoary rock rose, primrose and blue moorgrass.
  • In summer - rich flora attracts four species of fritillary butterfly: high brown, pearl-bordered, small pearl-bordered and dark green.
  • Striking spikes of dark-red helleborine orchid are found around limestone pavement. 
  • Later in summer dropwort, birdsfoot trefoil, lesser meadow rue, limestone bedstraw and thyme are flowering. 
  • Skylark and wheat ear.
  • In autumn - find heather in flower, roe deer and wax cap fungi. Winter flocks of fieldfare and redwing feeding.
  • All year - fantastic views, limestone pavement and rarebreed cattle and sheep grazing.

Limestone haven

The Carboniferous limestone of Whitbarrow was laid down 350 million years ago. Across the nature reserve, which occupies 100 hectares on top of the scar and includes the summit cairn, the rock is exposed as a series of limestone pavements, low crags and scree. 

What makes Whitbarrow so special?

Far from being a rocky desert, the unique environment supports scores of plants and animals. Very thin soils over much of the site provide ideal growing conditions for a variety of plant species such as hoary rock-rose, primrose, cowslip and early-purple orchid, followed by bird’s-foot-trefoil, lesser meadow-rue, dropwort, limestone bedstraw and wild thyme later in the summer.

Blue moor-grass may seem common here but it’s extremely rare in UK. Unusual plants including rigid buckler-fern and hard shield-fern thrive in the sheltered micro-climate of the grikes.

Shelter in the limestone pavement

The limestone pavements provide sheltered places for a range of unusual plants to thrive.

You might find hart's-tongue fern, rigid buckler-fern, hard shield-fern or limestone polypody which are all abundant here. Between the limestone pavements, thicker soils allow heather and bracken to grow.

Scattered ash, birch and juniper add to the habitat mosaic of this fascinating place.

Great for butterflies

Whitbarrow nature reserve has a rich invertebrate fauna. In summer you may see four species of fritillary butterfly: high brown, dark green, pearl-bordered and small pearl-bordered, which all breed here. 

Look out also for northern brown argus, grayling, common blue and small heath butterflies. 

Other animals

Breeding birds include meadow pipit, both green and great spotted woodpecker and redstart.

Roe, and occasionally red deer, are seen at Whitbarrow nature reserve.

Keeping it special

Light year-round grazing with sheep and cattle has been re-introduced to maintain a mosaic of habitats.

Recent history

A small part of the nature reserve is owned by the Trust and the remainder is held on a long lease from the Argles family. The nature reserve was established in memory of Canon A K Hervey, a founder member of Cumbria Wildlife Trust

The enclosure, also known as Flodder Allotment, was created in the 19th century as a result of the Enclosure Acts.

Getting here

By car: 

From A590 take the road signposted for Witherslack. Follow this through the village and then for a further 2km/1.2 miles. At Witherslack Hall (now Oversands School) turn right and onto the rough track for parking. Follow the footpath across field and up the scar to the reserve. A more gentle approach is possible from The Howe or Row off the A5074, however, parking here is limited.

By bicycle:

Whitbarrow nature reserve is 3.3km/2 miles from National Route 70 Walney to Wear (W2W).

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)

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