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Low Barns Nature Reserve & Visitor Centre (Durham)

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Forty hectare nature reserve located in County Durham.

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      19.01.2010 19:07
      Very helpful



      A hidden gem in the Durham countryside.

      Low Barns Nature Reserve is another of my favourite places to visit. Situated at Witton-le-Wear, the Nature Reserve is under an hour's drive away from the city of Durham.
      It is signposted from the A689 between Crook and Bishop Auckland and also from Witton-le-Wear on the A68 between Darlington and Consett. As it is also very near to the beautiful Hamsterley Forest, you can easily combine your visit to Low Barns Nature Reserve with a trip to the forest also.

      The postcode for SatNav is DL14 0AG.

      About Low Barns :-

      Low Barns is owned by Durham Wildlife Trust and is a 50 hectare wetland site which lies alongside the River Wear. It also contains woodland and grassland.
      Low Barns was developed following gravel extraction along the banks of the River Wear. Previously farmland, the gravel extraction ended in 1964 and the former owners allowed the Trust to take over and manage the
      water-filled pools for wildlife. In the intervening time, the habitat developed both naturally and also by design. The reserve is now a designated 'Site of Special Scientific Interest'.

      Wetland features include three lakes with interconnecting streams mature ponds and wetland areas.The River Wear flows through the reserve.
      There are grassland and woodland includes mature alder wood which was caused by the River Wear changing its course during the Great Flood of 1771.

      Low Barns is a breeding habitat for many species of birds and visitors may also catch a glimpse of Otters and Stoats as well as Roe Deer.

      Visiting Low Barns :-

      I first came across Low Barns a number of years ago whilst visiting nearby Hamsterley Forest and have returned to visit many times since.
      It really is a hidden little gem I found simply by noticing one of those brown tourist signs saying Low Barns with a little duck alongside. It was only half a mile away and as it was a lovely summer's day I decided to take a drive along and see what it was.

      Tucked away along a narrow lane you will find the entrance and car park. Whilst admission to the reserve is free, you will have to pay £2 to park your car which is fair enough.
      Visitors are well catered for and this has improved over the years with a larger car park and a modern visitor centre, with a cafe, information, and strategically placed web cams giving good views of the birds and their nests. Next to the car park there is a well stocked feeding station, allowing visitors to observe a whole array of birds.

      Whilst there is a cafe in the visitor centre, you can take a picnic if you prefer. I have always taken a picnic - even in the autumn! It is a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

      From here, you can take a stroll along the 2 mile perimeter pathway around the reserve. I have walked around here many times with my family enjoying the lakes and ponds. When my daughter's were younger they loved spotting butterflies, dragonflies and frogs, as well as stopping off at the many bird hides along the way, where they loved going into the hides, looking out over the lakes, whilst keeping an eye out for a glimpse of an Otter!

      Visiting Low Barns is a great way to introduce your children to nature and also in the summer there are a variety of activites and workshops taking place run by volunteers including charcoal burning. Adults can also volunteer to help out throughout the year with path laying and woodland management etc.

      You can also walk down to the River Wear, where we have found rocks to sit on and often stuck our toes in the water on a warm summer's day.
      Wooden benches are also scattered around the reserve and there is nothing nicer than to find a quiet spot and relax, particularly looking out over Marston Lake, enjoying the surrounding scenery and habitat on a warm day when the reserve is alive with birdsong.

      Of course you can visit Low Barns throughout the year, appreciating the changes of the seasons. I have also enjoyed a walk around the reserve in the Autumn watching the golden red leaves falling from the trees.

      I would recommend you take your camera if you visit. Low Barns is visited by keen photographers and bird watching enthusiasts, but it is a lovely place for the casual visitor to capture a few photographs of the scenery and wildlife also.
      The bird life here is varied and includes the spectacular Kingfisher. In summer, the resident bird populations are increased by the summer migrants, including Redstart, Pied Flycatcher and several warbler species. In winter, large numbers of wildfowl can be seen, including Tufted Duck, Mallard and Mute Swan. Grey heron visit in large numbers at various times of the year.

      I can thoroughly recommend a visit to Low Barns Nature Reserve, whether you are a wildlife enthusiast or just enjoy a stroll around some beautiful habitat in the countryside. The reserve is also accessible for wheelchairs. Dogs are allowed but must be kept under control at all times.
      While access to the reserve can be made at any time, the visitor centre is open 10.00am - 4.00pm, 7 days a week in summer and at weekends in

      For more info tel :- 01388 488 728 or email :- info@durhamwt.co.uk


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