If you’re wild about wildlife then Northumberland is most definitely the place to be. Our diverse countryside of rolling hills, dales, moorlands, woodlands, forests, rivers, lakes and our coastline are teaming with wildlife and any drive or walk through Northumberland will undoubtedly mean you can easily spot some of our slightly wilder residents.
Our nature reserves are second to none, and each one with it’s own unique offering. Kielder Water & Forest Park provides a huge variety of habitats from marshy grasslands and bogs to woodland which attract an impressive amount of wildlife including badgers, roe deer, otters, red squirrels, shrews, pine martins, foxes, several species of bat, woodland birds and birds of prey, including ospreys. Of course the offering doesn’t stop at birds and animals, the insects, grasses and wildflowers come into their own at certain times of year, don’t be surprised to see the likes of yellow rattle, bird’s foot trefoil, and a variety of orchids.
The Kielder Water website is packed full of information on all their ‘residents’, their ongoing projects, such as the ‘restoring ratty project’, their own Bakethin Nature Reserve and check out their nature calendar for what you’re most likely to spot during your visit.
In North Northumberland Hauxley Nature Reserve is right next to the beach and offers one of the best wildlife watching spots in the North East. The reserve is renowned for it’s bird life and regularly attracts 140 different species a year including tree sparrow, reed bunting and bull finch to coot, moorhen and curlew. The summer offers spectacular wild flowers including viper’s bugloss, bloody cranesbill and northern marsh orchid and of course where there’s flowers you will find variety of butterflies and the reserve attracts species such as the common blue and wall brown and you may see dragonflies and damselflies on the ponds, including the common hawker and the common darter. The reserve has a circular path leading to it’s wildlife hides and lots of information boards if you’re unsure what you might have spotted.
If you’re visiting Holy Island, the Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve offers 3500 hectares of dunes, saltmarsh and mudflats and is home to a fascinating array of wildlife. The Reserve can be enjoyed all year round with Winter being the best time to see the visiting waterfowl, Autumn and Spring are the best for spotting rare birds on migration and with Summer best for the stunning flowers, butterflies and insects.
We couldn’t talk about nature in Northumberland without mentioning The Farne Islands. For any bird and wildlife enthusiast a boat trip to The Farne Islands is simply a must. The Farne Islands are home to 100,000 seabirds ranging from Eider Ducks to Artic Terns to Puffins and then if that wasn’t enough there’s the thousands of grey seals. Each Autumn hundreds of seal pups are born there and rangers are on constant ‘pup watch’ as the keep an eye on the numbers born each year! The National Trust wildlife calendar is really useful to check the best times of year to enjoy your favourite.
If you prefer something smaller that can be found while exploring the open countryside there are plenty of small reserves dotted all over Northumberland. Druridge Pools, Cresswell Pond, East Chevington, Falstone Moss, Whitelee Moor, Butterburn Flow, Greenlea Lough, Grindon Lough, Beltingham River Gravels… to name but a few. If you’re looking to pack a flask and sandwich and head on a quiet wildlife hunt then there’s lots of information on where to go and how to access them on the Northumberland Wildlife Trust website.
Even a relaxing day spent enjoying St Oswald’s Farm can bring some wonderful wild finds, heron, curlew, woodpecker, buzzards, lapwing, a huge array of garden birds and if you’re lucky you may spot a barn owl. We encourage and protect our environment however we can and in the Spring it is heartwarming to see our birdboxes being put to good use. A quick peek out of the bedroom window in Heavenfield Cottage might just bring a glimpse of a busy little wren. This year we’re hoping to create a new stumpery and look forward to seeing who’s going to join us and makes St Oswald’s their home.