To help you explore what the reserve has to offer, way-marked trails start from the Field Centre.
There are three circular routes to help you Explore and Discover the different aspects of the reserve.
The Field Centre is the hub of the Reserve. It is from here that visitors can find out what is happening, which species are being seen and sit down to see the birds in the back garden.
School children use this area as a base when they visit. There is an observational bee hive where you can view the bees within the combs and also see if you can spot the Queen Bee. You will find trail guides to help you and other information to enable you to enjoy your visit.
The Tower and Octagonal Hides give great views of the lake and its surroundings. The edges of the lake are rich in flowers such as Flag Iris, Mimulus, Water Forget-me-not and Spearwort. Mallard, Tufted Duck, Moorhen and Coot nest here each year and Kingfisher are regularly seen feeding upon the small fish.
If you are lucky you may see Roe Deer in the Larch plantation to the right or Water Voles swimming between the banks of the lake and the islands.
A tributary of the River Swale, Risedale Beck runs along the south-eastern side of the Reserve. The beck runs through deciduous woodland which has been growing here for at least 400 years. One of the features of this area is the south-facing hazel coppice. Here in the spring you will find banks of Bluebell, Primrose, Dog Violet and Wood Anemone. A coppice is managed by cutting trees such as Hazel and Willow down to ground level during the winter season. The straight stems which re-grow can be used for a variety of purposes. Coppicing a bank such as this ensures a light, open canopy of leaves, vital for the flora beneath.
This small area is rich in plant and insect species including Common Spotted Orchids and Wasp Beetles. The day flying red and black Five-spot Burnet moths are found here. Nightjar and Woodcock have bred here in summer. Later in the year the flowering heather turns the ground purple and bees use the nectar to make honey. Great-crested Newts breed here every year.
This area was created from a patch of wet moorland in 2009. There is a series of field drains and ditches which, on average, are no deeper than 60cm. Snipe, Redshank, Oystercatcher and Lapwing are seen in the spring. Swallows, Swifts and House Martins swoop over the water catching insects. There is a rich abundance of dragonflies and damselflies including the Broad-bodied Chaser, a species which is extending its range northwards. Frogs, toads and newts can be found everywhere. Marsh Stitchwort, Adder's Tongue and Marsh Cinquefoil are notable plant species. In the summer this area is grazed by Dexter cattle.
With views across to Barden Moor this piece of the Reserve is managed by grazing during the latter part of the summer. There are several spring-fed pools and areas of raised fen which are springy with Sphagnum Moss and are home to Grass of Parnassus, Common Spotted Orchid and the insectivorous Butterwort.
The Willow Carr is the largest such area in Swaledale. ‘Carr’ is an old Norse word for swamp, which lets you know that this is a very wet area. It is managed by coppicing. As the Willow is regularly cut down open glades and rides are created which warm up and are home to many insects, including butterflies. Because of this the Willow Carr is home to numerous birds such as Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Bullfinch. Willow Warblers winter in Africa and return here every year to breed. Because of the ringing scheme we know that individual birds have returned here as many as eight times.
This series of interconnected ponds was created in 1993. Schools use this area to go pond-dipping and exploring, catching such creatures as Water Scorpion, Great Diving Beetle, Pond Skater and Leech. This area is rich in wild flowers and there are reed beds which are home to Moorhen and roosts of Reed Bunting. You may be lucky to see a Water Vole swimming across a pond or put up a Heron who was fishing in this beautiful area.
There are various small meadows throughout the Reserve. Each one has its own unique flora. This meadow behind the Scrapes, in late July, is dominated by Pepper Saxifrage, Tormentil, Knapweed and Devil’s Bit Scabious.
There are various small meadows throughout the Reserve. This area is a patchwork of Betony, Hedge Woundwort, Marsh Valerian and the airy flowers of the many grasses. They have an abundance of butterflies, hoverflies, bees, spiders and beetles that either feed on the nectar or each other!