Bowness on Solway Nature Reserve

Mallards by Tony RichardsThis 18 acre reserve, on the edge of the Solway Firth, was a gravel pit but now has areas of grassland, scrub and woodland in addition to ponds. The former gravel extraction industry left its mark on the landscape in the form of mounds, pools, and pits.

The ponds provide a habitat for frogs, toads, and smooth and crested newts as well as dragonflies (red, common and ruddy darter) and common blue hawker damselflies with wingspans up to 95mm. Moorhens and mallards find these areas just right for nesting. Watermint and forget-me-nots flower on the pool edges. Other wet area plants include water plantain and branched burr reed. Welsh poppies bloom near one of the pools.Moorhen and chicks by Charles Winpenny

In the summer the ponds dry up and become a habitat for rushes and sedges. The northern marsh orchids grow in abundance in the marshes as do marsh pennywort, marsh willow herb, and marsh thistle.

The grassland area is home to 23 different grasses (including yorkshire fog, cocksfoot, meadow foxtail, and tufted hair grass) and many different species of flowers. Among the plants are bird's-foot trefoil, yellow rattle, yellow tormentil, silverweed, speedwell, and common spotted orchid. Yellow iris decorate one poolside.

Hawthorn branch in bloom by Tony RichardsMore far ranging are hawthorn and gorse (its flowers smell like coconut) in the scrub and woodland areas. Willow and birch are widespread and along with the hawthorn and gorse cover about half the reserve.

Birds are year round residents of the reserve and are more numerous in early summer. In autumn hawthorne and himalayan cotoneaster berries are a magnet for the thrushes. Other species include the bullfinch, willow warbler, linnet, and willow tit. Moorhen, teal, and mallard can be spotted.

Red admiral butterfly by Tony RichardsFifteen species of butterflies inhabit the reserve in the summer, including the large skipper, peacock, red admiral, small tortoiseshell, and ringlet. Others include the wall brown, small copper, meadow brown, and sometimes painted ladies.

There are boardwalk paths through the reserve, and a trail guide is available.

Location: B5307 to Kirkbridge; turn right for Anthorn and Bowness on Solway; after the river crossing turn right at the junction and then first left to Bowness on Solway village; turn left in village and reserve is found after Big lands house abut 1.25km; park on verge.

Open to non-members of Cumbria Wildlife Trust

Photos courtesy of Tony Richards , Charles Winpenny

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