Low Barns

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Low barns wetland centre
The reserve

The reserve

Low Barns Nature Reserve is near Witton-le-Wear village and borders on the River Wear.It covers 50 hectares and is a site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) providing a wide range of habitats including gassland,scrub, woodland and a large lake with islands.
Fascilities within the reserve include disabled access, a picnic area,butterfly garden, bird hides, covered observatory,pond-dipping platforms and a bird feeding station in the winter.A wildlife trail leaflet is also available from the centre, which is open daily from 10-5PM between April and October and from 10-4PM at weekwends from november to March.
Wetland features include three lakes, interconnecting streams, a number of mature ponds, and a wet pasture. The River Wear also flows through the reserve.
Tall vegetation such as reedmace (bulrush), meadowsweet and common marsh-bedstraw grow on the fringes of the main lake. Reedmace has thick, grass-like leaves and prominent, brown seed heads with an abundance of cotton-wool like pollen and is a common sight around wetlands in Britain.
In winter, large numbers of wildfowl can be seen, including tufted duck, mallard, little and great-crested grebes, pochard, teal, water rail, moorhen, coot and mute swan. Kingfishers with their magnificent blue and green plumage may also be seen in the summer as they swoop for fish or perch on a bank-side twig.
Nine species of dragonfly are known to breed in the wetland areas of the Reserve. Their colloquial name of "horse-stingers" is somewhat misleading as they are harmless. Look out for the large, blue and green southern hawkers. They are extremely inquisitive and if you stand still they will often fly right up to check you out.
The extensive areas of woodland contained within the reserve are varied with patches of wet alder woodland and dry mixed woodland with both evergreen and broadleaf trees. Up to 50 species of trees and shrubs can be found both in the woodlands and on the grasslands within the Reserve.

The alder woodland which has developed along the northern boundary of the site in a former channel of the River Wear is dominated by common nettle and greater chickweed, whilst scrub woodland containing alder and willows is developing on wetter areas.
The dry woodland is rich in mosses, lichens and liverworts and a weird and wonderful range of fungi can be seen here in the autumn. Look out for fly agaric, the poisonous red and white spotted toadstool associated with fairytales and magic.
In summer, the woodlands are alive with birdsong as the resident bird population swells with summer migrants. Species to look out for include redstart, pied flycatcher and several warbler species. Crossbills can also be seen in the conifers around the site.

Large expanses of the site are covered with species-rich grassland containing black knapweed, silverweed, common bird’s foot-trefoil, agrimony and yellow-rattle and extensive patches of northern marsh, common spotted and early-purple orchids. Yellow-rattle is a parasite of grass and acquires its nutrients by extracting them out of the root systems of the adjacent grasses. It has yellow flowers and brown seed cases, which are the shape of little purses or sea shells, inside which the seeds rattle when they are ripe. Bird's foot-trefoil is a rather sprawling plant of short grassland that flowers for much of the summer. It is often referred to as 'eggs and bacon' because of its orange and yellow flowers that are similar to the coloration of egg yolks. Another name for it is 'Grannies toe nails' which comes from the claw-like seed pods that are left behind after this plant has flowered.

This diversity attracts a host of butterfly species that feed on the nectar. More unusual species include brimstone, holly blue and ringlet. Brimstones are one of the few butterfly species to hibernate over winter, often in dry places such as garden sheds.

Mammals that visit or live at the Reserve include red fox and roe deer and water vole.
At this section of the River Wear otters and mink occupy the banks, whilst fox, badger and roe deer use them to travel along. Kingfisher, dipper, wagtail, goosander and moorhen are regular visitors to this stretch of the river. Dragonflies such as the red darter, common hawker and southern hawker are common, along with damselflies including the banded demoiselle. Butterflies along the riverbank are small tortoiseshell, peacock, orange tip, meadow brown and ringlet.
Click here for a location map.....

During bad weather,the reserve can attract rare visitors such as Smew
Where to watch Birds in North East England

Where to watch Birds in North East England
Bird photographs from Low Barns
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Low Barns local services
Low Barns birding walks

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