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Out and About - Cumbria

[]Cumbria is predominantly rural and contains the Lake District, considered one of England's most outstanding areas of natural beauty.

A large area of the south east of the county is within the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Much of Cumbria is mountainous, and it contains every peak in England over 3,000 feet (910 m) above sea level, with Scafell Pike at 3,209 feet (978 m) being the highest point of England.

The northern part of Cumbria is the Solway Firth which forms part of the border between England and Scotland, between Cumbria (including the Solway Plain) and Dumfries and Galloway. It stretches from St Bees Head, just south of Whitehaven in Cumbria, to the Mull of Galloway, on the western end of Dumfries and Galloway.

The coastline is characterised by lowland hills and small mountains. It is a mainly rural area with fishing and hill farming (as well as some arable farming) still playing a large part in the local economy, although tourism is increasing.

The Solway Coast was designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1964.

Here are some useful websites:

Bowness-on-Solway Nature Reserve

[]Bowness-on-Solway Nature Reserve is a little gem; it's just up the road from RSPB Campfield Marsh in the north of Cumbria next to Solway Firth.

It's an old gravel pit that has become a wonderful site for wildlife, despite its relatively small size. It's a series of small pits that have filled with water and scrub has grown around. Walk ways have been built, but it's not very accessible if you have mobility issues.

Saw some great insects here with Butterflies and Dragons on the wing, worthy of a visit.

Campfield Marsh Nature Reserve

[]Campfield Marsh Nature Reserve is in the north of Cumbria on the edge of the Solway Firth. It is made up of saltmarsh, peatbogs, farmland and wet grassland providing homes for a great variety of native wildlife. Trails lead to a wheelchair accessible hide looking out over the main wet grassland area where Waders such as Lapwings, Redshanks and Snipe breed in the summer and thousands of Swans, Ducks and Geese spend the winter.

There is also an accessible pond where you can do pond dipping and a great "Discovery Area" for the kids.

This a great reserve and I really enjoyed walking around here, I visited in the summer and can understand how large numbers of birds would be here in the winter with it being so close to the Solway Firth.

There are plenty of Wild Flowers, Butterflies, Dragonflies and other great Insects if you get bored with the birds.

Hodbarrow Point Reserve

[]The Hodbarrow Point Reserve, owned by the RSPB, is located between the coastal town of Millom and the village of Haverigg and is situated where the River Duddon meets the Irish Sea.

The area was once the site of one of the world's richest haematite iron ore mines. Today the mines are flooded and are home to a holiday village and water ski centre and the RSPB Nature reserve. All that remains of the iron works is the vast sea wall around the nature reserve.

Hodbarrow Lagoon is the largest stretch of coastal open water in north-west England. Large numbers of wading birds and waterfowl can be seen. Common, Sandwich and Little Terns can be sighted from the hide on the sea wall as well as other Water birds and Waders.

The hide is a bit bleak and looks a little un-welcoming but gives you some stunning views, but a bit too far to use a camera.

Apart from the Lagoon there are plenty of scrub and bushes, plenty of wild flowers and insects, so a great place to visit.

Latterbarrow Nature Reserve

[]The Reserve is quite small and the bridleway can be used to make a short circular walk around the reserve (0.5km/0.3 miles). Paths are unsurfaced and steep in places. There is a seat overlooking the main grassland area.

Despite its size, Latterbarrow is home to an amazing variety of plants with over 200 species recorded. The underlying limestone rock, combined with a mix of grassland, ash and hazel woodland and scrub provides a variety of habitats. Yew and the rare Lancastrian whitebeam are particular features of the woodland, but the flower-rich grassland steals the show.

With early-purple orchid and cowslips opening the sequence in May, greater butterfly and fragrant orchids follow in June, and the display becomes even more colourful in July. By varying the timing of the grazing, flowers set seed periodically, which ensures the continuing diversity in the grassland. The resulting abundance of nectar makes Latterbarrow a haven for insect life.

The abundant nectar and habitat diversity also make the nature reserve a haven for insect life, which is why I visit. Apart from the stunning views, wild flowers and birds there are butterflies including the Northern Brown Argus, and later Silver washed and Dark green Fritillaries.

Latterbarrow lies just off the A590 between Grange-over-Sands and Kendal at Witherslack. Take the turning signposted Witherslack. Pass the Derby Arms and turn immediately left onto the former A590. The reserve entrance lies about 0.3km/0.2 miles along the old road, where a bridleway is signposted to the right.

Meathop Moss

[]I originally came here to see the large heath butterfly, but if you like your plants and insects you will love this place!

I did find it very difficult to find as there is no signposts from the main road A590, so do take a map. Once you find the entrance and park up, there is a path that leads from the road to the open mire with information boards along the route. The path is fairly level and involves sections of boardwalk, wood-chip and unsurfaced path.

Take care! Be aware of adders and ticks. The ground off the path is very soft and there are filled holes and deep water. Stay on the path, it is easy to be tempted to leave the path to take pictures, but please don't!

Sphagnum mosses, sundews, bog-rosemary, bog asphodel and cross-leaved heath create a colourful carpet that's speckled with the white heads of cottongrass in early summer. These specialist plants draw over 200 species of butterfly and moth.

Stunning place!

Smardale Gill

[]The original reason for visiting Smardale Gill is that it is one of the only two sites in England that's home to the Scotch Argus butterfly. But what a stunning place and there so much more to see, not only wildlife but geology and railway history. The reserve provides 6km/3.5 miles of level walking and connects with a number of public footpaths. Walk across the grade 2 listed viaduct with breathtaking views. This can be accessed from the car park along the main track.

Please keep to the main footpaths. You can make a circular route by using other footpaths and bridleways, which may be narrow, steep or muddy in places. Please refer to an OS map for navigation.

Stunning scenery provides a backdrop to this wonderfully varied nature reserve that stretches from Newbiggin-on-Lune almost as far as Kirkby Stephen. The species-rich grassland attracts a variety of pollinating insects and the industrial archaeology of the railway line adds constant interest. The steep wooded slopes of Smardale Gill and the enclosed cuttings along the Waitby Link contrast with the views of open rolling countryside experienced along the route. Smardale Nature Reserve now comprises three separate nature reserve that collectively occupy a 8km/5mile section of the disused railway line that once ran from Tebay to Darlington.

The woodland has probably been present since medieval times and plants such as bluebells, primroses, wild garlic and ferns carpet the ground in spring. The grassland, which has colonised the railway cutting and embankments, is species-rich due to the underlying limestone and is managed by grazing in winter. The Trust first purchased land at Smardale Gill in 1978, however there have been a number of subsequent acquisitions. The railway line was purchased from British Rail in 1991. The disused Smardale Gill Viaduct is owned by the Northern Viaduct Trust and urgent repair work was completed in February 2015. The site became a National Nature Reserve in 1997.

Walney Island

[]Walney lies off the south-west coast of Cumbria in the Irish Sea, at the western end of Morecambe Bay. It is eleven miles long from north to south, but never more than a mile wide from east to west, with spits at either end. The channel separating it from the Great Britain mainland is also narrow, and named Walney Channel. The northern portion of the channel opens into the Duddon Estuary and is both narrower and shallower. The southern half of the channel is wider and is regularly dredged to allow shipping to access the Port of Barrow. This half opens into Morecambe Bay and includes a number of small islands, of which Barrow Island, Roa and Piel are inhabited.

The island's northern and southern ends are both nature reserves, consisting of salt-marsh, shingle, sand dunes and brackish ponds. South Walney, in particular, is home to a wide number of birds, many of which use the island as stop whilst migrating. To the north, the island provides a habitat for Natterjack Toads, as well as the 'Walney Geranium', found only on the island. The island's west coast is characterised by wide sandy beaches, whilst its east coast is more built up, facing the narrow and muddy Walney Channel.

Since 2005, the coast off Walney has become a centre for the construction of offshore wind farms. In total, four wind-farms have been built or are under construction off the island's west coast with a total of just under 300 turbines.

I would say at this point I wasted a lot of time searching for the reserves especially the northern one and would recommend a local map as there was very few if no signs or directions from the main road.

Here are some useful websites:

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