This nature reserve, managed by Cumbria Wildlife Trust, is a haven for all sorts of wildlife. Waymarked trails provide a way to safely explore this peat bog. Stop to discover the pop-up panels which provide information on the plants and animals on show. Get a raised view over this expansive wetland landscape by climbing the steps of the lookout platform.
Things to do
Visit Holme Cultram to see the remains of an early Medieval abbey founded by the Cistercian Monks from Melrose Abbey on the Scottish Borders. Now used as the parish church, the Abbey contains a whole wealth of historic features and is a spectacular historic building. The interior of the Abbey is now open to visitors following its refurbishment, the exhibition and tea rooms will be opening to the public soon, so watch this space.
This is an ideal first point of call to explore and learn about the natural landscape of the Solway. The Solway Wetlands Centre is open year round, 10am to 4pm, and is packed full of useful information about wildlife. It also features a map highlighting other places to visit on the Solway Plain. The Centre has plenty of free parking, is wheelchair accessible and includes information leaflets, teas/coffees and loos on site. It is also the location of RSPB Campfield Marsh Reserve, a unique mix of different habitats. Trails from the Centre take you into the heart of the reserve where you can follow the boardwalk across Bowness Common, one of the largest peat bogs in the UK.
The picturesque village of Burgh is a great place to see a characteristic feature of the Solway landscape heritage- ‘clay dabbin’ buildings. The Solway being underpinned by soft boulder clay made it very difficult to find building materials, so many local buildings were made from dabbin- basically a frame made from wood covered by clay and sometimes pebbles or cobbles, and often thatched. Take a stroll around the village and look out for some of these interesting structures.
Just south of the village of Kirkbride is the expansive Wedholme Flow which is part of the South Solway Mosses Natural Nature Reserve. A place with an interesting history, this bog was ‘milled’ until 2005, a process involving draining and removing large amounts of peat to be sold as bedding plant compost. However, since 2007, Natural England has been working to restore this European designated Special Area of Conservation. Wedholme Flow is a fascinating place with a mix of strange colours, weird plants and rare insects. Look out for the bright red sundew plant, which has sticky leaf pads to catch and eat insects. Find oddly shaped lichens, such as the cup lichen and the red tipped matchstick lichen which look like they are straight from the pages of a fairy tale.
This National Nature Reserve is managed by Natural England and contains a beautiful mosaic of habitats, including woodland, heathland and grassland. Keep your eyes peeled and you may spot red squirrel, roe deer, brown hare or wood mouse. Badgers have setts in the wood. You will only see them at dawn and dusk, but their signs are all around in the form of large holes in the ground, trails and latrines (holes dug as toilets). The site has over 40 species of breeding bird including buzzard, tawny owl, willow tit and grasshopper warbler. Insect life is plentiful, with small pearl-bordered fritillary, purple hairstreak (up in the canopy of oak trees) and ringlet butterflies.
You can follow several miles of trails through the reserve. A Miles Without Stiles leaflet is available from Cumbria County Council which details the Chalybeate Well trail, a 2 kilometre waymarked route suitable for those with limited mobility including wheelchair users.
The Solway coastline is fringed by tidal flats and saltmarsh, created from layers of sand, silt and mud left behind by retreating tides. The saltmarsh contains lots of rare plants, specially adapted to survive the salty water brought in during high tide. Traditional cattle and sheep grazing keeps trees and gorse in check, and saltmarsh lamb is a local delicacy. Arrive during summer as a sea of flowering thrift turns the marshes pink.