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Whitelee Moor National Nature Reserve

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Whitelee Moor National Nature Reserve is one of Britain’s most important upland nature reserves, of European conservation importance due to its active blanket bog and heather heaths. It is owned and managed by Northumberland Wildlife Trust and can be visited by the public. The blanket bog is home to a variety of plants including sphagnum moss, cloudberry, bog asphodel and cotton grass. The River Rede rises on Whitelee just to the west of Carter Bar.

On the lower slopes the heather moorland is home to birds such as red grouse and birds of prey including merlin, buzzard, peregrine falcon, hen harrier and occasional visiting osprey from Kielder. One of the moor’s most striking insects is the day-flying northern eggar moth and butterflies such as ringlet, small heath and green-veined white are seen in summer. Skylark, stonechat and meadow pipit are common across the reserve, while on the high ground, dunlin and golden plover arrive in spring to breed.

The River Rede and its tributaries add to the habitat diversity and otters can often be seen hunting along its banks. Adder and common lizard are common here as well as palmate newts in the small pools along the burn. A herd of feral goats can sometimes be seen on the border with Kielderhead and are celebrated by a new sculpture on Whitelee Moor at Carter Bar. There are interesting wet flush areas with plants such as early marsh orchid. High up the Bateinghope Burn, near Buzzard Crag, are two sets of limekilns, which burned limestone from a nearby quarry and mine.

The Project
The project involved habitat creation and restoration work, as well as improving access to areas of the reserve, providing safe and easy access to parts of the site and carefully encouraging exploration further afield. It included:

  • Improved access from Carter Bar layby to provide a short easily accessible route to a viewing area near the source of the River Rede looking across to Catcleugh Reservoir and the Rede valley. This included creating a boardwalk leading to a goat sculpture by Amble blacksmith artist Stephen Lunn and new interpretation ‘monolith’ panels.
  • An improved footpath for hill walkers from Carter Bar to the viewpoint as far as Carter Pike. The domed cairn at Carter Pike was rebuilt to provide an attractive ring bench dry stone seat by waller Jonny Lloyd.
  • At the new woodland plantation near Catcleugh reservoir the small circular path was improved and a better link provided to gain access to the hill. A small lay-by type car parking area was created to assist visitor access, two interpretation panels added and the path was waymarked.
  • There was extensive peatland restoration which involved reprofiling of erosion scars and blocking of drainage ditches, or ‘grips’ to slow water runoff, control erosion, encourage regrowth of sphagnum moss and prevent loss of soil and carbon.
  • New woodland planting.
  • Creation of a new walk leaflet with 3 walks in the Whitelee Moor and Catcleugh Reservoir area – see our Discover page for more info and links to download the walk leaflets.