Know before you go
There is an excellent network of surfaced tracks within the woodland providing access for wheelchairs and pushchairs via the southern entrance.
Access and Parking
There are several possible access points for the reserve. Follow the unsurfaced road north west from the end of River View in Blackhall Mill to the reserve entrance where limited parking is available at South View. Alternatively there is some parking at Whinney Leas in Chopwell Village. Follow the footpath west for 150m to the reserve entrance. If you are also visiting Chopwell Meadows, we recommend parking at Whittonstall Road.
There is a regular bus service from Newcastle and the Metrocentre Exchange to Chopwell but there is still a walk to the reserve entrance. Private transport is recommended.
When to visit
Opening timesOpen at all times
Best time to visitMarch to June, June to October
About the reserve
Formally an ancient semi-natural woodland, the diverse flora and fauna of this ancient oak wood remain in the woods’ steep sided gills. Streams and springs support a rich moss and fern community. Conifer plantation has replaced broadleaf woodland on the gentler slopes, but a program of restoration by the Trust now breathes new life into these areas. An extensive footpath network gets you even closer to nature.
Milkwellburn Wood, Durham Wildlife Trust’s largest woodland is a long term project, which is undertaking a process known as PAWS restorations (Plantation on an Ancient Woodland Site). The aim is to gradually remove the conifers so that the native woodland can re-establish across the site, dramatically improving the area for wildlife.
The ancient woodland is dominated by oak and ash with locally rare small leaved lime and an understory of hazel, holly and honeysuckle. The most dramatic change the restoration process triggers is the regeneration of ground flora as the conifers are removed and light can once again reach the woodland floor.
The ground flora abounds including greater woodrush, primrose, bluebell, dog’s mercury, broad-leaved helleborine and many ferns such as hart’s -tongue and lady fern.
In areas with drier sandier soils a more heathland type of community develops, with bilberry, heather, common cow-wheat and wavy-hair grass. Across the woodland there are wet flushes of birch and sallow with large bitter cress, marsh marigold, yellow pimpernel and brooklime ground flora. There are also areas of wet alder woodland.
Bird life within the wood will change as the restoration takes place, with diversity of species and numbers increasing. However, there are already some interesting things to see – tawny owl, woodcock, sparrow hawk, blackcap, garden warbler, tree pipit and willow warbler with red kite and buzzards often seen flying overhead.