Know before you go
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.