Milkwellburn Wood

Milkwellburn Wood Nature Reserve

Milkwellburn Wood

A large mixed woodland in the Derwent valley with a history of commercial planting and coal mining


Milkwellburn Wood Nature Reserve
Blackhall Mill
NE17 7TE, NE17 7JY & NE17 7LF respectively
A static map of Milkwellburn Wood

Know before you go

79 hectares

Grazing animals


Walking trails


Terrain: Easy
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.

Public Transport
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.


On a lead

When to visit

Opening times

Open at all times

Best time to visit

March 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.

Contact us

Durham Wildlife Trust
Contact number: 0191 584 3112
Contact email:

Environmental designation

Ancient Woodland
County Wildlife Site

Local children from Chopwell Primary School were invited to participate in two fun days of activities in Milkwellburn Woods in November 2019, where they learned about seasonal change and natural cycles in a woodland habitat, created wild art and discovered the strong natural connections between the local community and this special area of ancient woodland, which Durham Wildlife Trust is currently working to restore. More than one hundred children took part in two days of educational and creative activities, and this short film captures some of the fun we had.