Watchtree Nature Reserve is a 205 acre haven for wildlife and people. Featuring flower rich meadows, old and new woodland, miles of hedgerow and wetland habitats this a place for everyone. Wildlife is perfectly at home here and we have abundant Brown Hares, the European protected Great crested Newt, numerous breeding birds, interesting moths, stunning butterflies, secretive bats and incredible dragonflies. The nature reserve is situated within much of the former RAF Great Orton airfield (1942-53) and you can still spot airfield construction dates etched into the concrete by servicemen as you explore. The Nature reserve is easily identifiable from miles away by the wind turbines located here. More recently, this place was used during the Foot and Mouth outbreak in 2001 – and even today much of the site underground is a complex network of drains, pumps and containment walls. So, if you thought this was any ordinary nature reserve you could be forgiven.
The Watchtree Wheelers provide cycle hire for all visitors to the Reserve and the huge collection of standard and adapted cycles means there is something for everybody. You could cruise along in a KMX kart getting down to the same level as the hares and the stoats or hop on a trike so you can take in the landscape views over the tops of the bustling hedgerows.
Headway North Cumbria visited Watchtree Nature Reserve on Monday 18 July 2022. Initially 26 members had signed up for this activity but the Amber Warning for Extreme Heat on that day did, understandably, prompt a number to opt out in favour of a cooler environment and less energetic activities. In the end 11 of our members, a number of whom were visiting Watchtree for the first time, braved the 34C temperatures to cycle around the Nature Reserve.
We met up at Watchtree at 13:00. Some had a picnic in the rest area at the entrance to the Nature Reserve whilst others opted to go to the on-site café. Fuelled up for the afternoon’s exertions members then had the opportunity to select their transportation for the afternoon from a bewildering selection of bicycles, trikes, hand bikes and other adapted cycles:
Members had the opportunity to cycle around the nature reserve on a selection of paths running through beautiful scenery with spectacular views over the Northern Fells. The verges of the cycle path were a riot of colour with many wild flowers in full bloom providing an excellent backdrop for the activities.
Despite the very hot weather a good time was had by all. The more energetic did multiple tours of the circuit whilst others opted to try out a number of different cycles to see which worked best for them. Most finished by enjoying a delicious cake or an ice cream from the café.
We would like to thank the staff at the Watchtree Nature Reserve for hosting us so well and Cumbria Community Transport for providing a minibus.