Moor House, Upper Teesdale National Nature Reserve

Moor House, Upper Teesdale National Nature Reserve

Location Details


Middleton-in-Teesdale to Alston Road
Cumbria & Durham

Moor House - Upper Teesdale is one of England’s largest National Nature Reserves. It is particularly well known for the plants that originally colonised the high Pennines after the last ice age, and have survived here ever since. You can also see rare rock formations such as outcropping sugar limestone and the Great Whin Sill.

The Reserve encompasses an almost complete range of upland habitats typical of the North Pennines, from lower lying hay meadows, rough grazing and juniper wood to limestone grassland, blanket bogs and summit heaths of the high fells. Nowhere else in Britain is there such a diversity of rare habitats in one location.

Location and Access

By car - the Upper Teesdale side of the NNR can be reached from the B6277 Middleton-in-Teesdale to Alston road. The nearest car parks are at Cow Green Reservoir (along a minor road signposted from Langdon Beck), High Force, Hanging Shaw and Bowlees. Access to the Moor House side of the NNR is along minor roads from Garrigill and Knock, and then on foot or bicycle to the NNR.

By bus - a limited bus service runs from Middleton-in-Teesdale to Langdon Beck (and Cow Green on request). Phone Alston Road Garage for details and times 01833 640213. There is no bus service to the Moor House side of the Reserve.

By bike-Sustrans National Cycle route 68, the Pennine Cycleway, the Eden Valley Cycleway and the C2C all run close to the Moor House side of the NNR. Secure bike parking is available at Cow Green Reservoir, at Tees Bridge on the Garrigill to Moor House track, and at the NNR entrance on the Knock to Great Dun Fell road.

On foot – the best way to explore the Reserve is on foot. An extensive network of Public Rights of Way, including the Pennine Way national trail, cross the Reserve, and about three quarters of the NNR has been mapped as Access Land under the CRoW Act (see for details of where you can go.)

Although the wild scenery of Moor House – Upper Teesdale can be enjoyed all year round, the best time to see the beautiful arctic-alpine flora and spectacular breeding birds is between April and July.

Nature Walks

Many walks can be made around the NNR using the Public Rights of Way network - the Reserve is covered by Ordnance Survey map OL31 North Pennines. There are also three walks featured in Natural England leaflets, and three geology trails.

Widdybank Fell Nature Trail

This waymarked nature trail takes you along the side of Cow Green Reservoir to the top of Cauldron Snout waterfall, looking at the plants, birds, geology and mining history all around you. The walk is 5km and is graded moderate, following a surfaced track. It is suitable for pushchairs and wheelchairs, although there are three steep sections and the last 100m to view Cauldron Snout is over rough uneven ground accessible only to those on foot.

Waterfalls and Wildlife

This 12km walk is graded medium-difficult. It starts at Bowlees and follows the River Tees upstream past Low Force and High Force waterfalls, then heads off over the moor following the ancient “Green Trod” drove road to Holwick. On the way you may see colourful hay meadows, archaeological remains, moorland birds and stunning views. This walk is featured in 'Healthier Outlooks', a leaflet describing walks at Moor House-Upper Teesdale and other NNRs in the North East.

Up on the Ridge

This 12km walk is graded difficult, as it takes you right up onto the summit ridge of the North Pennines. It starts at the end of the public road from Knock to Great Dun Fell and takes you up past historic mining remains and geological formations to the Pennine summit ridge, where on a clear day you can enjoy spectacular views across to the Lake District in the west and over the open moorland to Cow Green reservoir and Teesdale in the east. The route is described in the 'Healthier Outlooks' leaflet.

Geology Trails

There are three geology trails on and around the Reserve, at Cow Green, Knock and Tynehead – produced in conjunction with the North Pennines AONB. These walks are all part of the Teesdale Time Trail:

Cow Green Geology Trail (4km each way)

Knock Geology Trail (9.5km)

Tynehead Geology Trail (3.5km)

To order any of these publications simply send an email to call 01388 528801 or write to North Pennines AONB Partnership, Weardale Business Centre, The Old Co-op Building, 1 Martin Street, Stanhope, County Durham DL13 2UY.

Guided Walks and Events

Every year there is an events programme which includes guided walks and activities for all – this is often to best way to see the NNR's special features without disturbing wildlife or damaging fragile plants. Why not join us to view the rare Black Grouse lek, make sense of the area's fascinating geology, or hunt for the famous spring gentian, with an expert on hand to help explain what you see?

In spring and summer, look out for our Green Guides - volunteers who are trained to help people get more out of their visit to the Reserve- they will be able to help you identify plants and birds, tell you the best place to see the gentians, or give you more information on what happens on the NNR. Green Guides are easily identified by their bright yellow waistcoats!

We also run a programme of practical conservation tasks for volunteers. If you’d like to get out and about in the fresh North Pennines air, meet new people and help to look after the NNR, why not come and join us? Work days are usually held midweek, about once a month from March to December. See the Volunteers section of Natural England's website for details on how to get involved.

Working together

The landscape of today is largely a result of traditional upland farming and heather moorland management. Work on the Reserve is an active partnership between Natural England, Raby and Strathmore estates and the local farming community. Special conservation measures include recovery programmes for juniper woodland, black grouse and yellow marsh saxifrage.

A long history of scientific research means the Reserve is the best understood upland site in the world. Today scientists from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology are investigating the effects of a changing climate on upland plant and animal communities. For more information on climate change research at Moor House-Upper Teesdale and elsewhere, visit the UK Environmental Change Network website.

For your own safety

Please keep to the waymarked routes-there are hidden mine shafts in the area. Beware of unexploded ammunition in the MOD Danger Areas.

The weather can deteriorate rapidly-carry weather-proof clothing and know how to use a map and compass.

Follow the Countryside Code, in particular, keep dogs under close control to avoid disturbance to ground nesting birds and grazing livestock.

Do not camp or light fires.

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