Welcome to Low Barns!
Low Barns is a valuable wetland reserve and one of County Durham’s most important wildlife sites, located adjacent to the River Wear.
The reserve has become important for wildlife due to the wide range of habitats including wet woodland, grassland, open water and river side, which are home to many different types of birds, mammals, plants and insects.
However, Low Barns has not always been a haven for local wildlife. Originally farmland, the site underwent sand and gravel extraction until 1964 when the area was given to Durham Wildlife Trust and restored as a nature reserve. In 2003 a redundant sewage treatment works on the site was replaced with a new reedbed habitat and a boardwalk which enabled public access with minimal disturbance to wildlife.
The site’s flat terrain and large accessible bird hides make it an ideal place to visit for everyone.
For further information on Low Barns nature reserve view the reserves page here.
The visitor centre has a coffee shop that sells light refreshments, books, gifts, locally made bird boxes and a full range of bird food and feeders from the award winning Vine House Farm. Logs and charcoal produced sustainably by Durham Wildlife Trust are also sold.
The centre and bird hides provide a wealth of information on how Low Barns was created and the wildlife it supports. Screens in the centre show images from the bird feeding station and bird boxes around the site, and there is a display of wildlife photography provided by the Low Barns Photography Group.
Mobility scooter now available!!!
We now have a mobility scooter available at Low Barns free to use for all visitors. The scooter, in memory of Phyllis Hornsey, DWT’s former Vice President, who sadly passed away in 2013, has been acquired thanks to recent generous public donations, legacy bequests, a raffle and tombola at Low Barns and multiple additional funding including a recent grant from Durham Universities Charities Kommittee (DUCK) who provided a £500 contribution. Thanks to the funds, DWT has also purchased a canopy for the scooter, suitable storage at the reserve, insurance and training for the reserves teams. Pre-booking is advisable but not essential, please call DWT HQ on 0191 5843112 during office hours. There is no charge to borrow the scooter, just leave your car keys as a deposit.
Our Opening Times
1st April – 31st October
9.30am – 5pm, Monday – Sunday and Bank Holidays
1st November – 31st March
9.30am – 4pm, Monday – Sunday
Reserve and centre opening hours over Christmas: the visitor centre and barrier at Low Barns will be closed all day Christmas Day and Boxing Day. It’s business as usual on New Year’s Day so come, enjoy a walk to blow away the cobwebs and herald in the year.
West Pasture Hide
The West Pasture hide is used throughout the year as a classroom. The hide is a fantastic resource for people of all ages and is used for environmental education. For a list of dates when the West Pasture hide is closed to the public please visit the Low Barns volunteer website.
Things to see and do at Low Barns
Low Barns is a fantastic place to come and see a whole range of plants, butterflies, birds and dragonflies in a variety of wetland and woodland habitats. It will take approximately one hour to walk from the visitor centre around the 1.2 mile circular route which takes in Marston Lake, the main focus of the reserve. The paths are well-surfaced and wheelchair accessible throughout, as are all the bird hides and boardwalk.
Find out more about:
Low Barns Volunteers
Low Barns is a hub for the Low Barns Volunteer Task Force – a team of volunteers that manage the western reserves for both wildlife and people.
The visitor centre is also staffed by a fantastic team of volunteers both during the week and at weekends. For more information on volunteering visit the Low Barns volunteer website.
Low Barns Wildlife Watch Group
Wildlife Watch is the junior branch of the Wildlife Trusts and the UK’s leading environmental action club for kids. For more information on the Low Barns Watch group and meetings please click here.
Entrance to the reserve is free but there is a £2.50 parking charge for non-Durham Wildlife Trust members.
How to Find Us
Have a look at the Traveline North East website to plan your journey.
The reserve is located west of Bishop Auckland, close to the A68. From the A68 follow the brown signs through the village of Witton-le-Wear, turning right at the Victoria public house. Once over the level crossing, the centre is half a mile along the road on the right. From A689 the reserve is three-quarters of a mile west of High Grange or simply type our postcode DL14 0AG into your sat nav.
Durham Wildlife Trust
Low Barns Nature Reserve
Telephone: 01388 488728