18 December 2020
Want to know where to see Ospreys in the Lake District? Or where the best place to see Red Squirrels in Cumbria is? Read on to discover two of our favourite spots in the Lake District to see wildlife.
Near Witherslack in the South Lakes, Foulshaw Moss is a small Wildlife Trust reserve at just 350 hectares. It’s known best for a pair of nesting Ospreys that can be spotted soaring high above the moss. It’s free to visit for everyone and the Wildlife Trust volunteers are on hand with all sorts of facts about the birds. The pair have been nesting here every year since 2014. Nesting during the summer months (March to late August/ September) before migrating to their wintering grounds in Autumn, most likely West Africa or Europe. From the car park area there is a fully accessible circular route which crosses the bog land on a boardwalk and then uses the main track to return (0.8km/0.5 miles). Visitors may walk elsewhere on the reserve, but walking may be difficult due to uneven ground and deep water.
Although it may be small, Foulshaw Moss is a year-round haven for all sorts of wildlife in the Lake District. As one of Western Europe’s rarest and most threatened habitats it is classed as an SSSI, giving this precious peat bog special protection. Dragonflies and damselflies can be seen in vast numbers in summer around the many pools as well as sunbathing adders and lizards. Twitchers can spot the elusive water rail, stonechat, teal, and snipe from the boardwalk hides with huge migrations arriving in winter. Red deer can also be seen from the raised platform, rutting in autumn.
To get to Foulshaw Moss by car follow the A590 from Newby Bridge to Meathop. At the roundabout turn left and continue towards Kendal. After the junction for Witherslack continue for 0.6km/0.4 miles. The track to the reserve car park is on the right following brown signs. Parking is free for visitors, there are no amenities.
Foulshaw Moss is an incredibly peaceful nature reserve where there’s something for everyone. Bring your binoculars along with a flask of tea and see what you can find. Why not combine it with a trip to Sizergh Castle?
Further north, Whinlatter Forest Park lies a 10-minute drive to the west of Keswick. It is England’s only true mountain forest, planted after WW1 to combat the timber shortage. There’s no shortage of things to do at Whinlatter with its own Go Ape, fantastic walking paths, ‘WildPlay’ children’s activities and the longest purpose-built mountain bike trails in the Lake District. It’s one of the best places to go hiking in the Lake District, with easy to follow paths suitable for all sorts of different abilities.
At the visitor centre you can see the Osprey Camera with live footage from the ospreys’ nearby nesting site. But we didn’t come all this way to watch a screen, who doesn’t want to see the real thing? Grab a map from the visitor centre and take one of the nine walking trails in search of a wildlife sighting. It’s best to have a decent pair of binoculars and tread carefully through the forest to avoid frightening the wildlife.
Whinlatter has stunning views over Bassenthwaite, a long-standing home for nesting Osprey’s which can also be seen from nearby Dodd Wood. As well as Osprey, red squirrel’s also call Whinlatter Forest home. The Lake District is one of the last remaining strongholds for red squirrels in the UK after the rapid decline in numbers resulting from the introduction of grey squirrels. They can be seen more easily here than in other parts of the Lakes because of feeding stations around the forest, encouraging them out in to the open. Here you can also see deer in the forest, but you must be very quiet as they spook easily.
For a more certain animal experience in the Lake District why not try Alpaca trekking? Alpacaly Ever After offer 2 hour experiences with these friendly South American fur balls. Prices start at £35 per person on a mixed group walk, with 1 alpaca per person. Hikes take place through the beautiful Whinlatter Forest as well as several other spots in the Lake District.
Whinlatter Forest is open to visitors from 8:30am – 8:30pm. Parking is £2.20 for an hour (+0.45 per additional hour) or £8 all day, the money goes towards maintaining the forest and the facilities that are on site. It runs a pay on exit system, you can pay with cash, a debit/ credit card, or online up to 24 hours after your visit. Siskins Café is open daily serving hot and cold meals and delicious homemade treats. The café is also a great place to spot birds with huge feeding stations near the main entrance. There are free public toilets available at the visitor centre.
Visit Foulshaw Moss or Whinlatter Forest between March and early September for the nesting Ospreys, or Whinlatter in early spring for the best chance to see red squirrels. Whenever you visit you are sure to enjoy the wonderful wildlife the Lake District has to offer at these two beautiful spots.
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