In 1997, the Foundation purchased the Hay Bridge Nature Reserve near Bouth in the southern Lake District. In 2010, the reserve was extended by the purchase of a further 30 hectares of adjacent woodland and meadow, and again in 2016 by the purchase of Hulleter Moss, taking the total holding to 94.12 hectares.
The land lies in the Rusland Valley and includes both Hulleter and Hay Bridge Mosses, part of the Rusland Valley Mosses, an active lowland raised peat bog of national significance, flanked by damp woodland and fen and designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Other habitats rich in wildlife include semi-natural ancient woodlands; part managed as coppice with standards and part as high forest; wood pasture, meadow and pastures rich in wildflowers, and two small tarns. The Rusland Valley herd of red deer ranges across the reserve, and roe deer and otter occur. So, too, do all the four reptiles native to Cumbria – adder, grass snake, slow worm and common lizard. Among the birds, specialities include redstart, pied flycatcher, siskin and osprey. There is a rich insect fauna, among which the waved carpet moth, dark green and small pearl-bordered fritillary butterflies and the beautiful demoiselle damselfly are notable.
At the heart of the reserve, the Natural History Study Centre is base to the Hay Bridge Nature Reserve Society, a registered charity founded over forty years ago, and now with around 500 members who support the reserve and enjoy rights of access and special privileges not available to the general public. The Society organises several events throughout the year around various topics of natural history. The educational facilities of the foundation are also currently centred here, where educational material and equipment is available for use by schools and groups, and an area of woodland is designated for forest school activities and green woodworking events. Enquiries should be directed to the Warden.
The road to the reserve is a no-through road, but nevertheless a by-way open to all traffic. A public footpath continues across the Rusland Valley Mosses to Rusland and a bridleway to Hulleter Farm. Members of the Hay Bridge Nature Reserve Society enjoy wider access via a network of private footpaths and hides, and have the benefit of the use of a small private car parking area.
Non-members and groups wishing to visit the reserve are asked to make prior contact with the Warden to make suitable arrangements.
All visitors are asked to walk quietly, respect the wildlife for which the reserve is managed, and whereas well-behaved dogs are welcome, they must be kept on a short lead at all times.
The resident warden at Hay Bridge is employed by the Foundation to implement land management, and he is always happy to talk about the wildlife and management, show visitors the study centre and enlist new members to the Society.
CODE OF CONDUCT FOR MEMBERS AND PRE-ARRANGED VISITORS
- Keep to the footpaths.
- Park vehicles only at the private car park and not in the various passing places along the access road; these are passing places only. NEVER drive off-road.
- Keep dogs on a lead at all times and if with a dog, do not walk near cattle. Cows with calves should especially be avoided.
- Clean up after your dog and take waste to a bin.
- Do not allow dogs to swim in the tarns or the river
- If taking photographs, please keep a respectful distance from birds and mammals. Nest boxes should not be approached closer than 10 metres, otherwise there is a risk that the birds will desert eggs or young.
- If picnicking, take all your litter home and NEVER light fires.
- Do not climb over stone walls or fences, other than at designated stiles.
- Do not climb on log piles.