Hidden away in the north-west corner of the North Pennines, Geltsdale is a remote and ruggedly beautiful nature reserve where two hill farms – Geltsdale and Tarnhouse – meet. Here, you'll find upland birds like Black Grouse, breeding waders including Curlews, and birds of prey like the Hen Harrier.
Geltsdale is a patchwork of blanket bog, heath, grassland, meadows, woodland and rolling hills rising high above sea level – Cold Fell is the highest point. These habitats are home to a range of threatened wildlife. Lots of birds come here to breed, including Golden Plovers, Curlew, Ring Ouzel, Merlin and Short-eared Owl. In fact, the reserve is one of a handful of Hen Harrier nesting sites in England.
Tarnhouse Farm is one of two large farms on the reserve. Working with our tenant farmer, we manage the site for nature. Numbers of Black Grouse and breeding waders – Lapwing, Redshank and Snipe – have all risen, thanks to sensitive farming, particularly cattle grazing and wetland creation. We’re restoring the extensive blanket bogs of the moorland by reducing sheep grazing, replacing heather burning with heather cutting, and blocking off artificial moorland drains. This lets sphagnum moss – the building block of peat – recover.
A combination of natural regeneration and new planting of native species has seen large areas of new woodland grow including the Bruthwaite Pasture Woodland which extends across the hillside above Stagsike.
The reserve is an important site for research into upland habitat management and reversing the declines of threatened wildlife. We monitor key species and habitats and carry out trials to test new conservation solutions for species such as Curlew and Ring Ouzel. Our aim is to work with other farmers and land managers to increase the wildlife on their land.