Thornhope Moor

Thornhope Moor was acquired by the Philip Wayre Upland Trust in March 2012.


The 278 acre reserve, located in the Wear Valley, is surrounded by Wolsingham Moor which rises above it to the west and north.

The reserve is made up of wet rushy pasture, upland ghyll woodland with juniper (Juniperus communis), upland heath and blanket bog. Thornhope Beck runs north to south through the eastern half of the reserve. The valley of the beck has mature trees at its southern end with juniper on the slopes. Juniper is a threatened species in many areas and is an important food source for black grouse. The Trust intends to plant further parcels of woodland near the beck with the aim of improving the habitat for the black grouse and other species.

Most of the rough grazing on the reserve is a short sward of mat grass (Nardus stricta), purple moor-grass (Molinia caerulea), cotton-grass (Eriophorum vaginatum and E. augustifolium), wavy hair-grass (Deschampsia flexuosa) and soft rush (Juncus effusus). Dwarf shrub species, which are in decline in many upland areas, provide an important food source for both red and black grouse as well as providing valuable cover. With good management the dwarf shrubs on the reserve are flourishing with ling (Calluna vulgaris), bell (Erica cinerea), cross-leaved heath (Erica tetralix), bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) and cowberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea) being the main species.

The reserve is a haven for breeding waders especially curlew, redshank, snipe, lapwing and golden plover as well as black grouse, red grouse and grey partridge. The grazing is specifically managed to create a mosaic of different lengths of sward providing a diversity of growth to suit the different needs of the variety of species which visit. Bilberry, an important deciduous under shrub providing food for grouse and other birdlife, is found in abundance on the wetter areas of the moor.

Roe deer and brown hares are commonly seen on the reserve. Hares are in decline in many parts of the country and the Trust is keen to improve the habitat to ensure the survival of this enchanting and secretive mammal. Wildlife sightings together with the vibrant purple moorland at the summer’s end make this reserve a very special place.

Our supporters are always welcome to visit our reserves by prior appointment. To arrange a visit please contact us.


Latest From The Warden...

Thornhope Snow

Thornhope was lovely, if not freezing cold, with a couple of inches of the white stuff.


Thornhope Snow


(Photo 2023/12/01)



Heather burning

Nearly perfect weather for heather burning, just dry enough to go with wet ground and the wind direction was out onto grass.


Heather burning


Perfect for potential Curlew nesting sites.


“Burnt sites”






Male and female Stonechat


“Stoenchat female”




Sharp sun, sharp wind.


The pond is still shrinking


“Pond shrinking”


perhaps viewed mournfully by the Snipe on his pole.


Common Snipe




A chill east wind is blowing and the pasture is drying. Most of the birds have moved to damper edges.

The pond is certainly drying-up


“Pond drying”


But the Hawthorn has a fine blossom.


Hawthorn blossom



Grey Hen

Lots of new life on the reserve - here's a Grey Hen.


“Grey Hen”



Big World

Lapwing chick exploring the boundaries.


Lapwing and chick



Quiet Moments



Spring Partridge

Bright day but very cold wind and rain has ended any thoughts of burning for a few days.

A pair of Partridge posed but it was taken through the windscreen, so questionable quality.



A couple of Roe Deer in our ghyll the first for some time, a mature doe and her last year's youngster.

My first pair of skylarks, a good flock of lapwing and a decent lot of golden plover, everything's on the move it would seem.

Ponds are full and looking good, ready for the first bathers.




Man and machine!

About ten more wader puddles done as well as a few short lengths of drain cleared out.






What a change - water pouring out of the poor old Mole's holes.






Chilly this morning on Thornhope, about half an inch of snow.



Roe Deer fawn slot - the small size illustrated by a camera lens cap.







Drystone walling. Repairs are always required and we've recently done 87 metres - looks pretty straight as well!





A first

For the first time on Thornhope (I think) a hen harrier, which at this time of year is liable to be a transient bird. Not surprisingly the grouse were keeping a low profile.




Very Quiet

Pretty quiet on the reserve at the moment, with the odd hare, rabbit and grouse just about making up the tally, although there is a buzzard about.

However, I'm a bit concerned I've seen no partridge for weeks now, I just hope that at least one pair has managed to produce a brood in what's been a good year elsewhere.




Very Dry

It's drying up all the time, with more of the gutters now dry and the scrapes along with them.

However, it is very purple with the heather in bloom.




Taking wing

Quite few birds on the wing, or nearly there anyway, lapwing in particular. The grass in the pasture is growing and making smaller chick spotting more or less impossible, though there are a few grouse showing and the odd hare. Oyster catcher, curlew etc all making their presence known.


A little skylark that was not far off heading skyward.






Morning was very wet, but the afternoon promised to be better - and it was - the temp went up fifty per cent in five mins! Things are growing fast now, the bracken in the ghyl has shot up about a foot in a week.


It just shows what getting the sward right does, a lapwing has a brood of two on a newly cut section. A kite was loitering around, getting serious grief from a culrew and some lapwing, so it went elsewhere, leaving all in peace along with another new nesting pair of Redshank.





Bitterly Cold

Bitterly cold, only 4°C so I'm not sure what the first young lapwing I've seen hatched this morning are going to eat. It was so cold I didn't stay in one place very long as I didn't want to keep adults from brooding either eggs or chicks.


Not too cold for our first cuckoo though, calling for some time in the ghyll, so maybe summer is coming. Plenty of little easter bunnies on the go. The only splash of colour is the gorse, everything else is browned by the east wind.





Easter 2022

Our colony of lapwings are doing well, still incubating, and I spotted another two or three today on nests, taking us up to nine or ten at the pasture plus a few outwith that as well. A really good lot of curlew, maybe six pairs, so all we need now is some good weather then they all hatch.


Disturbed quite a big leveret today so it's had an early start for this far north anyway, and I saw a group of mad April hares. Everything else is settling in with a couple of pairs of wheatears, stonechats, and warblers singing in the ghyll as well as a good scattering of pipits. The usual cock pheasants are strutting their stuff and there was the occasional grouse calling.


A room with a view - the adaptable Lapwing - making a nest out of a mole hill...