Sizergh's wildlife walk
Sizergh is a great starting point for your Lake District holiday. The castle, still lived in by the Strickland family, is surrounded by a traditional agricultural estate with stunning views across the countryside, taking in the coast at Morecambe Bay, the Lakeland Fells and Pennines.
A spectacular wildlife walk in any season
Discover an amazing array of natural history throughout the year in this quiet corner of the South Lakes. Fritillary butterfly species fly effortlessly through the woodland glades in summer, basking and feeding in warm open areas.
Sizergh Castle car park, grid ref: SD498878
From Sizergh Castle car park, follow the orange way marker arrows labelled 'Sizergh Fell'. You will leave the car park at the southern end, through a footpath gate and into a field at the south end. This field can be very wet and muddy. Walk straight on with the wall on your left. During spring and summer buzzards and pheasants are a common sight along this stretch of footpath, as they nest in the woodland to your left.
Spot a very special visitor lurking in the trees in the car park. Hawfinches are very shy birds that are best seen in winter, when the trees have shed their leaves. In the winter months, they feed on the hornbeam seeds in the car park. Sizergh is a nationally important breeding site for the species.
Walk through the field keeping the high wall on your left. Go through the next gate into another field (which can also be very muddy). Ignore the gate to your right and keep walking onto Sizergh Fell. Wander uphill, keeping the low wall and fence on your right side. Notice the difference between the two fields either side of the fence boundary, where one has been improved.
Continue walking uphill, aiming for a clump of trees on the top. As you continue uphill towards the clump of trees at the top, you pass some hawthorn trees. These are excellent for attracting nesting birds in spring and fieldfare and redwings in winter, when they are plentiful with berries. Once at the top, there is a log bench, providing the perfect spot to stop and admire the view out to Morecambe Bay ahead of you and the Howgills and Pennines behind.
From the top, walk past the clump of trees on the right-hand side. Follow the footpath with the telephone lines on your left and the stunning Lake District Fells ahead of you. Continue across the top and then downhill until you reach a gate in the wall.
The south facing slope of Sizergh Fell has a high concentration of pre-historic sites. Look out for larger areas of loose limestone, which were historic burial sites. The bright limestone would have reflected the sun, so the burial sites could have been seen from miles around. Amongst the anthill bumps are the faint remains of a romano-British settlement.
Go through the gate and take an immediate right. There is a flat track through the field of many bumps. Head towards a wall, with a field gate and footpath gate next to each other. The bumps are actually ant hills. During the summer the fell and these fields are filled with magnificent wildflowers, bees and butterflies. You might even be able to spot a green woodpecker feeding on the ants.
Stop and listen
In the summer, Sizergh Fell is alive with life. Purple swathes of field scabius and harebells and a yellow haze of buttercups, bedstraw and cowslips cover the ground. There is a gentle buzz of bees hard at work, occasionally interrupted by the laughing Green Woodpeckers.
Go through the footpath gate and take a left, which will go down a steep hill, with a woodland to the left. The path heads down towards a road, with Lane End Farm on the other side.
Fritillary butterfly species fly effortlessly through the woodland glades in summer, basking and feeding in warm open areas. Sunlight encourages the growth of food plants like violets and cowslip on the woodland floor; valuable for egg laying and caterpillar feeding. Trees are cut down in lines called glades, connecting valuable open feeding areas. Sheltered areas provide a rich nectaring source for adults as they feed on brambles.
Take a right towards a double gate at the bottom of the hill, before you reach the gate onto the road. Go through the pedestrian gate and continue through this field keeping the hedgerow and the road to your left. As you reach the end of the field, there is a barbed wire fence, turn right and head across the field, where you will reach another double gate.
The grassland is carefully managed by one of our tenant farmers, who farms a mixture of native breed cattle. These native breeds thrive on the relatively low calorific fodder that unimproved, limestone grassland provides.
Walk through the pedestrian gate and take a left around a large Ash tree, cutting a corner off the field. Walk through a small footpath gate in the wall and into the next field keeping the wall on your left, aiming for the footpath gate on the other side of the field. This field can be wet, so make sure you're wearing waterproof boots if you're walking after a downpour.
Walk through this gate and up a small slope onto Ashbank Lane and head right, immediately going through a large field gate. Walk along this stone track, keeping the high, historic deer park wall to your right. You will eventually pass a spectacular veteran ash tree on your right side, and not far past this is a large gate hung from impressive limestone stoops.
Walk through the gate, onto a narrow track with a hedgerow on your right and a wall to your left. Walk up a slope, and down the other side which will then return you to the Sizergh Castle car park and some well-earned refreshments at the café!
Sizergh Castle car park, grid ref: SD498878
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