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Blackton Reservoir

Hector C. Parr

Birk Hat Farm
Click picture to enlarge

Birk Hat Farm
Nature Reserve
Click picture to enlarge

Nature Reserve

As well as offering fine fishing for the fly-only sportsman, Blackton Reservoir has several attractions for anyone interested in nature at her unspoilt best. The area around the western end of the reservoir is protected as a wild nature reserve, and nearby on the north shore is Birk Hat Farm, for many years the home of Hannah Hauxwell, whose cheerful acceptance of her desperately primitive life style made her a television celebrity in 1973. "Hannah's Meadows", consisting of two hay meadows and a grazing pasture, are now owned by the Durham Wildlife Trust, and kept as a site of Special Scientific Interest. Only traditional non-intensive farming methods are permitted, preserving for all time many species of grass and herbs which are threatened elsewhere.

The Wildlife Trust has restored "Hannah's Barn", and visitors may enter to see a display of information boards giving details of the work done by the trust here and elsewhere.

The best approach to the nature reserve and Hannah's Meadows is from the north end of the Balderhead dam, where there is ample car parking space. Fishing of Blackton Reservoir is restricted to the eastern end, and this is reached most easily by taking the Briscoe road from Cotherstone, proceeding along the south shore of Hury Reservoir, and going through the gate on the right near Willoughby Hall. Cars may be taken through the gate, and parked about half a mile further along the track.


Only fly-fishing from the bank is permitted, with a daily bag of 8 fish, minimum size 23 cm (9"). The season extends from 22nd March to 30th September for Brown Trout, and from 22nd March to 31st October for Rainbow Trout. Permits are available from the machine at the north end of the Hury dam, about a mile away.


Click picture to enlarge
Click picture to enlarge
The nature reserve has been designated a Site of Particular Importance, with its own specialist Wildlife Advisory Group. It is visited by several species of wader, especially the common sand piper, and it also draws other waders and wildfowl that breed in the surrounding fields. Pre- and post-breeding gatherings of mallard, wigeon and tufted duck may be seen, while whooper swan, wild geese and teal are occasional winter visitors. All these may be observed, without causing disturbance, from the bird hide near the shore line behind Birk Hat Farm.Curlew
Click picture to enlarge

© Hector C. Parr (2009)

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