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...

  • Heavy falls of snow followed by almost continuous rain which makes for very difficult access. However when you do get up on site it looks beautiful. Nothing to hear but birds.

    On Monday we managed to put top wire on to the newly repaired wall by the ruin. There was a broken fence over the beck which had been damaged by the volume of water so we repaired that while we were there. It looked as though there had been about five feet of water in the middle of it the other week looking at the tide line of rushes in the ghyl.

    We saw two flocks of lapwing, one of about 50 and we heard a curlew near the ghyl. The grouse were very quiet as they are at this time of year. There were a couple of greyhens in the heather down near the ghyl. Spring is on its way.

    January - March 2021
  • Ground very wet again but found some dry days. Everything looking very autumnal with beautiful bronzes and golds on the trees in the ghyl. The next 150 metre wall repair has been completed, a good job has been done.

    The difference in ground level makes the wall lower on the top side where stock might gather. We can put some wall top wire on to reduce any damage to the new wall. Access track very churned up. Grazier has moved the cattle and most of the sheep and just put a few ewes out with a tup in the large section beyond the ruin for a few weeks.

    Five bullfinches flighted over up the tree line. They are not common up here so it was good to see them. Saw woodcock, snipe, grouse and hares. A stonechat was down near the ghyl and a little owl at the ruin. Lots of snipe, twenty maybe, on one piece of wet. A large whisp must have dropped in to feed. Holly in the ghyl covered in berries, a good feed for fieldfares and other berry eaters when they find them.

    September - December 2020
  • Whole site looking good after nearly a summer of grazing and the purple hues of heather showing. Another wall repair needed near the ditch on the first parcel. The pasture has been flailed and grazed and is looking good.

    The first 120 metre wall repair has been completed. The wallers will return in the autumn to complete the next 150 metres. The bracken has been sprayed to stop it taking over. Waders all left the site by the end of August though a few travellers pop in before the winter visitors arrive, the snipe and woodcock. A good number of red grouse in evidence and a good bloom of heather with bumblers droning about everywhere and lots of pollen in the air. Flock of golden plover flew over. Only a few grey partridge seen which is concerning. Early July saw the odd curlew with young still on site. They will leave soon.

    June - August 2020