Augill Pasture

Location: near Brough, Cumbria

Grid Reference: NY 816 146

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One of the best remnants in Cumbria of mountain hay meadow (although, strictly, it qualifies as pasture!)

Lying 260m above sea-level, Augill Pasture is a small area of unimproved grassland and woodland, beside an old lead smelt mill that dates from 1843. When the mill was active, water was collected behind a bund on the site to supply the mill, and the area was grazed by pit ponies.

Nature’s way

Since the mill closed towards the end of the 19th century, the land has reverted to nature. Woodland of birch, ash and willow, with an under-storey of hazel and rowan, has grown up around the mill, with dog’s mercury, bluebell and sanicle in flower beneath.

Augill Pasture is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and the documentation refers to the “very rich component” of flowering plants in the reserve’s vegetation, with knapweed, great burnet, autumn hawkbit and three species of lady’smantle amongst the commoner plants. In late summer, there are fantastic displays of devil’s-bit scabious, with its globular heads of bluish-purple flowers.

Orchids on the site are a little more difficult to spot, but include greater butterfly-orchid, fragrant orchid and twayblade. Broad-leaved helleborine grows here at its highest location in Cumbria, and 60 frog orchids were recently counted on the reserve. The diminutive adder’s-tongue fern grows on a few grassy banks. The yellow balls of globeflower appear in damper areas around the field edges.

To maintain the pasture, areas where rushes dominate are cut mechanically in most years. The rest is cut less frequently and sheep graze the land in autumn and winter. Even the rabbits probably help here, as their nibbling keeps scrub from spreading.

The Cumbria Wildlife Trust (CWT) has developed a circular path around the reserve. Although this is steep in places, with some steps, it gives a real impression of the interest of this impressive reserve.

Purchase of the reserve was made possible by Unilever (Timotei).