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Augill Pasture Nature Reserve

Location: North Stainmore, Brough, Cumbria

OS: NY 816 146

Habitat: Unimproved grassland and woodland

Pink blooms amongst the grasses at Augill Pasture with trees in the background
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The Reserve

Augill Pasture is a small area of unimproved grassland and woodland, beside an old lead smelt mill that dates back to 1843.

The reserve is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and the documentation refers to the “very rich component” of flowering plants in the reserve, with Common Knapweed Centaurea nigra, Great Burnet Sanguisorba officinalis, Autumn Hawkbit Scorzoneroides autumnalis and three species of Lady’s Mantle Alchemilla all commonly spotted on the site.

There’s also a number of orchid varieties to be seen in the pasture including Greater Butterfly-orchid Platanthera chlorantha, Fragrant Orchid Gymnadenia conopsea and Twayblade Neottia. Broad-leaved Helleborine Epipactis helleborine grows here at its highest location in Cumbria, and 60 Frog Orchids Dactylorhiza viridis have previously been counted on the reserve. The small number of Adder’s-tongue Ferns Ophioglossum grow on a few grassy banks. The yellow balls of Globeflower Trollius appear in damper areas around the field edges.


The pasture sits beside an old lead smelt mill. 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.

Since the mill closed towards the end of the 19th century, the land has reverted to nature. Woodland of Birch Betula, Ash Fraxinus and Willow Salix, with an under-storey of Hazel Corylus and Rowan Sorbus, has grown up around the mill, with Dog’s Mercury Mercurialis perennis and Bluebells Hyacinthoides.

The reserve is recognised as an mountain hay meadow, an extremely rare type of species rich grassland.

Owned by Plantlife, the site is managed by our team as well as the Cumbria Wildlife Trust (CWT), the prominent areas of rushes are mechanically cut most years, whilst the rest is left and cut less frequently. Sheep graze the land in autumn and winter. Even the rabbits probably help here, as their nibbling keeps scrub from spreading.

The trust 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, the purchase of which was made possible by Unilever (Timotei).

Species to look out for

  • Bluebells Hyacinthoides non-scripta April – May
  • Globeflower Trollius June – August
  • Devil’s-bit Scabious Succisa pratensis July – October


Common Spotted Orchids photographed at Augill Pasture Nature Reserve


The nearest train station can be found at Kirkby Stephen. Buses run from Ravenstonedale and Kirkby Stephen to North Stainmore, more can be found here, or by calling Traveline on 0871 200 22 33.

From Brough take A66 east for approximately 1 mile. Take the first left and turn right almost immediately. Follow this road until it ends. Park in the car park. The reserve is reached by going through a gate in the wall leading to the old smelt mill.

Visiting the site

This rare upland hay meadow site is species-rich and beautiful to visit at any time of year.

In the spring the wildflowers start to bloom with a display of Primroses Primula vulgaris, Bluebells Hyacinthoides non-scripta and Wild Garlic Alium ursinum. In the summer you will come across orchids such as Fly Orchid Ophrys insectifera, Fragrant Orchid Gymnadenia conopsea, Heath Spotted Orchid Dactylorhiza maculata and Common Spotted Orchid, Dactylorhiza fuchsii.  If you look carefully you might also spot the unassuming Frog Orchid Dactylorhiza viridis. As autumn begins the meadow area takes on a wonderful purple hue when Devil’s-bit Scabious Succisa pratensis is in flower.


Our Augill Pasture reserve is a shining example of mountain hay meadow habitat in Cumbria which needs careful year round management by the Plantlife and Cumbria Wildlife Trusts team.

  • Ash die back is one of the biggest issues facing our nature reserves. The woodland at Augill Pasture is made up of around 10 per cent Ash, and a number were found to be diseased. We have been working hard to protect the woodland. Read the full story here.