Castle Eden Dene National Nature Reserve



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Castle Eden Dene NNR is 3½ miles long and the largest of a series of valleys which run down to the coast between Sunderland and Hartlepool, reaching the sea at Denemouth. This mysterious tangled landscape of trees, rocky outcrops and steep cliffs all housed within a deep gorge is a rare survivor of the ‘wildwood’ which once covered much of Britain. Ten thousand years of uninterrupted growth of yew, oak, ash and dying elm create a perfect home for many plants and animals. The reserve covers 221 hectares of woodland and lowland grassland, where post-glacial meltwaters carved out spectacular cliffs in the soft Magnesian limestone. Often there is no river in the bottom of the gorge, as Castle Eden Burn is now seasonal and disappears into the limestone during the summer. Castle Eden Dene is home to an extraordinary variety of more than 450 species of plants, woodland birds and mammals including roe deer and fox.

Castle Eden Dene National Nature Reserve
Castle Eden


About the area

Discover County Durham

County Durham reaches halfway across England, from the North Pennines in the west, to the sea in the east. Much of it is very sparsely inhabited, and is naturally beautiful; a mix of rolling hills, monumental valleys, lush farmland and unforgiving moors. It’s strong on industrial heritage as well, and remnants of the now all-but-vanished mining industry are everywhere.

The City of Durham has a magnificent Cathedral which can be traced back to the establishment of a church in the 10thcentury as the final resting place of the miraculous remains of Saint Cuthbert. The Cathedral, alongside the city’s Castle (an 11th-century structure that now houses University College), were created a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986. The area’s mining past is fully documented at the Durham Mining Museum; an amazing resource. Bishop Auckland is the other major settlement, and for centuries was run almost as an independent state by the powerful Bishops of Durham. These days it is still a bustling town with plenty of shops, historical interest and events like the annual food festival. The coastal town of Peterlee is unusual; it was set up as a new town to house Durham miners after WW2. 

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