Watchtree is a nature reserve and charity on the edge of Carlisle. The nature reserve was founded in 2002 following the Foot and Mouth crisis. Previously, the reserve had been a Second World War airbase. RAF Great Orton was used as a burial site during the crisis. Therefore, to help rejuvenate local people’s mood, Watchtree was founded to provide a vibrant green space and make the best of an awful situation. Parts of the airfield are still visible for visitors to walk across! The nature reserve is very proud of their sustainability efforts and host three wind turbines on the property.

The reserve is made up of a range of woodland, meadows, scrub and wetland. Keen-eyed visitors can use the hides and seating to watch woodpeckers, butterflies, roe deer and hares! To restore the natural habitats in the area and encourage local wildlife to flourish, they have plated 65,000 trees and over 6km of hedgerow. Several man-made wetland and pond environments regularly attract newts, ducks and even otters!

Things to do:

  • A variety of trails and orienteering paths of visitors to traverse.
  • Visitors centre and café that provides a range of hot and cold drinks, snacks and lunches. The café is proud to offer locally sourced, fresh meals to visitors. They can also supply meals to larger parties (booking ahead required).
  • The nature reserve is very popular with cyclists. Cycle hire is available.
  • Watchtree Wheelers

Click here to view the nature reserves full calendar of kids clubs, marathons and events!

Watchtree Wheelers:

Watchtree Wheelers fix, hire and sell bikes to visitors. Visitors can pick from a range of bikes including a wide variety of accessible vehicles that include KMX bikes, hand cycles, O-Pair and more! Wheelers is keen to provide a bike to everyone they can and is a very accessible option for a day out when you or someone you are with has ambulatory needs.

As well as hiring out bikes, Wheelers sells refurbished bikes at affordable prices. These bikes are donated by visitors and the profits help maintain Watchtree so they can continue to offer their services to the public.

The public can also get their personal bikes cared for and maintained through a range of services offered by the fully qualified Wheelers team.

For more information, click here.


Watchtree is full wheelchair accessible with flat trails running across the reserve. Wheelers offers a range of accessible cycles for visitors.

There is a reasonable sized car park next to the visitors centre.

There are accessible toilets on the reserve.

All the bird hides and pond dipping platforms are accessible by ramps with large spaces for manoeuvrability.

For full information on the nature reserve and opening times, see here.

To visit another park in the Carlisle area, click here!

Q Is it dog friendly?

Dogs are always welcome! They should be kept on leads.

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  • Monday09:00 AM - 05:00 PM
  • Tuesday09:00 AM - 05:00 PM
  • Wednesday09:00 AM - 05:00 PM
  • Thursday09:00 AM - 05:00 PM
  • Friday09:00 AM - 05:00 PM
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