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Summer Leys

A birder's top spot, with hides and screens to observe a wealth of birds and water fowl

This large, ex-gravel pit is made up of a main lake with gently sloping banks, shallow areas of water and ponds, low lying islands, a large scrape and a fringe of reeds surrounded by grassland and wet woodland. This is ideal habitat for wintering birds: goosander, wigeon and gadwall reach nationally important numbers, joined by large numbers of roosting lapwing and golden plover. 

Wading birds use the scrape and the shallow lake margins. Oystercatcher, ringed plover, little ringed plover and redshank stay to breed, while whimbrel, turnstone and common sandpiper often pass through during migration. Numerous pairs of common tern nest in a colony on the islands, so we cut back vegetation each autumn to keep them safe, and every few years we re-profile the wader scrape.

Otters are rare but regular visitors to the reserve, while the taller reeds and rushes around the lake may reveal the ball-shaped woven nests of harvest mice. Sixteen species of dragonflies and damselflies have been recorded here and it is one of the best places to see the uncommon hairy dragonfly, which dances around the edges of Marigold Pond in May and June. Late spring sees hobbies hunting insects over the reserve.

Kim’s Corner, a fragment of species-rich neutral grassland, is a good place to watch butterflies. In late summer, it comes alive with the songs of grasshoppers and crickets. We haycut in summer, followed by sheep grazing. To maintain the open natures of the lake banks, we coppice willow. We also cut back other vegetation and remove encroaching scrub. We have regular work parties at Summer Leys;  


Sixteen species of dragonflies and damselflies have been recorded. Summer Leys is one of the best places in Northamptonshire to see the uncommon hairy dragonfly, a species that colonised the county in the late 1990s. Look for them on the edges of Marigold Pond from mid-May to the end of June.

At Kim's Corner you will find a fragment of species-rich neutral grassland, once widespread in the Nene Valley, but now limited to a few sites. This area is a good place to watch butterflies such as common blue and the rarer brown argus.

Lots of lovely photos of the wildlife at Summer Leys can be seen on Oliver Andrews Flickr page.


Summer Leys reserve map


The map below is for indication purposes only and does not show the Wildlife Trusts definitive land boundary.



Nearby nature reserves

Ditchford Lakes and Meadows (Nene Wetlands)
4 miles - Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire
Wilson's Pits (Nene Wetlands)
5 miles - Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire
Finedon Cally Banks
5 miles - Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire

Nature reserve map

Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2012. For indicative purposes does not show exact boundaries.

Reserve information

Hardwater Road
near Wollaston
NN29 7TD
Map reference
SP 866 633
Great for...
overwintering birds
spring migrant birds
Get directions
Find out here
Public transport
Plan your journey
Opening Times
Open at all times
Picnic facilities
47.00 hectares
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Living Landscape schemes
Nene Valley
Partly wheelchair accessible
Walking information
Some areas muddy in winter and after rain
Car park off minor road to Wollaston
Dogs must be on lead
Grazing animals
Grazed with sheep and cattle
Reserve manager
Tel: 01604 405285


Factsheets and guides for your visit