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Summer Leys

An old gravel pit transformed into a haven for breeding and wading birds

Summer Leys is an example of how to create the right conditions for a variety of wildlife. This important wetland within the Upper Nene Valley Special Protection Area is made up of flooded gravel pits, flood meadows, species-rich neutral grassland and mature hedges. Wading birds use the scrape and the shallow lake margins. Oystercatcher, ringed plover, little ringed plover and redshank stay to breed, whilst whimbrel, turnstone and common sandpiper pass through during migration. One of the most obvious breeding bird species is the common tern; numerous pairs nest in a colony on the islands where they are safe from predators.

During the winter large numbers and a wide variety of ducks can be seen, including teal, wigeon, shoveler, pochard and tufted duck. They are joined by large numbers of golden plover, sometimes over a thousand, which roost on the islands and fly out to nearby fields to feed.

This video shot by Graham Barker shows just how much birdlife can be seen in early winter.

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

3 miles from
Map reference
SP 866 633
Best time to visit
Apr - Aug
Sep - Feb
Get directions
Find out here
Public transport
Plan your journey
Opening Times
Open at all times
Picnic facilities
47.00 hectares
Walking information
Part wheelchair accessible. Some areas muddy in winter and after rain
Car park off minor road to Wollaston
Dogs must be on lead
Grazing animals
Reserve manager
Reserves Manager
Tel: 01604 405285


Factsheets and guides for your visit