Summer Leys

Summer Leys Panorama

Summer Leys Panorama Drone Photo

Summer Leys Nature Reserve

Summer Leys - Nathalie Hueber

Car parking charges apply to park in the nature reserve car park. Wildlife Trust BCN members should register their vehicle in advance to park free.

Register your vehicle here

An old gravel pit transformed into an internationally important haven for breeding and wading birds


Hardwater Road
near Wollaston
NN29 7TD

OS Map Reference

SP 886 634
A static map of Summer Leys

Know before you go

47 hectares

Entry fee

No, but please note that car parking charges may apply (see below)

Parking information

Car park off minor road to Wollaston. Open daily, between 5am and 11pm. 2.1m height barrier present in the car park and parking charges apply. Parking is free for Wildlife Trust BCN members, but registering their vehicle in advance is necessary.

Bicycle parking

Yes, behind visitor centre.

Grazing animals


Walking trails

The site is wheelchair friendly. Please see the map on the leaflet for the wheelchair route. There are kissing gates around the reserve, we have radar keys available to borrow at the visitor centre (open Friday-Sunday).

Some areas muddy in winter and after rain.


Partly wheelchair accessible.

Strictly no unauthorised swimming or boating allowed.

No cycling.


On a lead


Visitor centre
Bird hides
Picnic area
Accessible toilet

When to visit

Opening times

Open at all times
Parking closed between 11pm and 5am

Please note the visitor centre is closed during winter, which includes the toilets. Members can gain access to the code for the toilets by emailing

Best time to visit


About the reserve

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.   

Reserve leaflet with map

Additional information

  • Car parking charges have been introduced at Summer Leys, please see the information further down this page. Free parking is only applicable to members of The Wildlife Trust BCN. £4 for 4 hours or £6 for the full day.
  • Our visitor centre and toilets are open Friday-Sunday (but CLOSED all week during winter periods) Members can gain access to the toilet code by emailing More information on the centre and events at Summer Leys please visit here.
  • We have regular work parties at Summer Leys. See the Northamptonshire work party page for more information. 
  • Scroll down to see the reserve boundary. Please note the boundary map is for indication purposes only and does not show the Wildlife Trusts definitive land boundary. 


Contact us

Reserves Manager
Contact number: 01604 405285

Environmental designation

Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)

Location map

Summer Leys visitor centre on installation day March 2022

Credit: Nik Shelton

Summer Leys visitor centre

We are excited to announce that we have open a brand new visitor centre at Summer Leys nature reserve

Visitor centre information

Car Park Charging at Summer Leys Nature Reserve

From November 2021, the Wildlife Trust BCN has introduced a new car park charging system at our Summer Leys Nature Reserve.

Why have car parking charges been introduced?

Our reserves take a lot of time, money and effort to manage and we need the support of all those that visit to help us take care of these wonderful places. The Wildlife Trust BCN has a responsibility to protect and maintain our Nature Reserves and we need to ensure we have the right levels of funding in place in order to do that.

Who will need to pay the parking charges?

Non-Wildlife Trust BCN members: the parking charges will apply to all non-Wildlife Trust BCN member visitors.

Wildlife Trust BCN members: Parking will always be free for our members. In order for Wildlife Trust BCN members to benefit from an exemption from the charges, they will need to register their vehicle. 

Please note the following:

  • Only current WTBCN Individual, Joint or Family memberships qualify to register for free parking. Children’s Watch memberships are excluded.
  • Members who cancel their membership with WTBCN will not qualify for free parking and will be required to pay to park at the site.

Active Wildlife Trust BCN volunteers: may be eligible for free parking and should contact their volunteer manager if they wish to register for free parking. 

A penalty notice will be issued for those who are not eligible for free parking and who have not paid to park

IMPORTANT information for members

In order to access free parking at Summer Leys Nature Reserve members MUST register their Vehicle Registration Number in advance of visiting.

New members must wait until they receive their welcome pack with their membership number before they can register for free parking and must pay for parking until registration has been confirmed. This can take up to 5 working days.

What are the parking charges and when do they apply?

The parking charges shown below will now apply to all visitors to our Summer Leys Nature Reserve, unless they have registered their vehicle.

  • £4.00 for up to four hours
  • £6.00 for a full day (until 11pm)

Car parking charges for visitors to Summer Leys nature reserve apply 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A penalty notice will be issued for those who are not eligible for free parking and who have not paid to park

How can I pay for parking?

The pay-and-display machines in the car park will be cashless and payment using a card or phone app will be required

What are the car park opening hours?

The car park will be open between 5am and 11pm, 7 days a week.

There will be no overnight parking for anyone, including members.

How will it be monitored?

An Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) camera will be in operation, monitoring which vehicles have paid to park.

Enforcement applies 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A penalty notice will be issued for those who are not eligible for free parking and who have not paid to park

How do I register my vehicle?

In order to register, please click the link below and complete the form.

Register your vehicle

Contact us

If you have any queries or need help registering your vehicle, please contact or call 01954 713500/01604 405285 and we would be pleased to assist.

Summer Leys Nature Reserve

Summer Leys - Nathalie Hueber

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Betony at Upwood Meadows June  - c. Robert Enderby

Betony at Upwood Meadows June  - c. Robert Enderby

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