Briarwood Banks

Briarwood Banks - Geoff Dobbins

Briarwood Banks. Image by: Geoff Dobbins.

Briarwood Banks is one of the best examples of rare, semi-natural woodland in Northumberland. The woodland supports a diversity of plant species with a number of locally uncommon species.


5km south-east of Bardon Mill
Plankey Mill

OS Map Reference

NY 791 620
A static map of Briarwood Banks

Know before you go

21 hectares

Entry fee


Parking information

Park at the National Trust Allenbanks car park (charge applies).

Walking trails

Walk up to the site through Allenbanks. Please keep to the paths to avoid trampling the woodland flora. There is a permissive circular walk through the woodlands from the meadow along the Kingswood Burn (a small tributary of the river Allen).


Three main entry points give access to several public footpaths. However, the easiest access is from the northern entrance by following a wide, well-surfaced riverside path from the National Trust car park (pay & display) at Allen Banks. After a swing bridge over the River Allen, the path can become muddy, uneven and steep in places with a varying width. The grassland at the northern end of the reserve is flat and easily negotiated via a grass path - however, it is not easy to access this area. The remainder of the reserve offers a challenging terrain with steep slopes and very narrow paths.


On a lead

When to visit

Opening times


Best time to visit

Spring and autumn

About the reserve

Semi-natural ancient woodland is a relatively rarity in Northumberland; this reserve is probably one of the best examples in the county. Ash dominates the reserve, although oak and birch are common. Typical ancient woodland plants are present including ramsons (wild garlic), woodruff and dog’s mercury, but there are a number of locally uncommon species including two regional rarities, bird's-nest orchid and wood fescue. Other uncommon plants such as herb Paris and toothwort are present along with a very good bryophyte flora and several rare, ancient woodland indicator lichens.

An area of the woodland planted with non-native species is being restored to provide suitable conditions for a range of rare species including dormouse which is found in neighbouring woodland, their most northerly location in the UK. You may also see red squirrel and roe deer as well as numerous birds including pied flycatcher and great spotted woodpecker.

There are remains of an old lead smelt mill near the River Allen. The grasslands have been contaminated by heavy metals derived from the Pennine orefield upstream. Plants indicative of this contamination include mountain pansy and alpine penny-cress.

There are no facilities on the reserve but The National Trust car park at Allen Banks has toilets and a picnic area.

Contact us

Northumberland Wildlife Trust
Contact number: (0191) 284 6884
Contact email: