Know before you go
Parking informationParking is available either at the Forestry Commission car park (NT945028 – nearest postcode NE65 7AX) which requires a 1km walk along the MoD road, or in the large lay-by halfway along the northern perimeter.
There are two public footpaths leading through the reserve which are narrow and uneven although clearly marked as well as several forest tracks.
Footpaths enter the reserve at four points, although the open boundary alongside the MoD road on the northern perimeter allows access at many points. At the north east corner of the reserve, a fingerpost indicates a footpath to North Yardhope. This point is approximately 1km from the Forestry Commission car park for Holystone Wood. The terrain is generally difficult underfoot due to low-growing shrubs and roots and frequently wet conditions. The forest track from the lay-by (NT944020) offers more manageable terrain down to the burn.
When to visit
Best time to visitApril to June
About the reserve
At the upstream end of the site, the broadleaved woodland extends up the north slopes of the valley into an area known as Yardhope Oaks. The Oaks, an area of sessile oak woodland, is present at an unusually high altitude (circa 200m), on dry, steep slopes above the burn. The reserve is managed in partnership with the Forestry Commission. The plantation forestry in the valley is being removed slowly to allow native and natural woodland to re-establish here. In the eastern section of the woodland, juniper is an important component and there is juniper scrub for about 1000m either side of the Holystone Burn. Juniper has a very scattered distribution in Northumberland, occurring in the Coquet valley, Allendale district and around Cheviot. At only 3 sites - Hepple Whitfield, Harehope and Holystone - does it form anything approaching juniper scrub. As well as forming scrub thickets it is also scattered on the open land beyond the woodland.
In places, particularly west of Washpool Sike and on the northern edge of Holystone Common, bog myrtle with purple moor grass is abundant in flushes. This is a particular feature of the uplands of this part of Northumberland. Two locally important ferns have been recorded on the south bank of the stream in the oaks area - oak fern and beech fern. Two other important species have been recorded on the site - lesser twayblade and the rare cotton grass. Roe deer are present in good numbers and any trees planted on the site will need to be protected from deer browsing. Other species recorded are badger and red squirrel. Bird species known to breed on the site include pied flycatcher, merlin, green woodpecker, greater spotted woodpecker, dipper, goosander and common sandpiper. The site has two species of reptile - adder and common lizard, and two amphibians, common frog and common toad. The northern wood ant occurs in the reserve: this is a very local species in North East England. The juniper pug moth has been seen in large numbers. In total, 186 species of moths and butterflies have been recorded on this site.