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Boilton, Nab, Redscar and Tunbrook Woods

A collection of exceptional woodland.

The woods run in a narrow band along a terrace above the tidal River Ribble and the valley of its tributary, the Tunbrook forming one of the largest remaining areas of ancient, semi-natural, deciduous woodland in Lancashire, Greater Manchester & Merseyside.  They support insect species unusual in Lancashire, and have a rich woodland flora.


Boilton Wood- That an accessible woodland nature reserve should lie so close to an urban centre is always a bonus, but Boilton Wood is exceptional; it has a great deal to offer both the seasoned naturalist and the beginner.


Sycamore and wych elm dominate the remaining woodland. Although it has suffered from Dutch Elm Disease, the elm is regenerating well. Ash, oak, gean (wild cherry), hazel and holly are also present, and ivy can be seen winding up the trunks of trees.


Spring is the best time to visit. Then there's an attractive display of bluebells and lesser celandine, with ferns and wood avens emerging during the summer. Wild flowers that are less obvious include ground-ivy, dog-violet and cuckoo-pint. Towards the bottom of the slope, in the marshy areas crossed by boardwalks, yellow iris, marsh marigold and meadowsweet are quite common.


Boilton Wood is also a haven for birds including treecreepers, spotted flycatchers, great and lesser spotted woodpecker, and various finches and tits. You may also see Roe Deer.


Red Scar Wood, Tunbrook Wood & Nab Wood- Red Scar, Tunbrook and Nab Woods together make up a fine example of lowland ash-wych elm woodland and valley alder carr.


The slumping that occurs on the steep valley-sides exposes calcareous clays that produce a base-rich, red soil - hence the name "Red Scar". The rich ground flora that develops on this soil includes patches of dog's mercury, enchanter's nightshade and giant fescue, along with herb-Robert, wood-sorrel, wood anemone, lesser celandine, early-purple orchids, and various species of violet. A patch of yellow archangel is found at its most northerly location in Great Britain at the junction of the Tun Brook and the River Ribble and it thrives on the richer soil there. Hairy St. John's-wort and sweet woodruff can also be seen in Red Scar Wood. The woodruff gives off the scent of vanilla when it's bruised.


The woods have a good, mixed structure with ash, sycamore and gean (wild cherry), and alder (in the valley) all represented. There's also some planted beech and larch. There's an area of oak in the south-west of Red Scar Wood, but the wych elm there has nearly all died back as a result of Dutch Elm Disease. Field maple is rare here, but there are a few mature examples in the woods. Hawthorn, hazel and holly make up the healthy shrub layer.


Amongst the recorded invertebrates is the white-letter hairstreak, a butterfly that prefers the margins of deciduous woods and is on the wing in July and August. It's closely associated with elm, particularly wych elm, as its caterpillars feed on the leaves and flowers. The devastation wrought on elms by Dutch Elm Disease means that this butterfly species has now become very rare.


An impressive list of moths is associated with the reserve: the angle shades, the snout, the mottled beauty, the silver-ground carpet, the twin spot carpet, the barred straw, the July highflier, the clouded magpie, and the mother-of-pearl are amongst those recorded. The oak bush-cricket is also found here.


The woods provide excellent breeding habitat for kestrel, woodcock, tawny owl, green woodpecker, great spotted and lesser spotted woodpecker, warblers, tits and treecreepers. You might see fieldfare, redwing, brambling and siskin if you visit in winter. Moles, common shrews, water shrews and bats have all found refuge throughout the woods; and smooth newts, common toads, and common frogs breed in nearby ponds.

Species and habitats


Nearby nature reserves

Brockholes Nature Reserve
1 miles - The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside
Willow Farm Wood Nature Reserve
3 miles - The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside
Cop Lane
4 miles - The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside

Nature reserve map

Reserve information

Boilton, Nab, Redscar and Tunbrook Woods
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Opening Times
Open at all times
70.00 hectares
Permit required

All but Boilton Wood requires a permit; please contact the Trust. Please bear in mind that some of the northernmost part of the wood is privately owned and therefore off limits.
Walking information
Footpath through Boilton wood is not surfaced and includes a lengthy and steep stretch of steps.
Park on Pope Lane, before the pedestrian bridge across the M6
Reserve manager
John Haddon
Tel: 01772 324129