Cowpen Bewley Woodland Park By Ian Forrest
Cowpen Bewley Woodland Park is an area of woodland within the Tees Forest located
on the north edge of Billingham. Since 1990 around 300,000 trees have been planted.
The Park is managed by Stockton Borough Council. Countryside Wardens are based at
the Activity Centre opened in 2000. The site was reclaimed from former brickworks,
landfill and ex-agricultural land. Habitats include managed rough grassland, two
small hills with viewing points and seating, a lake, around a dozen smaller ponds,
three streams with small areas of reed, young mixed woodland (oak, ash, willow,
alder, pine, sycamore, cherry), several established hedge lines and a railway embankment.
There are several small copses of mature deciduous trees. The abundant wildlife
consists of 90+ species of bird with waterfowl, toad, newt and dragonfly in and
around the ponds. There are 18 species of butterfly, hare, fox and small mammals
in the grassland.
A feeding station is located by the car park accessed through a narrow gate opposite
the car park entrance. It is kept supplied with food by the wardens and visitors
Location, Access and Strategy
The Park is located beside the A1185 Seal Sands Road 2km east of the A689 Wolviston
roundabout junction on the north side of Billingham. Site facilities include a large
metalled car park and several paths providing easy access for the disabled. There
is a modern visitor centre.
By Bus: Take service 91 from Middlesbrough to Low Grange or the 52 from Middlesbrough,
Stockton, Norton or Billingham to Low Grange Avenue. Get off at Bewley Infants School,
cross Wolviston Back Lane, and enter the park. A ten-minute walk will bring you
to the Activity Centre.
By Bicycle: Sustrans Route 14 runs right through the park. Pick up the route in
Stockton, Billingham or Hartlepool and ride to the park. Cycle parking facilities
are available at the Activity Centre. Full details of cycle routes in the area are
in the ‘Cycling in Stockton’ leaflet available from Stockton Borough Council.
Months Open: All Year
Car Park opening hours - Summer: 9am-9pm. Winter: 9am-4pm.
Activity Centre including shop, gifts and toilets - Sundays 10am-4pm (also Mondays
and Fridays during school summer holidays)
Car & Coach parking facilities: Yes
Picnic area (uncovered) and Children’s play area: Yes
Wheelchair access: Yes
Address : The Activity Centre Cowpen Bewley Woodland Park Seal Sands Link Road Billingham
Phone: 01642 371633
Stockton Borough Council: Cowpen Bewley Woodland Park
Location : Multimap: Cowpen Bewley Woodland Park
The park is worth a visit any time of the year as there is always something to see.
Noteworthy residents include Reed Bunting, Stonechat, Yellowhammer, Goldfinch, Tree
Sparrow, Bullfinch, Blackcap, Linnet, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Long-tailed Tit,
Willow Tit and Grey Wagtail. Kingfisher is seen intermittently on the streams and
main pond but sightings are never assured. Pheasant and Grey Partridge are always
around, but often difficult to locate. Jay is becoming more prevalent as is Bullfinch
which previously were mostly found to the south side of the A1185.
Resident birds found on the main pond include - Tufted Duck, Moorhen, Coot, Mallard,
Little Grebe and Mute Swan. Present in smaller numbers appearing through the year
- Pochard, Gadwall, Wigeon, Teal, Canada Goose, Goosander, Heron and Cormorant.
The main pond sometimes attracts Red-necked Grebe and Red-crested Pochard in winter
when Goldeneye are usually present and sometimes Shelduck.
As with many locations birding is probably at its best in winter once leaves have
fallen, through to late Spring. Winter attractions in most years include Siskin,
Lesser Redpoll and Common Redpoll feeding on Alder trees. Redwing, Fieldfare and
Waxwing are usually found feeding on the numerous hawthorn bushes. Some winters
see good numbers of Short-eared Owl which can give very close views over the grassland
areas. Whilst Linnet breed around the park, in winter large flocks of up to 200
birds can usually be seen in the trees and fields around the main pond. These often
attract Merlin and the resident Sparrowhawk. The hedges in the car park, being close
to the feeding station usually hold good numbers of roosting birds in winter, mainly
Yellowhammer, Tree Sparrow, Robin, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Dunnock, Siskin and Blackcap.
Winter also gives a better chance of seeing the elusive Water Rail which favour
the smaller ponds either side of the A1185.
The Feeding Station attracts - Dunnock, Chaffinch, Greenfinch,
Tree Sparrow, Yellowhammer, Robin, Wren, Blackbird, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Bullfinch,
Siskin, Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Willow Tit and Great Spotted Woodpecker. Brambling
appear some years as well. Goldcrest, Treecreeper and Goldfinch are usually in the
Spring sees the arrival of breeding migrants
– Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Grasshopper Warbler, Whitethroat and an increase in
Blackcap numbers. Swallow, Swift, House Martin and Sand Martin can be in good numbers
over the main pond in summer. A few Common Tern are often present as well. Other
migrants recorded most years passing through in Spring and Autumn include Cuckoo,
Spotted Flycatcher, Redstart and Marsh Harrier. In Autumn large flocks of geese,
mostly Pink-footed are seen passing overhead and sometimes Whooper Swan.
One habitat that is rather lacking is shallow mud for waders. Waders are recorded
each year, but never staying for very long. The best places to see them are on the
tidal streams on the north side of the park where Redshank, Oystercatcher, Golden
Plover, Sanderling and Ruff have been recorded. Common Sandpiper and Green Sandpiper
are recorded most years on the streams. Of course this habitat can be found over
extensive areas close by at Greatham Creek and Saltholme Ponds.
In 2007 at least two families of Sparrowhawk bred, so sightings are common. Kestrel
is the only other bird of prey seen regularly. Buzzard, Marsh Harrier and Peregrine
Falcon have been seen occasionally. Merlin are seen over winter.
Birds now less common than in previous years include Barn Owl, Green Woodpecker
and Long-eared Owl. Little Owl and Tawny Owl are nearby but I have never seen one
in the Park itself. Summer 2007 has seen a drop in the number of Tree Sparrow and
fewer Woodcock were seen. The resident head of Roe Deer appear to have succumbed
to illegal poaching.
Birds seen more frequently in 2007 include Sparrowhawk, Little Egret, Bullfinch
and Jay. As the woodland matures over coming years the range of species is likely