Hilton Gravel Pits
Know before you go
Parking informationPark on Willowpit Lane
Lots of trails all around the reserve to explore. The water in the ponds is deep - please keep to the paths.
There is disabled access to about half the reserve.
The field gate near the site’s entrance has been fitted with a RADAR lock allowing access to larger wheelchairs or mobility buggies (providing users have a RADAR key) and the track along here is in largely good condition and provides access to a bird viewing screen. Paths on other areas of the site are flat but are often muddy and unsuitable for wheelchairs.
When to visit
Opening timesOpen at all times
Best time to visitEvenings for bats, February for the great crested grebe's mating dance, summer for orchids and autumn for fungi
About the reserve
The combination of lakes and ponds, woodland and sheltered sunny areas make the former gravel pits at Hilton a haven for wildlife.
The reserve supports species that are fast declining in this country including the great crested newt and black poplar.
The reserve is well-known for its dragonflies and damselflies. Fifteen species have been recorded here, among them the emperor and ruddy darter dragonflies and the emerald and red-eyed damselflies.
The old gravel pit settling beds provide a sheltered area where they can feed and where plants such as southern marsh orchids and common twayblade have now established themselves. The ponds and lakes attract many species of waterfowl. You can see coot, great crested grebe and tufted duck, while in spring the water is an amphibian nursery - frogs, toads, great crested and common newts all breed here.
A streak of blue flashing across the water will alert you to the presence of a kingfisher. Walk through the woodland in autumn and you will find a wealth of fungi growing near the path - among the many species that flourish here are fly agaric and shaggy inkcap.
Please note that dogs are no longer permitted in the main area of this nature reserve. This is to protect our grazing livestock and the reserve's wildlife. Dogs are still permitted on the main perimeter track that runs from Willowpit Lane to Sutton Lane.
Take a look at the latest sightings
The latest news from Drakelow
Thomas Cockburn talks us through the reserve after Storm Dennis this weekend.
Spottings at Drakelow
Thomas Cockburn tells us about the latest sightings this week.
Down at Drakelow Nature Reserve
Thomas Cockburn fills us in with his latest sightings.
Down at The Avenue Washlands
Brian Cuttell tells us the latest.
The latest from Witches Oak Water
Colin Baxter talks us through the latest sightings at Witches Oak Water.
An Afternoon at The Avenue Washlands
Brian Cuttell talks us through his latest sightings.
Nearby nature reserves
Download our nature reserve leaflets
Check out the reserve map
Play Wild rating
Play Wild all year round. Pond dipping and trails - just be aware of the deep water.