Gravel Hole is a little wildlife oasis in the heart of residential Teesside, the sheer diversity in plant life in this small corner makes the site well worth a visit. It is managed by Tees Valley Wildlife Trust. The reserve is only 3 acres with a mixture of herb-rich grassland and scrub on the north western edge of Billingham.
Gravel Hole began as one of many gravel pits which were worked around Norton from around 1850. This site was quarried until the late 1960’s and was then set to be used for landfill before it became the Tees Valley Wildlife Trust’s first nature reserve, acquired on a lease from ICI in 1981 and purchased six years later, in 1987.
In summer the Gravel Hole is buzzing with insect life and butterflies such as the Wall Brown, Common Blue and Small Tortoiseshell. It is also the best time of year to see the sites wildflowers which include Common Spotted and Fragrant Orchid, Fairy Flax, Ox – eyed Daisy, Quaking Grass and Carnation Sedge.
This disused quarry has been colonised by a variety of lime-loving plants. As well as orchids, the rich flora throughout the year includes Cowslips, Kidney Vetch, Field Scabious and Greater Knapweed. 12 species of butterfly have been recorded here, with notable examples being Dingy Skipper, Common Blue and Small Heath. Beetles, bees, moths and other insects add to the site’s interest.
The reserve is bordered by dense hedgerows which with occasional patches of scrub provide a good habitat for birds such as Whitethroat, Willow Warbler and Blackcap. Flocks of Thrushes and occasionally Waxwings, feast on the hawthorn berries in autumn and winter.
By car: Heading north on the A19 take the exit signed for Billingham and the A1027 (approximately 1 mile after the Portrack flyover). At the roundabout take the first exit signed for Norton. At the 1st set of lights turn right onto Fieldfare Lane and then left on to Crooks Barn Lane then the first right onto Shearwater Lane.
Please park at the end of the cul de sac on Shearwater Lane.
OS map reference: NS 447232
Tel: 01287 636382