Health and wellbeing

Funding level: £5,001 to £10,000


Watchtree Nature Reserve is a small independent charity near Carlisle in Cumbria, founded in 2004 as ' A Wildlife Haven and Community Asset for all'..

‘to work with local community organisations in a common effort to advance education, to relieve poverty, need and hardship, to provide facilities for leisure time occupation in the interests of social welfare, and to conserve and improve the environment.’

The success of Watchtree Nature Reserve and its associated projects is demonstrated best by its growing popularity within the community:

• 2015/16 : 18,500 visitors
• 2016/17 : 30,374 visitors
• 2017/18 : 23,656 visitors (to date 01/10/2017)

The increase in visitors is partly due to the traffic free family cycle trails, some of which were vastly improved in 2013. The remaining trails are due to be resurfaced in early 2018; therefore visitor numbers are likely to continue to rise along this trend.

In 2009 Watchtree in association with ‘Cycling Projects’ launched the ‘Watchtree Wheelers’ inclusive cycling centre; to provide safe, social, traffic-free cycling experiences regardless of physical ability. The ‘Wheelers’ project has enabled many thousands of people in Cumbria, the Borders and the North of England to enjoy the health and wellbeing benefits of cycling, whilst exploring the nature reserve in the fresh air.

The project promotes cycling as an accessible way to explore the natural world whilst having fun, improving the overall health and well-being of the ever-growing community at Watchtree. Watchtree has become a firm favourite for families to meet up and exercise together in a safe social setting; indeed many families are initially introduced via our ‘Little Wheelers’ sessions, where we teach children to pedal without stabilizers on our specially designed training area. Watchtree’s 205 acres are almost entirely flat due to the site’s history as a WWII airbase, which is a boon for easy cycling in such a mountainous county like Cumbria. The ’Watchtree Wheelers’ project provides specialist support for local healthcare organisations such as Mencap and the Calvert Trust, along with SEN schools, who along with annual NHS referrals rely on our adapted cycle fleet for their only exercise outdoors.

Approximately 35% of all visitors to Watchtree either hire, or bring their own cycles; so far this financial year that’s 8279 cyclists, or an average of 45 a day. Our cycle fleet has cycles available for everyone, but some of these older adapted bikes need replacing as they have been so well used.

If successful Watchtree would use the Avivia Community Fund to replace the fleet of recumbent cycles along with a companion tricycle. Recumbent cycles allow people with limited mobility, coordination and balance issues to enjoy the benefits of cycling when otherwise they would struggle. Recumbents are also adored by children young (and old!) who all look forward to coming to Watchtree to whizz around in safety. Companion cycles have the additional benefit of allowing people with restricted sight to get out and explore in the great outdoors. This new adapted cycle fleet would arrive at a special time here at Watchtree, when we are due open our completed cycle trail loop in the spring of 2018. This these specialist cycles along with the new resurfacing, will enable individuals to complete the 3km circuit of Watchtree Nature Reserve for the very first time!

Recumbent fleet = £5,406
Companion cycle = £4, 370
Total = £9,776

Recent accolades:

5* Outstanding ‘Britain in Bloom’ 5 years in a row (2012-2017)

Inaugural winner of the National Trust’s 2016 ‘Beatrix Potter’ award for ‘Looking after the Landscape’

2016 & 2017 Finalist Carlisle Living Awards ‘Best Place to Visit’

2017 Trip Advisor ‘Certification of Excellence’ thanks to consistently excellent reviews, one exception being a recent review highlighting the condition of some recumbent cycles in the fleet that this fund would replace..

Project Video

Watchtree Nature Reserve LTD

Moment of Pride

Watchtree is unique, its become a wildlife haven and community asset without parallel in the North West. The 'Wheelers project' makes cycling available to all, often providing life changing experiences. The special community spirit at Watchtree is helped by it's dedicated volunteers and staff.

Location: Carlisle CA5 6NL, United Kingdom