Dudley Council the historic capital of the Black Country
Dudley Skyline

Planted in the 18th century by Lady Dudley to hide the scars of coal mining, Saltwells Local Nature Reserve is now one of the UK's largest urban nature reserves, covering 247 acres.

  • Saltwells path
  • Saltwells, birds on lake summer
  • Saltwells bluebells

What to see

  • Daphne Pool - with 16 recorded species of Dragonfly.
  • Extensive bluebell woodland with woodland birds.
  • Recolonized old clay pits full of orchids.
  • Gorse covered Netherton Hill.
  • Geological sites of special scientific interest - showing the best exposure of the Staffordshire coalfields and Brewin's Cutting.
  • Exposure of the South Staffordshire Coalfield of the conglomeratic (pebble beds) base of the Carboniferous rocks (the floor of the very coalfield itself), resting on much older rocks of the Silurian Period.


At the heart of the nature reserve stands Saltwells Wood.  It became part of Lord Dudley's Saltwells Estate after the enclosure of Pensnett Chase in 1785. At the time, wood was in high demand, especially for charcoal for the budding iron industry, so the area was planted with trees. During at least the 19th century, the woodland west of the Black Brook was called Lady Dudley’s Plantation or Lady Wood (perhaps in honour of Lady Dudley), whilst that to the east was known as Birch Wood.

The descendants of the Oak and Beech still survive and are home to many species of woodland bird, such as Treecreeper, Jay and Great Spotted Woodpecker. Wild Garlic and Anemones are found in the wood together with lush carpets of Bluebells.

Recently presented with a Centre of Excellence award by the Forestry Authority for woodland management, Saltwells has long been a model urban reserve for Europe under UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere project.

Did you know?

Saltwells takes its name from brine spas, which used to exist near to the Saltwells Inn. Using saline water that welled up in early mine workings, it was advertised in the early nineteenth century “for the healing qualities of its medicinal spring waters” . It was known by various names, including Cradley Spa, Pensnett Spa, Lady Wood's Spa and Saltwells Spa.

Areas of interest

Doulton's Claypit

Within the wood is Doulton's clay pit with spectacular cliffs showing a section through the rocks of the Middle and Lower Coal Measures. Abandoned in the 1940's, the clay pit has been reclaimed by nature and now has unusual plants including hundreds of Common Spotted and Southern Marsh Orchids.

Netherton Hill and Cinder Bank

North of the woodland is the gorse covered Netherton Hill, opencast for coal until the 1960's, but now home to Linnets and Reed Buntings. Further north still is an area of restored coal mining known as Cinder Bank. Sixteen species of dragonfly are found here on the Daphne Pool, making this one of the best sites for these insects in the West Midlands.

Mushroom Green and Mousesweet Brook

South of the wood, around the chain-makers' hamlet of Mushroom Green, is an area of scrubland and meadow, plus a large reed swamp which provides a safe refuge for winter birds like Water Rail, Snipe and Teal.

Further south, the reserve follows the Mousesweet Brook as far as its confluence with the River Stour. The Mousesweet Brook was dammed in the 17th Century to create Cradley New Pool, providing a regular source of water to power Cradley Forge, which stood at the confluence with the River Stour. 

  • Saltwells Local Nature Reserve, Dudley, West Midlands DY5 1AX

  • Saltwells Local Nature Reserve, off Coppice Lane, Quarry Bank, Dudley, West Midlands, DY5 1AX

    General Enquiry - Saltwells Nature Reserve

  • Saltwells Nature Reserve is located two miles south of Dudley. To travel to the nature reserve proceed on the A4036, then turn left at the Merry Hill traffic lights (signposted) and continue for half a mile along Coppice Lane. Turn left at sign for Saltwells Inn.