Reservoirs & Wildlife


The Reservoirs

Waskerley, Smiddyshaw, Hisehope

The three reservoirs are situated within the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Muggleswick, Stanhope and Edmundbyers Commons and Blanchland Moor Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), North Pennine Moors Special Protection Area (SPA) and North Pennine Moors Special Area of Conservation (SAC).

All three reservoirs are accessible from the Stanhope to Consett road on Muggleswick Common. Locked barriers at the entrance of all three reservoirs restricts pedestrians to walking access only. Car parking is limited at all three sites although Waskerley is easiest for parking. Public footpaths run close to all three sites.

Waskerley, Smiddyshaw and Hisehope reservoirs are available to members and members’ guests only. Members guests are allowed two visits. Note that Hisehope is a catch and release reservoir.

Waskerley and Smiddyshaw were built in 1877 at an altitude of approximately 350 metres. Hisehope was built in 1906 at an altitude of 340 metres. All three are surrounded by heather-dominated, privately managed, grouse moors that are at their most picturesque in August and September when the heather is in flower.

They are all located in an area that has a high value for wildlife, forming part of a SSSI, SPA and SAC.

These designations reflect the value of the reservoirs as part of an important assemblage of habitats and because the moorland supports internationally important numbers and species of upland birds including black grouse, merlin and golden plover.

The Fish

The indigenous species in the reservoirs are the Brown Trout. These reproduce naturally but are supplemented by regular stocking from the Angling Association. Waskerley is stocked with good quality Brown and Rainbow Trout (over 14") while Smiddy Shaw and Hisehope are stocked with good quality Brown Trout.

Fishing for Brown Trout

22nd March to 30th September on Waskerley

1st. May to 31st October on Smiddyshaw and Hisehope.

Fishing for Rainbows

22nd March to 31st December on Waskerley

Since 1990 Rainbow Trout have been stocked into Waskerley (only). 

The only other notable fish species present in the reservoirs is the minnow.

Invertebrate life is rich and varied, with significant hatches of numerous species throughout the year.

Angling for Brown and Rainbow trout is allowed with fly, worm and minnow, subject to the Environment Agency rules and regulations. Club rules are regularly reviewed to ensure compliance with best practice.

In the interests of conservation, members are subject to bag limits (reviewed annually) and are encouraged to catch and release fish using barbless hooks.

Members must keep an accurate and true record of their catch at each visit, by using the catch record sheet which are located in the Lodge at Waskerley and the metal containers at Smiddy Shaw and Hisehope.


Habitats for other flora and fauna.

Waskerley is the largest and most varied of the three sites. Woodland cover here comprises a small conifer plantation with sitka spruce and scots pine, and a small broad-leaved plantation. At Smiddyshaw Reservoir you can see petrified trees when water levels are low.

All the reservoirs are surrounded by a mosaic of dry heath and acid grassland that is co-dominated by a mixture of mat-grass, wavy hair-grass and heather and where acidic mires occur, soft rush and bog moss are dominant.


Muggleswick Common, which surrounds Waskerley, Smiddyshaw and Hisehope, is an important moorland habitat for breeding upland birds; notably red grouse and waders such as lapwing, redshank, curlew, snipe, oystercatcher and golden plover. Small passerines including meadow pipit and wheatear can be seen as well as raptors like short-eared owl and the nationally scarce merlin. Mallard are the main winter residents on Waskerley and Smiddyshaw.

Hisehope is a comparatively poor site for birds and whilst breeding ringed plover and little ringed plover have been recorded, the main feature of this upland reservoir, along with Waskerley and Smiddyshaw are the colonies of gulls. Up to 1,000 mainly black-headed and common gulls roost on Smiddyshaw and approximately 200 black-headed gulls have been recorded on Waskerley. Common gulls assemble here in March en route to their breeding grounds further north.

When the reservoir water levels are low, good numbers of waders including curlew, sandpiper and grey plover have also been recorded.

The coniferous plantation next to Waskerley supports a small population of woodland birds such as chiffchaff, willow warbler and spotted flycatcher. Osprey are regularly seen overhead going to and from their breeding grounds further north.

Other wildlife

Adder, common lizard, common frog, toad and rabbits have been recorded around Waskerley, the latter being particularly abundant! Brandts / whiskered bats have been recorded emerging from buildings near to Waskerley in late July although this is unlikely to be a nursery roost due to the exposed nature of the site. The recorded bats are likely to be males or non-breeding females that often roost in small numbers. Given the location of these reservoirs and the cool conditions over much of the year any buildings nearby may provide suitable roost or hibernation sites for bats.

(Above description adapted from and with the permission of Northumbrian Water Limited see