ALSTON IS RICH in minerals, in particular lead deposits, and the landscape has been heavily influenced by the effects of varying methods of mining. The railway line, which closed in the 1960s, is a great way to see the wildlife. The river gives you your first birds, with regular Dippers bombing up and down the waterway. Look out for the white-washed stones, which the birds prefer to use. Grey and Pied Wagtails are likely in spring and summer but sadly the area no longer holds Yellow Wagtails, common up to 1983 when so many died in the Sahel during migration, and new silage methods did the rest. The wader population is still strong, with large numbers of Curlew, Lapwing, Redshank, Snipe and Oystercatchers seen in spring and summer. Look for Black Grouse in autumn and winter. A mixed bunch of warblers can be found in summer with Willow, Garden and Wood Warblers, Blackcap and Chiffchaff, while the riverside trees attract Redstart and the odd Pied Flycatcher. Raptors in the area have included Goshawk, Buzzard, Kestrel, Hobby, Sparrowhawk, Osprey and even Rough-legged Buzzard.
OTHER WILDLIFE Otters are regular along with Red Squirrel, Roe Deer and Badger