Ardeer Fen and River Garnock at Stevenston

Location and Access

Ardeer Fen is an area of fenland 1km in length and (at its widest) slightly over 200m in breadth. It is bordered by a large area of industrial “wasteland” (the old ICI grounds), now largely reclaimed by nature and consisting of many square miles of woodland, grassland, heathland, and wetland. The River Garnock, where it first turns distinctly estuarine, flows near the fen and into the grounds of ICI, emerging two kilometres downstream at Bogside.

There is a small parking area at NS287422, beside which is an access gate to Todhill Country Centre Community Woodland. A path leads through the plantation to the fen. A good view over the area can be had from the top of the old bridge at NS291419. After crossing the bridge, one can scramble down the embankment on the right to get onto the sand quarry’s access road. (One can also scramble down the embankment on the left, follow the foot-worn path along the ICI boundary fence, and emerge further down the access road). Head east (away from Stevenston) along the access road until it crosses a small burn (at NS294421). At this point step off the road (to your right) and into the livestock field. Keeping right, follow the edge of the field for about 250m until you reach the River Garnock.


In summer the area is jumping with passerines: Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Grasshopper Warbler, Common Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Blackcap, Reed Bunting, Meadow Pipit, Linnet and Stonechat are all present. Wheatear can be seen on passage. During the breeding season, Common Sandpiper is present on this stretch of the River Garnock. Mallard, Moorhen, and Water Rail breed in the fen.

The area is much quieter in winter. Redwing, Fieldfare, and Starling are frequent in winter, roosting in large flocks. Hen Harrier has been seen hawking in winter, and Marsh Harrier has been seen on passage. In previous years, the fen held large numbers of Snipe and the occasional Black-tailed Godwit and Redshank; however, succession at the site has led to a decline in wader species. Outside of the breeding season, the River Garnock, where it enters the old ICI grounds, holds Cormorant, Red-Breasted Merganser, Goosander, Shelduck, Mallard, Wigeon, Teal, and Goldeneye, as well as some of the commoner waders, such as Curlew, Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Redshank, and passage Greenshank.

Grey Heron are present in good numbers all year round. Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, and Kestrel are also highly visible throughout the year.


  • Todhill Community Woodland is a good place to get views of obliging Grasshopper Warbler: the site holds many reeling males and birds frequently perch on the young saplings. Indeed, the saplings and fence posts in the plantation provide ample opportunities to digiscope Goldfinch, Reed Bunting, Sedge Warbler, and Meadow Pipit.
  • When approaching the River Garnock across the livestock field, care should be taken to remain hidden behind the hawthorns which separate the field from the river – a clumsy approach can send most of the birds on the river skiting back into ICI. Similarly, viewing the birds from further upstream is usually a good idea.
  • The noisy trucks that transport sand from the quarry on site do not run at the weekend.
  • In winter, the Fen can be very unproductive. It is at its busiest in May.