Location Guide: Yorkshire's Nature Reserves
Yorkshire naturally...With over 100 nature reserves across Yorkshire, there’s always somewhere in the great outdoors for a relaxing walk and to get back to nature.
Bempton Cliffs, Bridlington
An internationally renowned nature reserve for seabirds who breed here every year. Bempton Cliffs is one of the best-known birdwatching haunts in Yorkshire and is just north of Bridlington. Between April and August the village of Bempton plays host to one of the most dramatic natural spectacles in the county – thousands of seabirds arrive on the reserve’s chalk cliffs to breed. This mixture of gannets, guillemots, puffins, razorbills and other seabirds is a sight that cannot be missed.
Spurn National Nature Reserve, Hull
Spurn Point is Yorkshire’s very own Land’s End – the tip of Yorkshire, where land meets sea curving between the North Sea and the Humber Estuary. The point is three miles long, but as little as 50 metres wide, providing a landscape that is both unique and ever-changing. A walk down the point will allow you to see wintering ducks, geese and swans, and waders such as curlews.
Fairburn Ings, Castleford
This RSPB reserve, just off the A1 in West Yorkshire, provides an exciting mixture of birds, insects and different habitats to explore. The bird feeding station near the visitor centre attracts bullfinches and nuthatches among others. A great place for visiting youngsters to enjoy a day out due to the reserve’s suitability to pond dipping. Fairburn Ings is renowned for its numbers of frogs and toads who live in the ponds around the reserve.
Images: Above left: Fen Bog Nature Reserve (Yorkshire Wildlife Trust/Jono Leadley). Above right: One of the ponds at Pond at Potteric Carr (Yorkshire Wildlife Trust/Matthew Roberts)
Potteric Carr, Doncaster
This flagship reserve for the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust is spread across a 200-hectare site just south of Doncaster, and, with 15 hides you can spend a whole day birdwatching. The reserve consists mainly of woodland and wetlands that attract a wide variety of land birds, waterfowl, wading birds and gulls. Over 230 species of birds have been recorded here, including bitterns, kingfishers and marsh harriers.
Hollinhurst Wood Nature Reserve, Leeds
Home to a variety of woodland and grassland habitats, designated as a Site of Geological or Ecological Importance. In the woodland during the spring, bluebells, snowdrops and daffodils are in bloom. Look out for woodpeckers and treecreepers.
North Cave Wetlands, Brough
One of Yorkshire’s newer nature reserves, North Cave Wetlands was developed from a large sand and gravel quarry. Several lagoons and wetlands have been created and throughout the seasons there are plenty of birds and wildlife to look for. In spring, expect to see avocets and terns; in summer, dragonflies, and in winter, flocks of wildfowl.
Images: Above left: Snowdrops at Hollinhurst Wood (Pixabay). Above right: Gannetts can be seen at Bempton Cliffs (Pixabay).
Blacktoft Sands, Goole
Part of the Humber Estuary, Blacktoft Sands mostly consists of reedbed, home to marsh harriers, bearded tits and bitterns. Six shallow lagoons await the eagle-eyed visitor at this reserve on the south bank of the River Ouse. The reserve hosts a diverse population of waders, warblers and raptors that can be easily spotted from the trails and hides at the largest tidal reedbed in England.
Barlow Common, Selby
Perfect for a family day out, you’d never know this flourishing, wildlife-rich site was once a former rubbish tip. Lakes host little grebes and the open grasslands provide a real chance of seeing green woodpeckers. With habitats spanning from wetland and wildflower meadows to mature woodland, this nature reserve is home to a diverse range of wildlife. A trail leads around areas of oak and birch woodland and 25 hand-carved waymarkers act as checkpoints on the reserve and highlight the variety of wildlife present.
Dearne Valley Country Park, Barnsley
Less than one mile from Barnsley town centre is an 80-hectare park that includes woodland, canal and riverside habitats and grassland. A popular place for dog walking, the site even includes a skate park and play area. There are two main lakes in the park, the largest providing a circular walking/cycling route. Upstream from here is the wildlife lake and the place to see kingfishers. Other birds to look out for include wagtails, tawny owls and bullfinches. For longer walks there is an extensive network of paths and Dearne Valley has access to connect to the Trans Pennine Trail.