While the city of York is filled with ancient monuments and medieval memories, the Yorkshire countryside is also worth visiting. The area is filled with natural beauty, from wild parklands, woods and meadows. The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust has been established especially to protect the county’s nature reserves and wildlife. Looking to get away from it all? Here are the best natural retreats in Yorkshire.
York and the surrounding countryside is full of beautiful, protected reserves that are teeming with local wildlife and flowers.
The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust was originally set up to preserve Askham Bog, located on the outskirts of York. The surviving fenlands are found on the site of an ancient lake, left behind by a retreating glacier some 15,000 years ago. It’s a breeding ground for Yorkshire wildlife, where you can find marsh orchids, meadow thistle, violets and a variety of local birds, deer and foxes (and even a few shy water voles!). The bog is open to visitors with boardwalks and footpaths guiding your way.
Moorlands Nature Reserve
Another popular park is the Moorlands Nature Reserve, a small woodland that makes up a part of the Forest of Galtres. Spring is the best time to visit the Moorlands as it comes alive with colour as flowers like primroses, daffodils, bluebells and azaleas start to bloom. Its dense trees mean that there are lots of animals living in the woods, most notably different varieties of bats. The reserve is well equipped for visitors with pedestrian pathways and a map of points of interest showing sculptural wood carvings, tree houses and the history behind the area.
Strensall Common Nature Reserve
Just six miles north of York city centre is Strensall Common, a reserve made up of heath, mire, lakes, woods and grassland. There are over 150 different plant species here and the park is especially spectacular in August when the heather and heath turn the area purple. Sheep and cattle graze amongst the trees, and if you’re interested in bird or butterflies, make sure you bring your binoculars. It’s actually been used for military training by the nearby Strensall Barracks since the 19th century, which has played a large part in keeping the area preserved. There are trails throughout the reserve, although you can download maps on the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust website.
Wheldrake Ings Nature Reserve
If you want to see some of the famous Yorkshire lakes, head to Wheldrake Ings Nature Reserve. Off streams of the River Derwent flow through the reserve, so there is plenty of life here, especially in spring – see ducks, birds, fish and lots of varieties of colourful wildflowers. In autumn however, you can spot migrating birds as the meadows start to flood and the open water attracts thousands of geese, waders and others as they head down to the Lower Derwent Valley for winter.
North York Moors National Park
If you really want to get a taste of nature, head further north to the Yorkshire Moors where you’ll find a variety of different walks, varying in distance and difficulty. The landscapes are diverse as well – in Newton-under-Roseberry, you can climb Roseberry Topping, Cleveland’s most famous hill, and explore the surrounding Newton Woods. Out towards the coastline, you have a spectacular walk from Robin Hood’s Bay to Boggle Hole, where you can walk along the beach and look for fossils when the tide is out. There’s also Sutton Bank, which offers panoramic views across the Kilburn Woods. You’ll walk down the old thieves’ highway, once a getaway for highway robbers and see the White Horse, a large figure cut into the side of the hill.