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Wharfedale Naturalists have had a long association with five local nature reserves. All the reserves are interesting places to visit. Many of our members have become actively involved in conservation work parties at the reserves. These are always fun, social,  rewarding, and give back to nature.

If you would like to find out more and become involved, take a look below.

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Ben Rhydding Gravel Pits Nature Reserve

Ben Rhydding Gravel Pits Local Nature Reserve is a delightful little site on the banks of the Wharfe. It’s a notable for over 180 plant species including southern marsh and common spotted orchids.  In the summer it hosts good numbers of butterflies, scrub warblers and a large sand martin colony.  You can often see kingfishers and otters are regularly sighted.

To learn more about the reserve and find details of volunteering opportunities, please visit the website.

or contact Steve Parkes

07770840156  |

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Gallows Hill Nature Reserve, Otley

Gallows Hill Nature Area lies to the east of Otley on the River Wharfe. The reserve extends to around 5.5ha (13.5 acres) and consists of broad-leaved plantation woodland, grassland, nettle-beds and has five ponds. Friends of Gallows Hill run a well attended events programme each year as well as monthly voluntary work parties. Our work parties help manage the reserve which includes a Forest Garden and Community Orchard on part of the reserve. Our ponds support populations of common toad, common frog, and four species of newts including great crested newt. Bird watching is good all year round, with woodland birds, kingfisher, dipper and goosander regularly recorded through the winter. The site has level access paths throughout and benches for resting and enjoying the wildlife. There is a car park on Gallows Hill Lane (off the access road to Garnett Wharfe).

If you are interested in coming to events or getting involved with work parties, please contact the FoGH Secretary David Hampshire via email;

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Grass Wood, Grassington

Close to Grassington - made famous recently by ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ lies Grass Wood. One of the largest broadleaf woodlands in the dales, consisting chiefly of Ash, growing on limestone terraces, with open glades, and exposed rock.


Owned by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust since 1983. There is an active group of volunteers managing the reserve.

There is a rich flora including Bird’s Nest Orchid, Horseshoe Vetch, Wild Basil, Green Spleenwort, and Rock Rose. The Northern Brown Argus butterfly is found here, at the southern edge of its UK range, along with Speckled Woods and Ringlets. Birders are not left out, with breeding Pied Flycatchers and Green Woodpeckers.


Grass Wood is a very special place.

Full details about volunteering can be found on the YWT website.


Otley Wetland Nature Reserve

The Otley Wetland Nature Reserve was formally established in 2003 following cessation of gravel extraction and the resulting creation of several water bodies. It is wholly on private land to the north-west of Otley adjacent to the Sailing Club. It is important to note there is no general public access, but visitor Permits are given to contributing volunteers who help to maintain the site as a functioning Nature Reserve. The site is 14.4 hectares and sits within a conservation area/flood plain comprising in excess of 40 hectares.

As well as the open water bodies the site comprises reedbeds, flower-rich grassland and woodland. Much of the volunteer work comprises ensuring the open grassland areas are kept clear of tree seedlings - the whole area would gradually revert to woodland if left unattended which would result in an overall loss of biodiversity from the variety of habitats present today. The reedbeds are particularly important as they comprise a unique habitat in north-west Leeds which attracts specialist breeding bird species such as Water Rail and Reed Warbler. Cetti’s Warbler has been observed here and will hopefully start to breed in the near future. In addition, Bitterns have been observed wintering here (the reedbeds are too small for breeding) and Egrets are now being seen on occasion.

The site has a good suite of butterflies including the declining Common Blue utilising the flower-rich grasslands. Meadow Brown and Ringlet are present in good numbers in the grassland areas and Speckled Wood has become common on the woodland edges. 

Given the expanse of water it is no surprise that Dragonflies and Damselflies are also present in good numbers especially Brown Hawker, Common Darter and Azure and Common Blue Damselflies. 

The mix of flowers includes Common Spotted and Bee Orchids and other grassland specialists such as Bird’s-foot Trefoil.

Although typically difficult to observe, Otters are regularly present on the site coming off the river to feed on the plentiful fish present in the moats and lagoons. 

Work parties 9.30am to 12.00 (noon) finish.


April to May – no work parties

June – third Sunday of the month

July to September – third Saturday of each month

October to March – first Thursday and third Saturday of each month

01943 862916  |

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Sun Lane Nature Reserve, Burley-In-Wharfedale

The Sun Lane Nature Reserve is situated on the western edge of the village and is open to the public for visiting at any time. Seating is provided at several points. It is approximately 12 acres of grassland with shrubby areas and mature trees around the periphery. The site is owned by Bradford Council and is based on an old village tip which was covered in 1975 and, more securely, in 1995, resulting in the creation of the main grassland/flower area. It was designated as a Local Nature Reserve in 2011. 

Despite its small size it is a wildlife haven with, for example, over 400 species of wildflower identified since 1975 although, with the passage of time and natural succession, a significant proportion of these are no longer present. Monitoring of Butterflies on the site for the Butterfly Conservation Society has demonstrated the value of the site in a Yorkshire context. Breeding birds include Tree Sparrows, Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler with rarities, such as Waxwing, occurring on several occasions over the years.

Work Parties are held through the winter months on one Sunday morning per month the main task being the removal of grass cuttings and tree seedlings to maintain the grassland as an open area thereby encouraging the wildflowers to thrive.

The large Housing Estate being built on the site’s northern boundary is a significant concern for the site’s integrity into the future through the impact of increased footfall and a significant increase in dog walking activities, but it is hoped that most visitors will appreciate the importance of maintaining the integrity of the site as a wildlife haven and behave accordingly. 


For more information about Sun Lane, and work parties please contact Peter Riley 
01943 862916  |

Conservation Work Parties


Otley Wetlands Every third Saturday (August-March) and every first Thursday (October-March). Both start at 9.30am and finish 12.00 (noon).

Contact: T: 01943 862916 


Gallows Hill, Otley Every first Tuesday 10.30am at the car park up to 3pm with a break for lunch. Ad hoc Saturdays.



Ben Rhydding Gravel Pits, Ilkley Every second Saturday 9.30am - 12.30pm. Ad hoc weekday sessions.

Contact: T: 07770 840156 

Sun Lane, Burley-in-Wharfedale October to March. First Sunday of the month at 10am.



Grass Woods, Grassington, YWT. Full details at or contact 

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