Nature Reserves near York – explore wildlife and nature in every season
Every season can be enjoyable to get outside in the fresh air and explore nature together, especially if you know what to look for. Visit one of the local Nature Reserves in York and explore meadows, wetlands, moorland or ancient woodlands.
Nature reserves are specific areas where plants, animals and wildlife are protected to allow everything to thrive and great places to visit whatever the weather and time of year.
We listed some great nature reserves in York and also activities you can do with children when you visit – whatever the season!
This ten-acre site of mixed woodland and ancient meadow is a green haven in the middle of a large housing estate and is managed by the Woodland Trust. It offers a small area of nature in an otherwise urban landscape. Plenty of birds have made it their home, so don’t forget your binoculars!
Clifton Backies was designated as a Nature Reserve in 2002 and is situated between Bootham Stray and Water Lane in Clifton. It has been used for various things over the years, from arable fields to an airfield in World War II. There are still some surviving historical features such as the ridges and furrows created by medieval ox ploughs and the concrete airfield paths and some old blast shelters.
“It’s fairly small so fine for little ones. We stuck to main paths but there was some we didn’t explore. Nice big grass area which ours played on too.” Mumbler LT
Hob Moor was declared a Local Nature Reserve in 2003 and is an 89-acre site of mainly unimproved pastureland, with a small area of raised sandy heath in the northeast corner. Cattle graze on the main expanse of the Moor from May to October.
🗺Location: Hob Moor, one of the ancient commons of York, is situated between Acomb, Holgate and Dringhouses; it is 1.5 miles southwest of the Minster, not far from the Racecourse.
Moorlands is a small woodland, very popular with Mumblers! There is a lovely trail for children to follow and the fact it is a safely enclosed woodland, makes it perfect for young explorers of nature. There is a huge collection of rhododendrons, some of which are very old.
“Moorlands Nature Reserve is a lovely little walk, tree house to play on”. Mumbler CP
🗺Location: Moor Lane, York, YO32 2RE
🚘Parking: Limited off-street parking is available outside the woodland
At St Nicks, you can discover 24 acres of green space on the site of a former rubbish tip. It has been a Nature Reserve since 2004 in order to maintain and conserve a wide range of habitats. Just a mile from the city centre, it is situated between an industrial area and a housing estate. It will come as no surprise to hear that the Environment Centre remains closed during the latest lockdown. The nature reserve, however, remains open for exercise and wildlife spotting!
“St Nicholas fields off Hull road/Melrosegate or can enter on foot from the cycle track or the end of Hazel court. Can get a bit muddy but is a great oasis in the midst of the housing area.” Mumbler KU
Strensall Common is a nature reserve that supports wet and dry heath, open water, woodland and grassland meaning there are over 150 plant species growing and plenty of wildlife has made the Common its home. In summer common lizards can be seen basking in the sun on old birch stumps. Adders are often spotted here too so keep your eyes peeled!
“It’s lovely there and lots of parking… it is known to have a fabulous population of adders, which is great, but I would definitely recommend wearing shoes/boots not sandals and long trousers. But I want to stress any encounter with an adder is very rare as they often get out of the way long before you see them.” Mumbler KB
🗺Location: Common Road, Strensall, York, YO32 5YB
🚘Parking: Roadside parking. A central parking point is by the Common Road level crossing.
Just a 20-minute drive from York, Allterthorpe Common Nature Reserve is a great place to visit if you like looking for wildlife. This 6-hectare site has no formal paths to follow but you can enjoy spotting roe deer and plenty of birds. There are also several ponds where you can see dragonflies. The nearest refreshments and toilets are in Pocklington 4 miles away.
🗺Location: Off Common Lane, Allerthorpe, East Riding of Yorkshire, YO42 4RU
🚘Parking: Free parking in FC car park of Common Lane
Tick off all the wildlife you spot the Wildlife Trusts spotting sheet
Track animal trails and signs in the mud or snow
There is so much to see in spring when nature starts bursting to life again. Why not enjoy playing spring bingo with this sheet from the RSPB? The Wildlife Trust also has a great list of things to look out for in Spring from bluebells to woodpeckers and hares to woodland butterflies. You could also:
In summer you can enjoy the sunshine and all the colour that nature offers. The Wildlife Trust has a great list of things you can spot in summer. The Woodland Trust also has some great activities to try in summer. You could also:
Look out for dragonflies flying above ponds and streams
Spot swallows flying high in the sky
This time of significant change in nature is a brilliant time to learn even more about what is going on around you. As the leaves and seeds start to fall there are plenty of treasures to collect. The Woodland Trust has some great craft ideas for all those fallen leaves you collect on your travels. You could also:
Look for fungi – there are over 15,000 species in the UK (NEVER eat any though!)
Autumn is a great season to go on a nature scavenger hunt
Download our FREE scavenger hunt sheets – there is one for each season!