Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Staveley Nature Reserve is the perfect spot amongst quiet North Yorkshire countryside for all the family, and especially those with limited mobility, with otters a highlight for the luckiest visitors.
Arrive in summer and you’ll be greeted with a riot of foot-high wildflowers including vibrant daisies playing host to dragonflies and butterflies, just seconds from the car park.
Sculpted from a former quarry, today this largely flat site is served by a range of wide and accessible trails, with plenty of great viewing areas and peaceful corners.
A site of two halves, the East Lagoon is edged with natural vegetation that was allowed to develop freely and comprises boggy fenland, reedbeds and flower-rich grassland. Whereas the West Lagoon has had trees planted and some pasture land which is grazed by the attractive Hebridean sheep – a small native breed.
Birds flock to the site in summer to breed, including migrants such as sand martins and several species of warbler. The attractive and elegant-looking common tern also breeds on special rafts put out in the lake for them, while the muddy margins are irresistible to wading birds like snipe, lapwing and ring plovers.
Parts of the site have remained a refuge for rare plants which were once widespread before the surrounding land was drained to create farmland. These include locally scarce species including water violet, marsh helleborine and meadow rue. The pathside meadows also come alive with orchids including spotted and the delicate bee orchid – popular with its namesake.
Dragon and damselflies are also a delight to behold come summer time, with 22 species recorded in total including the brightly coloured large red damselfly.
Families in search of adventure can look for the various tracks and trails left by visiting mammals like roe deer and fox, whilst water shrew and harvest mice are amongst the smallest. Otters are regularly seen, with cubs often present in the spring and summer. Look out for rings or ‘wakes’ of bubbles in the calmer waters, or the reactions of gulls in the air above.
A warm and cosy wildlife watching hide has been built on site using straw bales, providing shelter from the elements as well as the perfect perch for watching the world go by. Information boards help give a clue as to what you are looking at, whilst a small quiz looking at bird beaks helps to entertain young minds. Brass rubbing stations can also be found around the nature reserve.
Access to the nature reserve is free to all visitors. A pub serving food can be found in the village.