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Allerthorpe Common Nature Reserve

Bees buzzing around sweet smelling purple spikes of heather, a green woodpecker 'yaffling' from the woodland edge, an adder shyly slithering into the undergrowth below prickly coconut-scented gorse bushes - all make up the sights, sounds and smells of Allerthorpe Common.

Allerthorpe Common is alive with wildlife throughout the year and supports a surprising range of habitats for such a small pocket of lowland heath - wet heath, dry heath, acid grassland, woodland, scrub and open water are all waiting to be discovered.

The lowland heath habitat found here once stretched right across the Vale of York, but now only remains in isolated fragments. This habitat and the wildlife it supports are now rare across the UK. Much of the flat, fertile land it is found on has been used by humans over time for agriculture and development, meaning nationally we have lost over 80% of this habitat since 1800 - making those areas we have left even more important.


Top Tip:


Visit on a sunny morning between February and April and you are almost guarenteed close-up views of basking adders. Don't get too close though as adders do have a venomous bite if threatened.


Ling heather, tormentil, sheep's fescue and wavy hair-grass grow on the drier areas of the site. Cross-leaved heath, purple moor grass and the locally rare St John's-wort grow in the damper areas as well as nationally rare May lily. Patches of gorse scrub provide shelter for birds and their network of roots support a healthy population of adders. Areas of mature birch and willow woodland add another dimension to the site - great spotted woodpecker may sometimes be seen. One large pool and several smaller ponds support numerous damselfly and dragonfly species including broad-bodied chaser and blue-tailed damselfly.

Sitting within Forestry Commision woodland, the site has historically been an oasis for wildlife typical of lowland heaths. One of the best areas on the Common, it was designated as a SSSI in 1965 and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust has managed the site since 1966. More recently the Forestry Commission has left open large tracts of coniferous forest felled for timber surrounding the nature reserve.

This land is now returning to lowland heath allowing species from the nature reserve to colonise. On site grazing using rare breed longhorn cattle helps keep tree saplings and some of the coarse competitive grasses that can take over the heath in check. On top of this volunteers work regularly to control bramble and bracken that can become a problem and remove any birch saplings that the cattle have missed.

Find out more about Allerthorpe Common Nature Reserve from the active volunteer supporters group.


Discover Yorkshire’s Wildlife

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Discover Yorkshire’s Wildlife book, which has detailed information on all of Yorkshire Wildlife and Sheffield Wildlife Trust’s reserves, is available to buy now from our online shop.

Public Transport

York - Hull buses stop at Barmby Moor village, 2.3 miles away.


Turn south off the A1079 near Barmby Moor signed Sutton-on-Derwent and Thornton. Take the next left signposted Thornton, and parking is in a Forestry Commission car park 0.5 miles along this road on the right. From here cross the road and follow the forest track until you come to a line of pylons. Turn right and the nature reserve is a short distance along on your right.


Want to see more of Allerthorpe Common before your visit? Have a look below.

Allerthorpe Common Nature Reserve photos in our Flickr group



Nearby nature reserves

Calley Heath Nature Reserve
2 miles - Yorkshire Wildlife Trust
Wheldrake Ings Nature Reserve
4 miles - Yorkshire Wildlife Trust
North Cliffe Wood Nature Reserve
9 miles - Yorkshire Wildlife Trust

Nature reserve map

Reserve information

Off Common Lane
East Riding of Yorkshire
YO42 4RU
Map reference
SE 761 475
Great for...
Best time to visit
Mar - Sep
Get directions
Find out here
Public transport
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Opening Times
Open at all times
5.57 hectares

There are no footpaths on the nature reserve.
Walking information
There are few paths on the reserve, and all are unsurfaced. Dogs are not permitted on the reserve.
Parking available 0.5 miles up the lane leading to the reserve on the right hand side.
No dogs allowed
Grazing animals
Hebridean sheep and cattle grazing
Reserve manager
Yorkshire Wildlife Trust
Tel: 01904 659570