Magnificent royal ferns, rare gingerbread sedge and spectacular displays of water violets are to be found in this mosaic of fen, woodland and meadow.
Askham Bog is remarkable survivor of the ancient fenlands of Yorkshire. It occupies the site of an ancient lake, left behind by a retreating glacier 15,000 years ago - the low hill to the south of the Bog, along which the A64 road runs, is the terminal moraine from that glacier.
Since Roman times it has been used by local communities as a source of peat for fuel, resulting in a mosaic of habitats and a legacy of ditches, probably originally used for peat extraction.
The edges of the Bog are kept base-rich by water draining from the moraine and harbour the greatest diversity of plants and insects, including marsh orchids, marsh violet and meadow thistle. The colony of gingerbread sedge in Far Wood is the largest in England and some of the royal ferns are huge and probably very old.
The site was once renowned for water beetles and though some rare species still occur, many were lost when the adjacent Challoner's Whin was used as a municipal dumping ground early in the 20th Century. However, the moth fauna is still exceptional, with rare species such as the fen square-spot. Birds are abundant, including woodcock, buzzard, willow and marsh tits, grasshopper and reed warblers. In winter huge twittering flocks of goldfinch, lesser redpoll and siskin feed on birch and alder seeds. Roe deer and foxes are seen regularly and the pond is a great place to watch water voles, while overhead many dragonflies including the spectacular emperor can be seen on warm summer days.
Try an early morning visit for the best chance of an encounter with roe deer or water vole...
In 1946, the Bog was purchased by the famous sweet manufacturers Francis Terry and Arnold Rowntree and the Yorkshire Naturalists' (now Wildlife) Trust was formed to receive it as a gift: Askham Bog therefore holds a special place in the history of nature conservation in Yorkshire.
Decades of active management, including cutting meadows for hay and grazing by Exmoor ponies, have restored in biodiversity.
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.
Buses stop adjacent to the nature reserve on the A64 and in the nearby village of Copmanthorpe. A cycle track links to both York and Tadcaster.
Approaching York on the eastbound A64 take the A1036 turn off and then turn sharp left in the car park just after the first set of traffic lights.
Want to see more of Askham Bog before your visit? Have a look below.