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Bolton-on-Swale Lake Nature Reserve

Created through sand and gravel quarrying, this is one of the few large areas of open water in this part of North Yorkshire and attracts a wide range of breeding and wintering waders and wildfowl.

Once a working sand and gravel quarry, Bolton-on-Swale Lake has been landscaped to provide suitable habitat for a wide range of wetland bird species.

Additional planting of trees and bushes at the edge of the lakes and sympathetic management of the surrounding farmland has provided further wildlife friendly habitats.

Top Tip:

Check out the winter roost of gulls, which can often contain a rarity such as a glacous or Iceland gull, particularly in late winter.

During the winter months numbers of ducks, geese and waders can be very high, with nationally significant numbers of wigeon using the site. Smaller numbers of goldeneye, pochard, tufted duck, and teal can also be seen here. Overwintering waders such as lapwing, curlew and golden plover rely on the permanent grasslands surrounding the lake for food and this is taken into account in the management of these grasslands as part of a working farm.

The large assemblages of wetland birds can sometimes hold more unusual visitors; passage migrant species on site regularly include common sandpiper, little stint, ruff and whimbrel. Merlin, pink-footed goose and several species of tern have also been recorded on site.

The nature reserve is managed by an agricultural tenant and as such access to the site is limited to the hide adjacent to the site car park, which provides excellent views out over the lake and surrounding fields.

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

A bus route goes through Bolton-on-Swale.


From the A1 travelling north enter Catterick and continue north on the A6136 keeping the racecourse on your left. Cross Catterick Bridge and after approximately ½ mile turn right at the cross roads onto the B6271 towards Bolton-on-Swale. Continue for 1½ miles to a road on the right, this is Back Lane which leads to the nature reserve car park. From Northallerton follow the B6271. Pass the signpost to North and South Ellerton on the left, continue for ½ mile to a signpost (Ellerton to Scorton). Fork left down Back Lane to reach the nature reserve car park.


Want to see more of Bolton-on-Swale Nature Reserve before your visit? Have a look below.

Bolton-on-Swale Lake Nature Reserve photos in our Flickr group


Nearby nature reserves

Leyburn Old Glebe Nature Reserve
11 miles - Yorkshire Wildlife Trust
Redcar Field
13 miles - Durham Wildlife Trust
16 miles - Tees Valley Wildlife Trust

Nature reserve map

Reserve information

Back Lane
North Yorkshire
DL10 6AH
Map reference
SE 248 987
Great for...
a family day out
Best time to visit
Mar - May
Sep - Feb
Get directions
Find out here
Public transport
Plan your journey
Opening Times
Open at all times
34.65 hectares

There is no general access to the reserve at present. Viewing is from the hide accessible from Back Lane. Contact the Trust for disabled access information.
Walking information
There is no general access to the reserve at present. Viewing is from the hide accessible from Back Lane.
Reserve car park.
No dogs allowed
Grazing animals
Sheep and cattle graze the surrounding grassland
Reserve manager
Yorkshire Wildlife Trust
Tel: 01904 659570


Factsheets and guides for your visit