Once a limestone quarry, this nature reserve is now an oasis for scrub, woodland and grassland plant species. Butterflies bask in the sun and other insects may be found seeking shelter in this quiet spot. The site’s industrial past is still evident, with a number of lime kilns found throughout the nature reserve.
Burton Leonard Lime Quarries comprises of a mixture of broadleaved woodland, scrub and open glades of magnesian limestone grassland.
This special mix of habitats encourages a rich combination of plant species, some of which are locally rare including burnet rose and autumn gentian. Two small populations of the nationally scarce spring sedge are also present in the grassland areas.
The shallow lime-rich soils are nutrient-poor, yet support the most botanically diverse magnesian limestone grassland communities with species including wild thyme, salad burnet, small scabious, rough hawkbit, fairy flax and bird’s-foot trefoil. The screes merit individual recognition due to the differing plant communities they support, including squinancywort, eyebright, betony, field scabious, wild basil, hairy violet, harebell, greater knapweed, clustered bellflower, cowslip and carline thistle. Woodland and calcareous scrub of hawthorn, elder and hazel has developed around the margins of the disused quarries leaving large exposed, sparsely vegetated cliff faces. Ash woodland is developing in several areas below the quarry faces.
Visit in early to mid summer on a warm sunny day to see a fantastic display of limestone grassland flowers and the insects that hey attract.
The bottoms of the sheltered quarries provide ideal habitats for many butterflies, including green-veined white, meadow brown, ringlet and speckled wood. White-letter hairstreak are also occasionally seen around the elm trees.
The site was an active limestone quarry from the 19th Century through to 1941, with the worked stone being burnt in the lime kilns on the site to produce quick lime. This material had a wide variety of uses from construction to agriculture. The remains of four lime kilns can still be seen on site as evidence of the nature reserve’s industrial past.
Yorkshire Wildlife Trust leases the nature reserve from Mountgarrett Estates, and works to prevent encroachment of trees and shrubs onto the limestone grassland banks.
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.
A bus service (Ripon-Knaresborough-Harrogate) passes through Burton Leonard village.
From Burton Leonard village walk along Lime Kiln Lane to the nature reserve. Approach Burton Leonard village from the A61 Harrogate-Ripon road.
Want to see more of Burton Leonard Lime Quarries Nature Reserve before your visit? Have a look below.