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Calley Heath Nature Reserve

On a walk round Calley Heath you'll soon discover it is not your typical nature reserve, but a diamond in the rough. On close inspection you will be delighted by the detail of tiny flowering plants in the short rabbit-grazed sandy grasslands, or the numbers of common butterflies feeding on flowering grass and willowherb heads in the old allotments.

Would you like to volunteer as a stock checker on the reserve? Find out more here!

Calley Heath is an area of grassy heath – a habitat rare in Yorkshire.

Tiny flowering plants can be seen in the grassland including bird’s-foot trefoil, dove’s-foot cranesbill and common stork’s-bill – all typical of these sandy soils. Hare’s-foot clover is worth looking out for, named for its fluffy-looking flower heads. Shepherd’s cress, recorded in only three other places in Yorkshire, also grows well here.

Parts of the site support rough grassland which is valuable for a huge number of insects. Over 370 fly species alone have been recorded here and the site is also important for beetles and bugs too. One fly species – Hilara gallica – was thought to be extinct in Britain until it was re-discovered here recently; the nature reserve is now its UK stronghold.


Top Tip:


Come mid-summer equipped with a hand lens or small magnifying glass to appreciate the tiny grassland flowers in full bloom. Crouching down you may also spot battalions of ants busy working or some of the beautiful mosses.


There are small areas of oak woodland in the drier parts of the site, with alders and willow fringing the ditches and in some of the wetter spots rushes and yellow flag iris grow.

At the time of the gold rush in America, when people travelled west to California to make their fortune, Calley Heath was granted to the poor of Barmby Moor by a local Trust – so the people here similarly travelled west to make their fortune – hence the area become known as Calley (or California) Heath.

When the Trust took on the nature reserve in 2003 parts of the site were agricultural set-aside. Since then work on the site has concentrated on removing invading scrub, bracken and bramble in order to restore the acidic grassland habitat. The two fields which had been previously farmed were re-seeded with a species mix to recreate the natural grasslands. A true success story, as restoration is really working on the site, with one of the seeded grasslands now species rich.


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

Regular buses run between York and Hull and stop next to the Steer Inn opposite the nature reserve.


On the north side of the A1079 York to Hull Road 9.5 miles east of York centre. Almost opposite the Steer Inn. Entrance via gate off the main road. Limited parking at nature reserve entrance.





Want to see more of Calley Heath Nature Reserve before your visit? Have a look below.

Calley Heath Nature Reserve photos in our Flickr group



Nearby nature reserves

Allerthorpe Common Nature Reserve
2 miles - Yorkshire Wildlife Trust
Wheldrake Ings Nature Reserve
5 miles - Yorkshire Wildlife Trust
Strensall Common Nature Reserve
10 miles - Yorkshire Wildlife Trust

Nature reserve map

Reserve information

Opposite the Steer Inn
East Riding of Yorkshire
YO41 5PF
Map reference
SE 751 496
Great for...
a family day out
Best time to visit
Mar - Sep
Get directions
Find out here
Public transport
Plan your journey
Opening Times
Open at all times
11.12 hectares
Permissive footpaths. Contact the Trust for disabled access information.
Walking information
Permissive footpaths. Dogs allowed only on leads on public footpath.
Limited parking on the concrete verge in front of the reserves entrance gate.
Dogs must be on lead
Grazing animals
Hebridean sheep
Reserve manager
Yorkshire Wildlife Trust
Tel: 01904 659570