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Ellerburn Bank Nature Reserve

A warm sunny day brings this limestone grassland to life, with colourful butterflies such as small copper and day-flying moths including six-spot burnet fluttering between vibrantly coloured meadow flowers. Skylark, with their distinctive flight and lilting song, breed in the adjacent fields.

This excellent example of limestone grassland has never been farmed or worked in any way.

Its thin, free draining soils support species such as rock-rose, cowslip and quaking grass. A few rarities can also be found here including some orchid species.

The meadows are generally at their most picturesque in June and July, an impressive sight for such a small nature reserve. Rabbits, foxes, badgers and roe deer are frequent visitors that leave telltale signs, whilst stoats can be seen whisking through the stems during the day. Adders are seen occasionally around the drystone wall. Butterflies breeding here include small copper and small skipper. The site also attracts birds, including skylark which breed on the adjacent arable land and flocks of finches in winter.

Top Tip:

To see the meadow and views at their best, visit from June to July. The sward will be in its finest bloom.

The field contains small amounts of hawthorn and gorse scrub and is bounded by woodland on two sides. Situated on the shoulder of Pexton Moor the nature reserve slopes down into the valley towards Dalby Beck. Along the western edge of the site is an ancient earthwork that is thought to be a late Bronze Age double bank and ditch. This is a scheduled ancient monument on which management is limited.

Winter grazing using Hebridean sheep keeps young scrub in check and the sward healthy, allowing it to flower and seed throughout the summer. The patches of scrub that do not get grazed sufficiently by the sheep are mechanically managed to prevent spread into the pasture. The northern boundary is drystone wall and is maintained by Trust staff and contractors. Hedges are kept in good condition by ‘gapping up’ with mixed tree saplings that are protected by guards.

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 bus services into Thornton Dale. Nearest train station is in Malton.


At the south west corner of Dalby Forest. Take the Whitby road for 1.5 miles and turn right into Dalby Forest Drive. Take on of two forest tracks into the nature reserve by foot.


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

Ellerburn Bank Nature Reserve photos in our Flickr group


Nearby nature reserves

Chafer Wood Nature Reserve
3 miles - Yorkshire Wildlife Trust
Fen Bog Nature Reserve
8 miles - Yorkshire Wildlife Trust
Harland Mount Nature Reserve
10 miles - Yorkshire Wildlife Trust

Nature reserve map

Reserve information

Dalby Forest Drive, Dalby Forest
North Yorkshire
YO18 7LU
Map reference
SE 853 860
Great for...
a family day out
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Opening Times
Open at all times
2.89 hectares

Permissive footpaths. Contact the Trust for disabled access information.
Walking information
Permissive footpaths.
2 parking areas.
No dogs allowed
Grazing animals
Sheep graze the land from September to December
Reserve manager
Yorkshire Wildlife Trust
Tel: 01904 659570


Factsheets and guides for your visit