A dramatic Whitestone Cliff that towers above the wood shines out from the southern end of the Hambleton Hills to be seen for miles across the Vale of Mowbray to the Dales. A walk around the wood at anytime of the year gives you fantastic views as well as a variety of habitats to explore.
Interesting for both its biological and geological features, this impressive nature reserve with various habitats is home to good numbers of breeding birds, beautiful flowering plants, and oak and birch woodland.
From 305m above sea level on the cliff top, the nature reserve tumbles 150m to its western boundary just above Lake Gormire. The Whitestone Cliff itself has a sheer face of around 15-21m. The last major rock fall was in 1775, an event recorded in the diary of Methodist John Wesley who was preaching in the area.
Above the cliff you will find bilberry and heather moor, whereas below the boulder-strewn scree many micro-habitats have established ideal for lichens, mosses and ferns. Here you will also find evidence of man’s activity as the sandstone from the cliff was quarried until 1840 and shaped into square sleepers for use on the railways. The main area of woodland is acidic consisting mainly of birch, oak and holly, but pockets of other tree species occur including aspen, ash, sweet chestnut and sycamore. The more open areas of the nature reserve are covered with bracken and scrub. In the north west corner of the site where springs have made it too wet for the bracken, remnants of the plants that once existed survive. Common fleabane, ragged robin and common spotted orchid are amongst the flowers that flourish.
A walk at any time of the year is invigorating due to the nature of the terrain, but you are best rewarded by a visit in late April/early May when the bluebells are in full bloom and the wood is alive with bird song.
Established as a nature reserve in 1966, the wood forms part of Gormire SSSI and is part of a network of woodland and forestry plantations that stretches for some distance along the Hambleton Hills. The earliest reference to the woodland is from Tudor times.
Currently Yorkshire Wildlife Trust leases the land from the Forestry Commission; the Trust’s main management focus is the control of sycamore. Bracken is also controlled in some areas by pulling, bashing or tree planting.
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.
Moors Bus from Thirsk to Sutton Bank National Park Centre.
Take the A170 Thirsk – Scarborough road to Sutton Bank. From Sutton Bank National Park Centre take the Cleveland Way north before taking the nature trail down the slope in to the nature reserve.
Want to see more of Garbutt Wood Nature Reserve before your visit? Have a look below.