A wander through Kiplingcotes Chalk Pit in high summer will reveal a riot of colour in the species rich grassland, with butterflies busy on the flowers in some of the sheltered spots and farmland birds such as yellowhammers calling from the scrub. A walk to the top of this old quarry will give lovely views back along the valley.
Nestled in a narrow Wolds valley Kiplingcotes Chalk pit provides a haven for chalk-loving plant and animal species.
As vegetation colonises the bare chalk, different wildlife communities spring up as succession takes places over time. The first ‘pioneer’ species of lichens and moss colonise the quarry face and short-tufted grassland develops on the thin soils of the quarry floor supporting wild pansy, wild thyme and mouse-ear hawkweed. More established grassland on the quarry top supports common and greater knapweed, field scabious and burnet saxifrage.
Ant hills built by yellow meadow ants are scattered across the nature reserve and are characterised by being covered by springy beds of wild thyme – very fragrant when crushed. Some of these ant hills can be decades old and in the wider countryside are only found in areas that are not damaged by ploughing or mechanical cutting.
Don’t miss the amazing show of flowering plants in late June and early July, when the orchid spikes are at their most numerous. If you choose a warm, calm day you may also be lucky enough to see clouds of butterflies working their way through the nature reserve feeding on flowers as they go.
The nationally scarce red hemp-nettle is found here, as is a large population of basil thyme, which has undergone a huge decline in the UK. Butterflies typical of chalky soils occur in good numbers on the nature reserve including marbled white. Blackcap, bullfinch, and linnet can be found in the scrub, whereas in winter migrant birds pass through feeding on berries.
Quarried until 1902 the site was used to supply chalk during the building of the embankment of the Beverley to Market Weighton railway line, which opened in 1865. Nature then took over and the Trust has managed the site since 1965. Management has concentrated on keeping the grassland in good condition, with autumn and winter grazing by Hebridean sheep and Exmoor ponies helping keep some of the rough competitive grasses in check, allowing finer grasses and flowering plants to thrive. Scrub and weed control is carried out and cutting and laying takes place to manage the hedgerow on the northern boundary.
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Nearest train station is Beverley, approximately nine miles east.
The nature reserve is 2.5 miles north east of Market Weighton. From Market Weighton take the road signposted Kiplingcotes. Use the car park on the old railway line and walk 300m north east along the line – the nature reserve is entered through a kissing gate on your left. There is limited parking on the roadside and access is down some steep steps.
Want to see more of Kiplingcotes Nature Reserve before your visit? Have a look below.