Big skies, often full of whirling flocks of birds, stretch out above you, which the wide green expanse of floodplain meadows go for as far as the eye can see. The Derwent flows quietly by, reeds rustle in the breeze and a mysterious 'plop' in the ditches might signal a pike, water vole or even otter. In fact, at times in the centre of Wheldrake Ings, it can be so peaceful and remote that you feel like the only person on earth.
For centuries Wheldrake Ings, at the heart of the Lower Derwent Valley Living Landscape, has been managed in a traditional way, which means you can still see habitats that have been here for centuries.
Spring is a time of vibrant growth on the Ings. As winter floodwaters recede the rich meadows begin to grow plants such as marsh marigold and cuckooflower are the first to add splashes of colour to the fields.
Tucked within the growing grassland waders such as lapwing, redshank and curlew start to raise their young. Flotillas of young duck families scoot into the overhanging willows around the pool edges. Late June sees the meadows at their best with some of the finest areas supporting up to 25 plant species per square metre.
Look for the crimson raspberry-like heads of great burnet and the cream sprays of meadowsweet. This type of meadow community is uncommon now and the area at Wheldrake Ings is of international importance. In the early July the land is dry and the meadows are ready to be cut for hay.
Download the Wheldrake Ings Free App for your iphone! Click here.
This app, funded by Yorventure gives you a virtual guided tour of the nature reserve with audio clips, photos and more. It is also available for Android and Blackberry devices - please search in the relevant app stores.
Enjoy a post-Sunday lunch stroll on a crisp, sunny winter afternoon. There's a great chance of spotting a hunting peregrine creating a mass whirling spectacle of thousands of teal, wigeon, golden plover, and lapwing - an exhilarating spectacle. Stay until dusk when whooper swans fly in to roost on the floodwater. Magical!
By August sheep and cattle are turned out to graze the re-growth of grass or 'fog' as it is known. In autumn, the meadows start to flood and impressive expanses of open water attract a spectacle of thousands of ducks, geese and waders. 40,000 birds use the Lower Derwent Valley each winter, with a significant proportion of these at Wheldrake.
The wetlands attract a wide range of birds. Spring and autumn can be exciting as migrant waders, terns and raptors pass through. Spotted crake, water rail and willow tit all breed along with many common waders and ducks. Marsh harrier, hobby and peregrine are all seen regularly with the chance of an osprey of black tern during migration.
The site also supports a host of grassland and wetland insects including some very rare beetles. Fish such as pike and rudd can be glimpsed in the ditches and otter have bred on the nature reserve on several occasions in the past few years.
Management here is a fine balance of controlling water levels to support the wintering, passage and breeding birds, whilst also creating the right conditions for the rare floodplain grassland to thrive. On top of this regular maintenance and cleaning of the ditches is required, which each winter receive silty deposits as the River Derwent bursts its banks and spreads across its floodplain.
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.
There is a regularly service between Wheldrake village and York Merchantgate (bus 36 to Sutton on Derwent and 18 to Holme Upon Spalding Moor). This service also passes through Skipwith, North Duffield and Bubwith.
Please check with the local bus companies (Transdev and East Yorkshire Motor Service) before travelling as bus routes are prone to change.
Eight miles south east of York, four miles east of the A19. From Wheldrake follow the road (Carr Lane) towards Thorganby and out of the village where the road takes a sharp right turn. 0.5 miles further on a narrow road to you left (after the Yorkshire Water compound) takes you down to the nature reserve. Park on the stony area next to the bridge over the River Derwent.