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Wheldrake Ings Nature Reserve

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.

Wheldrake is inaccessible until the river goes down as the track is flooded to the North of Tower Hide and the river is gently over topping in that area. The main meadow is starting to flood also.


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.

Top Tip:


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.


Public Transport

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.


Want to see more of Wheldrake Ings before your visit? Have a look below.

Our favourite Wheldrake Ings Pictures

Wheldrake Ings Nature Reserve photos in our Flickr group

Find out more about the Lower Derwent Valley NNR - see the webpage, Facebook page or blog.

Species and habitats

Meadow, Wetland
Great Burnet, Meadowsweet, Otter

Nearby nature reserves

Allerthorpe Common Nature Reserve
4 miles - Yorkshire Wildlife Trust
Calley Heath Nature Reserve
5 miles - Yorkshire Wildlife Trust
Askham Bog Nature Reserve
8 miles - Yorkshire Wildlife Trust

Nature reserve map

Reserve information

Ings Lane
North Yorkshire
YO19 6AS
Map reference
SE 694 444
Great for...
getting away from it all
overwintering birds
spring migrant birds
Best time to visit
May - Sep
Get directions
Find out here
Public transport
Plan your journey
Opening Times
Open at all times
156.88 hectares
National Nature Reserve (NNR)
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Special Areas of Conservation (SAC)
Special Protection Areas (SPA)
Living Landscape schemes
Derwent Valley and Derby

Permissive footpaths. The paths are muddy after wet weather. Special access kissing gate allows buggy entrance. Contact the Trust for disabled access information
Walking information
Permissive footpaths. Keep to footpaths as there are areas of deep water. The ground is often soft and slippery.
Limited parking available.
No dogs allowed
Grazing animals
From late summer through to late autumn sheep and cattle are on site.
Reserve manager
Yorkshire Wildlife Trust
Tel: 01904 659570


Factsheets and guides for your visit