A blaze of dancing colour

Kiplingcotes Chalk Pit - Jono Leadley

One of the closest Yorkshire Wildlife Trust reserves to my home is the magical Kiplingcotes Chalk Pit.

Despite its uninspiring name, it is coming into its full glory at this time of year. A snapshot of a once much more common habitat, the site has endured after the chalk was quarried to make the nearby railway embankment. Locomotives long gone, it is now the Hudson Way rail trail providing a great link for a ramble or bike ride between Market Weighton and Beverley. Chalk grasslands were once the mainstay of the Yorkshire Wolds, with their ever present sheep, but today only fragments remain and the nature reserve is once such piece.

Field scabious © Kieron Huston

Field scabious © Kieron Huston

I clicked open the gate and strolled down the slope, bulbous white flowers of bladder campion nodding next to me, framed in the greens of grasses and hawthorn hedge behind. My destination was the top slope, reached by a zig zag climb up steps cut into the side of the old quarry face. The short grassy sward, grazed by resident rabbits, was starred with yellow birds foot trefoil and decades old meadow ant hills, creating a rolling mountain-scape in miniature, on the valley floor. These hills are often topped with springy beds of aromatic wild thyme, its pinkish flower mats ablaze in the summer months.

Marbled white on black knapweed © Jon Traill

Marbled white on black knapweed © Jon Traill

Up and on to the top slope, the grasses are longer and form clumpy masses. They are interspersed with the sky blue pompom heads of field scabious, along with the majestic, showy, raggedy purple flowers of greater knapweed, a magnet for the dancing stars of my blaze of colour. As I walk slowly across the slope, wings open up and butterflies take to the air. Common blue, ringlet, meadow brown and dingy skipper all sky dance, but it is the delicately etched dark patterned lines of the marbled white that keeps me transfixed. The tall grasses provide shelter from our fickle summer weather and when the sun breaks out, the butterflies flit from flower head to flower head, in search of a liquid feed. Aerial balletic displays play out in front of me and then looking up, I am rewarded with a stunning view across the Kiplingcotes valley, as the sun dips down over the horizon and the warmth of the summer day ebbs away. The colour tones drop as the light changes and all becomes still before me as wings close for the night. An owl hoots, as early evening arrives, signalling a walk back home in the twilight, with a head ablaze with the fresh memory of dancing colours.