Barlow Common Nature Reserve

Barlow Mere - Mr and Mrs Childs

Barlow Mere - Mr and Mrs Childs

Please note that the toilets at Barlow Common are currently closed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

There is a mosaic of habitats to explore on this former rubbish tip, which is now a flourishing wildlife rich brownfield site. Tranquil lakes host little grebe and the open grasslands provide a real chance of seeing green woodpecker and also hear them yaffle. early summer brings the meadow areas alive with common spotted orchids and viper's bugloss. It is perfect for a family day out. With habitats spanning from wetland and wildflower meadows to mature woodland, this delightful nature reserve is home to a diverse range of wildlife.


Barlow Road
North Yorkshire

OS Map Reference

SE 633 285
A static map of Barlow Common Nature Reserve

Know before you go

37 hectares

Entry fee


Parking information

Parking available at the main entrance of the reserve. Disabled parking available when entering from Barlow Common Road.

Walking trails

Unsurfaced paths around the reserve, with some boardwalks.

A wildlife trail, developed thanks to funding from SUEZ, leads visitors around a trail of predominantly oak and birch woodland that often gets missed as it is tucked away in a quiet corner of the reserve.

Twenty-five hand-carved wooden waymarkers act as check points around the reserve, alerting visitors to the huge variety of wildlife present.


Disabled access available from Barlow Common Road.  Toilets are available at the Education Centre (9am-4pm seven days a week), please note there is a ramp plus step to toilets with broad but not fully equipped cubicles.


On a lead


Picnic area
Accessible toilet

When to visit

Opening times

Open dawn till dusk.

Best time to visit

March to September, but it is a year round site for ease of access to green space and nature.


Listen out for the loud, laughing call of a green woodpecker and keep an eye out for grass snakes basking in the sun.

In summer, butterflies including peacock, red admiral and painted lady feast on flowering teasels, whilst dramatically-marked cinnabar moth caterpillars are visible on ragwort - striped yellow and black as a vivid warning to would-be predators. Flowers including evening primrose, lady's bedstraw, wild basil and common centaury provide a stunning display, whilst ox-eye daisies and orchids also draw vistors in.

On the far pond ducks, geese and swans raise young in the spring; whilst under the water dragonfly larvae and newts are waiting to be discovered by intrepid pond dippers!

Come winter the teasels, flowering now ended for the year, provide seeds for incoming flocks of finches. Sharp-eyed visitors may also glimpse a timid roe deer or fox taking a wander.

Seasonal highlights

  • Spring: Birds - Grey heron; Kingfisher; Reed bunting
  • Summer: Plants - Common spotted orchid; Invertebrates - Red admiral; Birds - Cuckoo; Reptile - Grass snake
  • Autumn: Mammals - Fox; Birds - Great spotted woodpecker
  • Winter: Mammals - Roe deer; Birds - Long-tailed tit; Siskin; Swan


Whilst warblers, woodpeckers and wall brown butterflies now call Barlow Common home, the site has a chequered past.

Up until the early 1900s local people grazed cattle, pigs and sheep on the common, after which the site was purchased by a local rail company who used it as a ballast tip.

Later, in 1983, British Rail reclaimed the land and capped the tip using local soils.

Selby District Council then acquired the site in 1986 and managed it until March 2013, when the Trust took over its care.


Public transport
Regular bus services run close to Barlow Common - the entrance to the nature reserve is about 50 metres from the nearest bus stop. The nearest train station is in Selby.

By car
Barlow Common is easily reached from the A1041 Selby to Snaith road by taking the southern-most turning to Barlow village. Follow the road for approximately 1½ miles and turn right onto Mill Lane. After less than half a mile the nature reserve will be on the right.