Brockadale Nature Reserve - Paul Simmons

Brockadale Nature Reserve - Paul Simmons

With a rich mix of scarce limestone grassland, semi-ancient woodland, open crags, flood meadow and river habitat, there is always something to enjoy at Brockadale Nature Reserve. The woodland in springtime offers carpets of wood anemone, bluebell, primrose, violet and early purple orchid before being shaded out by the new leaf growth in the canopy above. Whilst in the summer, the flower-covered slopes are alive with a jewel-case of butterflies and other insects. In autumn explore the woodlands to discover the fabulous world of fungi hiding in the leaf litter and deadwood.


Leys Lane
Little Smeaton, Pontefract
North Yorkshire

OS Map Reference

SE 51286 17352 (parking access), SE 50773 16854 (Wentedge Road access)
A static map of Brockadale Nature Reserve

Know before you go

59 hectares

Entry fee


Parking information

Car park on Leys Lane. Small lay-by on Wentedge Road.

Grazing animals

Cattle and sheep graze the meadows at various times throughout the year.


Permissive footpaths and access path for wheelchair users to the entrance of the reserve.


On a lead

When to visit

Opening times

Open at all times

Best time to visit

March to September


Brockadale is in the valley of the River Went as it flows through a craggy, steep-sided gorge formed after the last ice-age when glacial melt-water burst through the magnesian limestone rock. Now the river meanders along the flat-bottomed valley.

The nature reserve is particularly important for its flowery slopes, which have never been ploughed. Such grassland habitat is now rare, with magnesian limestone only existing in a narrow band stretching from Nottingham to Durham, its soil producing excellent farmland. The site's flowers only survive because the valley sides are too steep to cultivate.

Around 350 species of plants grow on the reserve, some of which are scarce. Early flowers such as cowslip, common dog-violet and spring cinquefoil, well suited to the limestone soil, can be seen in spring. Native plants such as rock-rose follow, as well as orchids, salad burnet, yellow-wort, betony, field scabious and, in August, a profusion of clustered bellflower.

Butterflies abound in the meadows, with the spectacular marbled white and dark green fritillary unmissable in July. Day-flying moths like six-spot burnet and chimney sweepers are common, with close to 300 species of moths having been identified on site. The mixed woodland is home to woodland butterflies like speckled wood and white-letter hairstreak.

Around 40 species of bird breed on the nature reserve. Great spotted and green woodpeckers, nuthatch and long-tailed tit are resident, whilst warblers such as chiffchaff, willow warbler, blackcap and whitethroat are summer visitors. Yellowhammer and bullfinch are frequently seen in the hedgerows; kingfisher can be spotted along the river; and buzzard and kestrel may pass overhead.

Seasonal highlights

  • Spring: Plants - Wood anemone; Spring cinquefoil; Cowslip; Invertebrates - Orange-tip; Brimstone
  • Summer: Plants - Clustered bellflower; Rock-rose; Field scabious: Invertebrates - Dark green fritillary; Marbled white
  • Autumn: Fungi - Woodland fungi Birds - Fieldfare; Redwing
  • Winter: Plants - Stinking hellebore; Birds - Nuthatch


Public transport
There is an infrequent bus service from Pontefract to Doncaster which stops at either Wentbridge, Kirk Smeaton or Little Smeaton.

By car
From A1 take Wentbridge and Kirk Smeaton turn. Drive east to Kirk Smeaton, go through the village to Little Smeaton and head north west up New Road. Once out of the village turn left down Leys Lane to the car park at the end.