Brockadale Nature Reserve
Know before you go
Parking informationThe car park is off Leys Lane, near the village of Little Smeaton - approach it from the Eastern end of Leys Lane. Please do not drive down from the West/A1 end as there is no through road and no room to turn your car around, you will get stuck!
Grazing animalsCattle and sheep graze the meadows at various times throughout the year.
There are permissive footpaths around the site, some steep and narrow on natural surfaces, including kissing gates, steps and bridges. Camping, cycling and rock climbing are not permitted.
When to visit
Opening timesPlease see notice below.
Best time to visitMarch to September
About the reserve
We're working to protect and manage this special place so it's a thriving home for wildlife. To minimise disturbance to wildlife, camping, cycling and rock climbing are not permitted. We also ask that dogs are kept on leads throughout your visit - there's more information below.
Before you visit
Brockadale is currently seeing a high level of visitors, which means that the reserve is very busy at weekends and on sunny days.
In order to help social distancing and to minimise disturbance to wildlife, please consider visiting us at a quieter time (on a weekday, for example), and not travelling from afar to visit Brockadale. We have nature reserves all across Yorkshire - why not explore one more locally?
If you do choose to visit, please keep your dog on a lead (more information below) and be especially aware of keeping to the paths and following signage around the reserve.
Walking your dog at Brockadale
We're happy to welcome dogs to Brockadale, but we ask that you keep your dog on a lead at all times during your visit and pick up and dispose of your dog poo responsibly by either putting it in the bins provided, or if full, taking it home with you. This is because even a well-behaved dog can cause detrimental damage to the reserve:
- As dogs run and sniff around the reserve, they disturb animals and birds that are in the undergrowth. As an example, when an adult bird is disturbed and flies away, they may not ever return to their chicks. We want to ensure that Brockadale is a thriving home for a variety of wildlife, and minimising disturbance is an important first step.
- We have livestock grazing our land. Not only can dogs disturb or even threaten livestock, there are several nasty diseases which can be transmitted to cattle via dog poo which can be life threatening. At the same time, dogs could be infected by similar nasty illnesses.
- Dog poo does break down in the undergrowth, but it can also change the quality of the soil and can threaten the growth of specialist plants which our native wildlife depends on for food and shelter. In addition, simply putting it in a plastic bag and leaving it around the site doesn't look very nice and adds to plastic pollution which is now recognised as a significant threat to all wildlife. It is also a health risk to our staff working on these sites and to other visitors, especially those with younger families whose children may explore in the undergrowth along the pathways. There is a risk of ocular toxocariasis, which is a disease transmitted from roundworms to humans via fresh and old dog and cat poo. Although rare, it most often affects young children and can have severe effects including blindness.
We want to keep Brockadale looking beautiful! Thank you to all those dog walkers who are conscientious and considerate when bringing their dogs onto the reserve, helping to protect our wildlife from disturbance and disease.
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.
- 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
There is an infrequent bus service from Pontefract to Doncaster which stops at either Wentbridge, Kirk Smeaton or Little Smeaton.
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.