Garbutt Wood Nature Reserve

Garbutt Wood credit Jono Leadley

Garbutt Wood Nature Reserve

The dramatic Whitestone Cliff that towers above the wood shines out from the southern end of the Hambleton Hills to be seen for miles across the Vale of Mowbray to the Dales. A walk around the wood at anytime of the year gives you fantastic views as well as a variety of habitats to explore.


Sutton Bank National Park Centre

North Yorkshire

OS Map Reference

SE 506 835
A static map of Garbutt Wood Nature Reserve

Know before you go

24 hectares

Entry fee


Parking information

Car park at Sutton Bank National Park Centre.

Walking trails

Public and permissive footpaths, often steep. Disabled access limited to Cleveland Way from SBNPC to eastern edge of reserve.


Access from Sutton Bank National Park Centre. Public and permissive footpaths, often steep. Disabled access limited to Cleveland Way from Sutton Bank National Park Centre to eastern edge of reserve.


On a lead


Visitor centre
Picnic area
Accessible toilet

When to visit

Opening times

Reserve is open at all times. Visitor centre, toilets and café are located at the Sutton Bank National Park Centre and opening times may vary.

Best time to visit

March to September (April to May for bluebells)


Interesting for both its biological and geological features, this impressive nature reserve with various habitats is home to good numbers of breeding birds, beautiful flowering plants, and oak and birch woodland.

From 305m above sea level on the cliff top, the nature reserve tumbles 150m to its western boundary just above Lake Gormire. The Whitestone Cliff itself has a sheer face of around 15-21m. The last major rock fall was in 1775, an event recorded in the diary of Methodist John Wesley who was preaching in the area.

Above the cliff you will find bilberry and heather moor, whereas below the boulder-strewn scree many micro-habitats have established ideal for lichens, mosses and ferns. Here you will also find evidence of man’s activity as the sandstone from the cliff was quarried until 1840 and shaped into square sleepers for use on the railways.

The main area of woodland is acidic consisting mainly of birch, oak and holly, but pockets of other tree species occur including aspen, ash, sweet chestnut and sycamore. The more open areas of the nature reserve are covered with bracken and scrub. In the north west corner of the site where springs have made it too wet for the bracken, remnants of the plants that once existed survive. Common fleabane, ragged robin and common spotted orchid are amongst the flowers that flourish.

Seasonal highlights

  • Spring: Plants - Wood sorrel; Moschatel Birds - Tree pipit; Blackcap; Redstart
  • Summer: Plants - Common spotted orchid; Common valerian; Meadow sweet; Invertebrates- Ringlet; Meadow brown
  • Autumn: Fungi - Fly agaric; Milk cap
  • Winter: Birds - Sparrow hawk; Bullfinch


The earliest reference to the woodland is from Tudor times.

Established as a nature reserve in 1966, the wood forms part of Gormire SSSI and is part of a network of woodland and forestry plantations that stretches for some distance along the Hambleton Hills.

Currently Yorkshire Wildlife Trust leases the land from the Forestry Commission; the Trust’s main management focus is the control of sycamore. Bracken is also controlled in some areas by pulling, bashing or tree planting.


Public transport
Buses from Thirsk stop at the Sutton Bank Visitor Centre

By car
Take the A170 Thirsk to Scarborough road. Climb the steep Sutton Bank and park in the visitor centre car park on the left shortly after reaching the top of the climb. There is a parking charge. From the car park, follow the Cleveland Way footpath north and then look for a footpath left off the track. This footpath is rocky and descends steeply down through the site to Lake Gormire.