The jewel in the crown of this site is the nationally important, most northerly chalk river that is the River Hull headwater chalk streams. The West Beck with its crystal clear waters, lush bankside plants and stunning flowering beds of water crowfoot are not to be missed in early summer.

Location

Wansford Bridge, Wansford (Snakeholm Pastures entrance - northern part of site)
Cleaves Farm, Skerne (Skerne Wetlands entrance - southern part of site)
Driffield
East Riding of Yorkshire
YO25 8NX (Wansford Bridge) YO25 9HU (Cleaves Farm)

OS Map Reference

TA 0638 5600 (Wansford Bridge)
TA 0574 5428 (Skerne)
A static map of Skerne Wetlands Nature Reserve

Know before you go

Size
45 hectares

Entry fee

Free

Parking information

On roadside layby (Wansford) for northern section of site and small car park at end of long farm track (Skerne) for southern section of site.

Grazing animals

Cattle

Walking trails

Public footpath at northern section (wansford).

Access

Grassed and gravelled footpaths and waymarked trail.

Dogs

No dogs permitted
Dogs are allowed on the public footpaths on leads.

When to visit

Opening times

Open at all times

Best time to visit

March to June

About

This wetland complex covers over 110 acres, comprising wet grassland, over a mile of SSSI chalk stream, and more than 90 former commercial fish farm ponds, now re-worked into a mosaic of wet woodland, reedbed, fen and open water.

The West Beck is a haven for charismatic species such as wild brown trout, grayling, brook lamprey, water vole and kingfisher. In spring, beds of water crowfoot flower, providing a carpet of white among the gravel beds where the fish spawn. The clean, oxygen-rich water is home to a wide range of mayflies, caddisflies and other aquatic insects, attracting yellow wagtails and other insect-feeding birds.

Skerne Wetlands is undergoing a major restoration programme to create a wetland paradise and a visit will always provide something new and exciting. Bitterns have been attracted to the marginal reedbeds in winter and otters are found along the chalk stream and their tracks and signs are plentiful. In late summer, muddy edges attract wading birds such as green sandpipers, whilst dragonflies may be seen scattered amongst striking stands of purple loosestrife.

 

Seasonal highlights

  • Spring: Birds - Yellow wagtail; Fish - Brook lamprey; Invertebrates - Orange-tip; Amphibians - Grass snake
  • Summer: Invertebrates - Emperor dragonfly; Fish - Brown trout; Mammals - Water vole
  • Autumn: Birds - Green sandpiper; Kingfisher; Invertebrates - Common darter
  • Winter: Birds - Bittern; Barn owl; Fieldfare; Redwing; Mammals - Otter; Roe deer

History

The River Hull Headwaters nature reserve was purchased in 2008 as two grass fields – Snakeholm Pastures, adjacent to the Wansford Bridge, some four miles southeast of Driffield, in the heart of East Yorkshire. Then, in 2011 Yorkshire Wildlife Trust bought what at the time was a commercial fish farm covering 33 hectares along with around a mile of the West Beck chalk stream.

This is now known as Skerne Wetlands and in 2014 the Trust completed the purchase of a further 12 hectares of land on the opposite side of the chalk stream to extend the nature reserve to more than 40 hectares and 2.4km (1.5 miles) of chalk stream.

The site complex of more than 80 former fish farm ponds is being developed into a mosaic of wetland habitat to include wet grassland, wet woodland, reedbed and open water. The latest section of the habitat creation, integrating the Copper Hall section of the wetlands into the reserve, completed in early 2018, thanks to a partnership between Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, the Environment Agency, Natural England, East Yorkshire River Trust and Yorkshire Water.

Directions

Public transport
Closest train station is Driffield. Bus to Wansford.

By car
Snakehold pastures lies just south of Wansford Bridge off the B1249 southeast of Driffield. A small amount of roadside parking exists. Skerne Wetlands is acessed along a fam track just east of Skerne Village. Turn south off the road, left at the fork, right towards Cleaves Farm and follow the track past the farm to the end where parking is availabe.

Nearby