Strensall Common Nature Reserve

Strensall Common Nature Reserve Credit Caroline Comins

Strensall Common Nature Reserve

A fabulous large heathland close to York where the pink heads and grey green leaves of cross-leaved heath intermingle with the purple spikes and green foliage of ling heather. Common lizards bask on the stumps of silver birch.


Common Road,
North Yorkshire
YO32 5YB

OS Map Reference

SE 647 615
A static map of Strensall Common Nature Reserve

Know before you go

42 hectares

Entry fee


Parking information

Roadside parking. A central parking point is by the Common Road level crossing.

Grazing animals

Hebridean sheep graze during summer to keep down encroaching vegetation

Walking trails

Public and permissive footpaths.


Public and permissive footpaths. The heathland is not accessible for wheelchair users and pushchairs. More information below. 


On a lead

When to visit

Opening times

Open at all times

Best time to visit

March to September


Strensall Common forms part of a larger tract of internationally important lowland heath that lies within the Vale of York.

Close to the City of York, the nature reserve supports a mosaic of wet heath, dry heath, mire, open water, woodland and acid grassland. Over 150 plant species grow here including marsh cinquefoil, the beautiful blue marsh gentian and carnivorous round-leaved sundew. Ling heather and cross-leaved heath turn the heathland purple in August. Less showy, but just as pretty are the flowers found within some of the drier grassland; pinky-red sheep’s sorrel and the tiny white crosses of heath bedstraw can be seen if you look closely. Visit on a warm August afternoon to enjoy the purple heather which carpets the common at this time of year.

Bold Southern hawker dragonflies patrol sheltered sunny areas and common lizards lazily bask on the old birch stumps. The Common is home to a host of insects including a nationally important population of dark-bordered beauty moth. Green and purple hairstreak butterflies occur here and bog bush-cricket live in the rushy grassland. Birds using the site include woodlark, green woodpecker, stonechat, coal and willow tits. Cuckoo breed and hobby sightings are increasing.

Conservation management here aims to maintain the open areas of heath. Grazing using Hebridean sheep has helped control birch seedlings. Bracken is controlled along with invasive coniferous species that are not native to heaths in this part of the UK. Ponds are cleared out from time to time, which maintains patches of open water.

Seasonal highlights

  • Spring: Reptiles - Common lizard; Birds - Cuckoo; Woodlark; Invertabrates - Four-spotted chaser;
  • Summer: Plants - Marsh Gentian; Cross-leaved heath; Invertabrates - Black darter; Birds - Green woodpecker; Hobby
  • Autumn: Fungi - Hoof Fungus; Fly agaric; Oyster Fungus; Birds - Siskin
  • Winter: Birds -Stonechat; Willow tit; Mammals - Brown hare


Public transport
A regular bus service from York runs to Strensall.

By car
Folow the A1237 from York into Strensall village, follow the signs for Flaxton. After a mile you cross a cattle grid onto Strensall Common. The nature reserve is to the left. There are various parking areas within the common – a central parking point is by the Common Road level crossing.


Many of our reserves are small and beautiful but remote. Visitors will have different access needs and abilities and we want to provide some basic information about the reserve to help you decide whether this is a place you would like to visit and to help you plan. 

Walking at Strensall Common 

The terrain is generally flat but very uneven with tussocky grass and heather and many ditches, furrows or small ponds. In winter these depressions become water logged making walking more difficult.

The reserve is accessible via several unmarked permissive footpaths allowing several route options. The paths are largely footworn through the heathland and follow gravel and tarmacked tracks or the peaty woodland edge. A complete circuit of the reserve is  about 2.5km and takes an hour or more to complete. There are no benches on the reserve.

There are several small kissing gates into the large heathland enclosure north of the railway line which is not wheelchair accessible. 


Parking for several cars on the gravel laybys either side of York Lane at the Common Road Level Crossing. The laybys are on a tight bend and care is needed on entering and leaving.


There are local shops and pubs in Strensall village about two miles away. 

The nearest public toilets are at Monks Cross and Clifton Moor shopping centres about five miles away.

There is mostly a good mobile signal.

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