Skipwith National Nature Reserve
Nature, Wildlife and Conservation
Skipwith NNR is a 265 ha (660 acre) nature reserve and SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) - one of the last remaining areas of lowland heath in the north of the England. The Estate manages the land with the support of Natural England.
The Estate was awarded funding under the Heritage Lottery Fund, 'Tomorrow's Heathland Heritage programme'; and approximately 100ha of scrub woodland has been cleared to restore further areas of heathland. Skipwith NNR is now in a 10 year Higher Level Scheme, administered by Natural England.
In Autumn 2008 a programme of drainage works has begun on the area, following the final extraction by UK Coal. This has led to subsidence not just on the land, but on the adjoining farmland, where a pumping station is being installed.
Removal of trees to gain access to the existing ditches, is creating a much more open vista close to some of the main tracks. Although relatively few trees are being removed, compared to previous internal felling, the impact on the present landscape is huge. There is also a great deal of spoil being produced, much of which will be disposed of away from the land.
The management objective is to restore open heathland with a programme of scrub clearance and felling of invasive birch and willow trees. Employing ancient methods, we use the primitive and hardy rare breed Hebridean sheep, Longhorn cattle and Exmoor ponies to graze and browse the scrub. This encourages regrowth and ensures that the incredible diversity will survive well into the next millennium. All stock are taken off the land over the winter months.
Walking round the Skipwith NNR is like a mini wildlife safari, as well as the livestock, there are healthy populations of roe and fallow deer. Care must be taken not to disturb grass snakes or adders. The Skipwith NNR is not only one of the most important Sites of Special Scientific Interest in Yorkshire for its heathland, but also for its woodland, ponds, reedbed and, fen. These habitats support, insects, and birds, including the rare woodlark and, nightjar, as well as plants such as Marsh St John’s Wort.
Dogs are welcome to accompany walkers, but must be kept on short leads at all times so as not to disturb the wildlife or worry the grazing animals.