Places to Visit in North Yorkshire
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Moorlands Nature Reserve Circular Walk

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The video below is pertaining to Moorlands Nature Reserve Circular Walk near Skelton York. The best time to achieve this walk is during the months of May and June when the Rhododendrons and Azaleas are in full bloom. Having said this, it is worthwhile accomplishing this walk throughout the entire year.


Watch Moorlands Nature Reserve


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Currently there are no public transport links to Moorlands Nature Reserve except for buses to the village of Skelton. You can catch these buses from York and are the 19, 29, 30, 31. It is roughly a two mile walk from Skelton along Moor Lane to the reserve. The walk inside of the reserve is short, making it around a 5/6 mile walk overall.

Reliance Buses (Buses from York to Skelton)

Official Website for Moorlands Nature Reserve

RHS Rhododendrons

Our Photo Gallery from 2020

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Moorland Nature Reserve – Best North Yorkshire Walks

Moorlands Nature Reserve Circular Walk


You might be wondering if there are any opening times for the reserve, and the answer is that it is open all the time. There is also no entry fee whatsoever, but if you desire to make a donation there is a secure donation box on site. The nature reserve also has some roadside parking albeit very limited. There is a garden centre on the opposite side of Corban Lane however, but seek permission first.

You are first greeted with information boards and a donation box. There is a small map to help you understand where you are going, but do not worry, not even I can get lost on this route. The path takes you around in a loop across a 7 hectare garden.

The nature reserve itself was founded in 1955, but it was originally an Edwardian Garden. The best time to visit is from May until September, but especially May and June owing to the Azaleas and Rhododendrons in bloom. Otherwise, in spring you can see forget me nots, bluebells, snowdrops, primrose as well as wood sorrel.

As mentioned, I have arrived early this morning as I am striving to social distance. If you are intending to visit during the Coronavirus lockdown, there is plenty of open space but sometimes the path is narrow. As the sun is still rising, we receive some early morning light within the woodland.


Wood Carving Trail

Moorlands Nature Reserve Circular Walk


Without a doubt, this walk is not just about wildlife and plant life. It is also about a wood carving trail that exists throughout and we will point these out to you en route. The first is the welcome sign, but I hasten to add, don’t forget to look at the reverse of it too.

“Mighty Oaks From Little Acorns Grow” is a poetical way of saying that something great began as something small and insignificant. I suppose this is true in respects to this nature reserve too.


Rhododendrons or Azaleas?

Moorlands Nature Reserve Circular Walk


You may wonder which are rhododendrons and which are Azaleas, and this can be difficult because they are both related, and they share common traits. All Azaleas belong to the Rhododendron genus but not all Rhododendrons are Azaleas. Confused? You’ll notice a difference in varieties and colours but they are all technically Rhododendrons at the end of the day. If the leaves a smaller, then this is most likely to be an Azalea. In fact, non Azalea Rhododendrons tend to be larger anyway.


Do I Turn Left of Right at the Junction?

Moorlands Nature Reserve Circular Walk


As you walk further along you will notice a pond and a junction. This junction forms our loop or circular walk, so either clockwise or anti-clockwise is right.


A Pond With a Viewing Platform

Moorlands Nature Reserve Circular Walk


A North Yorkshire walk of any length needs some form of body of water. The nature reserve fails to disappoint because it has not one but two ponds, albeit the second is secluded and could be missed if not careful.

As all ponds, they attract wildlife as well as the public. I’m always fascinated by a pond of any size, and although these are not very large, especially compared to the lakes we discovered near Gilling and Ampleforth last year, it will no doubt hold a lot of amphibian attention. Frogs and toads as well as pond loving insects will be abundant. I recall Dundale Pond from Levisham Moor last year that magnetised local dragonflies. So visiting Moorlands Nature Reserve is not just about Rhododendrons.

Those who like to study nature will have the opportunity of using a small net if they have one, to see what lies beneath. Obviously, if you have children with you they need to be supervised on the platform, but unfortunately, my mum and dad were at home probably still in bed at this time.

Let’s see what lies ahead as well as beneath.


A Nature Trail of Wooden Posts and Seats

Moorlands Nature Reserve Circular Walk


The wooden posts that you find are part of a nature trail and signify what sort of species are common in the area they are in. In this area, there are bats but I would imagine that you want to be here late at night to witness these.

The second pond incidentally is just as attention grabbing as the first and I was able to record some amazing reflections from the still waters. There is actually a third pond that feeds the other ponds through a dyke. In any case, this particular pond mirrors the accompanying yellow Rhododendrons surrounding.

You can purchase Rhododendrons from garden centres and if you read the label on Azaleas you will see the common name of Rhododendron on them too. It is more than likely that the garden centre close by may retail these shrubs too.

There are more than just wooden markers to emphasise the wildlife, but there are wooden seats throughout the reserve to sit down and relax in. This is just one area where a sculptured wooden seat resides. Some seats you find inscriptions on them such as this one. “I think I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree”. As this particular tree is to sit on I can see their point.

You see a post marking fungi in the area but it may not be on the ground as you might have imagined. You can actually see it growing on the trees themselves. However, you may have your attention diverted by this fascinating carving made in a tree stump.

Close to the bench is this huge standing Rhododendron, a deep pink in colour. Overlooking the seated area makes a vibrant backdrop and an appealing photograph.


Paving the Way to Woodland Serenity

Moorlands Nature Reserve Circular Walk


The paths through the woodland reserve are in good condition although sometimes you have to duck under branches, but this is few and far between. Obviously, you can’t pick the flowers or take cuttings either. In fact, dogs are not allowed in either with it being a reserve. The last thing The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, who own Moorlands, want is a dog digging up an azalea bush when they’ve just re-landscaped. Dogs, such as our dog Alfie, tend to chase wildlife rather than encourage their natural habitat, so it makes common sense to not include them.

Without any doubt whatsoever, the simple vibrancy outweighs any grey skies that may appear above you. In 1909, Mr Edward Grosvenor Tew acquired Moorlands House and accompanying estate, and in this Edwardian garden he planted the Rhododendrons that we see today. However, they are not native to England, they actually derive from Asia as well as the Mediterranean regions of Europe such as Spain. The Victorians brought back exotic plants and introduced them into Great Britain including the Rhododendrons.

By 1940, the estate including the house you will have noticed next door, was purchased by The Retreat to use as a hospital. However, in 1955, the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust bought 17 acres of the land which became their second nature reserve. However, this nature reserve doesn’t only preserve the wildlife and plant life dwelling here, but also the overall character of this fantastic and compelling garden.

As we are in early days of the Rhododendrons flowering, there are still some large buds around just waiting to explode with colour. Of course, nature reserves such as this attract those all important butterflies that drift from area to area.


In the Tree Tops

Moorlands Nature Reserve Circular Walk


As you follow the path around, you shouldn’t forget to look up in the trees from time to time. Not only do you receive some pleasant views of the tree tops but you may even encounter a woodpecker, and at this time of morning, perhaps even an owl or two. Sometimes owls can be seen during the day time if they are hunting for their young. Both Tawny Owls and Barn Owls can be seen often in this area.

In any case, this morning’s early sunlight projects a light-show against the trees like spotlights on a stage. And this includes illuminating the main characters on show.


Walking from Seat to Seat

Moorlands Nature Reserve Circular Walk


As we curve left past another tempting seated area, we gently head back towards the beginning. However, the end of this walk doesn’t come quickly. The path winds around the 7 hectares of nature reserve and this second section includes some intriguing calling points.

We weave our way through a woodland including towering oaks and we head towards a canopy of protective foliage. You can imagine this been a great place to come in hot sunshine as there is much in the way of cooling shade. Still, you every now and then the sky is allowed in to light your way around the reserve. If the sky doesn’t get to light the way, the prominent beacons of vibrant colour certainly does.

You will notice the amazing curves created in the shrubs trunks that form a web of interesting patters and shapes. It doesn’t take you too long to realise just how many varieties and species there are of Rhododendrons in the Moorlands Nature Reserve, and this makes it all the more compelling.

Some of the wood in the shrubs are similar to seeing animals in the clouds, and here I am definitely seeing some form of animal.

You then come to a shelter, or rather, a shelter within a shelter as the trees form an umbrella in adverse weather too. On the side of this structure in a plaque as well as a tree revealing the owner and nature of the reserve. I’m not quite sure if it reminds me of an arbour or somewhere to wait for a number 19 bus. In any case, it is very aesthetic and a welcome sight during that sudden North Yorkshire downpour.


A Centre of Study and Educational Value

Moorlands Nature Reserve Circular Walk


Each Rhododendron is more than just an idyllic and eye-pleasing experience, but it also oftentimes can be particularly fragrant. At one particular point that scent was extremely strong and it helped me to understand how other people feel when I pour on the aftershave. Indeed, this particular smell is far more natural and appealing, something that you want to bottle up and take around with you as a reminder.

Astonishingly, Rhododendrons are actually part of the heath family which includes heathers. It also includes Andromeda and Mountain Laurels and all these species require acidic soils.

Another way to tell if the shrub you are looking at is an Azalea is that the flower has five stamens instead of ten. The leaves on a Rhododendron tend to be large, leathery and evergreen compared to Azaleas. In fact, Azaleas tend to shed their leaves on an annual basis.


Avian Life in Moorlands Nature Reserve

Moorlands Nature Reserve Circular Walk


It is a good idea to keep your eye out on any bird boxes and the many bird feeders around within the grounds of the nature reserve. Greater Spotted Woodpecker are prevalent in the area and someone I know told me that he once spotted a Green Woodpecker in the area. Nuthatch has also been witnessed occasionally. Coal, Long-tailed and Blue Tits are commonplace and Moor Lane is a regular owl territory.

At certain times you may witness badgers, roe deer, stoats, rabbits and hares in the area. Only a few years ago, on my way to this very reserve I encountered a hare that had been injured by a vehicle which I wrapped up and took home for the RSPCA to collect.

Very close to the Nature Reserve is a Golf Course, so if you are into golf you could include it in the same day. I’ve sadly been nationally banned from playing golf after an incident with a golf club, a conifer hedge, a Ford Galaxy and a library car park.


Don’t Rush Take Your Time – If It Is Safe to Do So

Moorlands Nature Reserve Circular Walk


As the walk is relatively short, you might want to go around a few times and spend a little time here. If you have a pair of binoculars you should bring them with you and keep your eyes pealed. There are seating areas where you can rest and observe the wildlife habitat around you. If you have brought food and drink with you, please ensure you leave a zero footprint and dispose of any litter appropriately.


The Treehouse

Moorlands Nature Reserve Circular Walk


Well actually, it is formally known as the treehouse, but it is simply a hide and somewhere you can observe with your binoculars. Also, you cannot camp in there as there is a hole in the roof for the tree trunk to pass through. There’s nothing like a well ventilated room during a pandemic.

The next section for want of a better expression, is probably one of my favourite areas at this time of year. It is here where we discover a huge variety of contrasting colours painting a very vibrant picture, almost a bold as a Vincent Van Gogh.

The scene is set with again, a winding path that is a kind of like walking though an art gallery, observing all the works of art that a hung upon the walls beside you. In fact, it is almost like walking inside a watercolour painting. Strangely however, although these works of art are from Asia, it still feels like an English country garden. Possibly because of the surrounding native trees amongst them.

There is nothing quite as tranquil as a walking through a calm historic garden with the birds singing while the entire globe is in medical, social and financial chaos. It’s almost like nature is saying “I’m impervious to anything life throws”. They always say that there are lessons to be learned in nature, and I think this is one of them. On this subject, you would probably be wise to do what I have done this morning and go at a time when there are fewer visitors about for safety sake. In honesty, I’d love to take a seat and take my Mac and do some work here, but sadly under the lockdown during filming we can only use it for exercise. In any case, this isn’t an open plan office, it’s somewhere to enjoy and leave your work at home. And what’s not to enjoy here?


Nature and Education

Moorlands Nature Reserve Circular Walk


I remember when I attended Hovingham School near Helmsley back in the 1970’s, I was taken on nature trails locally. My earliest memory is walking along the site of a disused railway line which had been converted into a public right of way. Of course, young people still do nature trails today and I am assuming this is one of the many places they visit. Let’s just say that there are signs.

This rather disappointed and stern expression reminds me of someone checking their lottery ticket, so I am hoping he isn’t leading the nature trail. Still, a very impressive work of art – I wish I could do something like this.

These impressive toadstools look amazing in the early morning light. In fact, they look too good to sit on. You can imagine a school teacher reading a story book while the kids sit on the toadies and attentively listen.

However, the colour continues as does the walk, although its not that far to the finish line from here.


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