Wildlife watching

The Carrs of the Vale of Pickering are a largely unexplored terrain, often by-passed by visitors to the Yorkshire moors and coast. They are rich in a variety of wildlife and well worth closer inspection. Most is private farmland but a network of footpaths and bridleways provides access to some areas. Here are some suggestions for visiting and wildlife watching.

Star Carr, Seamer Carr, Flixton Carr area

Black Dike IDB drainage ditch near Star Carr
Black Dike IDB drainage ditch near Star Carr

Flixton Bridge gives a vantage point in the centre of former Lake Flixton. Water Rail, Otter, Barn Owl, Whimbrel, Lapwing and Whitethroat are among the seasonal treats in store. From the A1039 in Flixton, head down North Street (becomes Flixton Carr Lane). Park near Orchard Lodge and enjoy the walk down this green lane to its terminus at Flixton Bridge over the Hertford Cut (TA 039811). It is possible to drive down the narrow lane but turning space and parking is very limited. The lane is good for Tree Sparrows, particularly near the nest boxes and feeders by the picnic area.

Flixton Bridge gives access to footpaths heading north across carr landscape and over the railway. One crosses Seamer Meads to Eastfield via the Scarborough business park, another path bearing north-east passes Grove Farm and Carr House Farm to the village of Cayton.

For a different route via Star Carr, take a footpath from Flixton heading north-west past Woodhouse Farm. This takes you to a footbridge crossing the Hertford and near to the the Star Carr mesolithic settlement site (Note, there is nothing of the site to see above ground, which is on private land.) From the footbridge, take the north bank west to the A64 or east to Flixton Bridge, if it looks passable, or continue on the footpath north to Seamer Carr and Metes or Meads Lane to Seamer village. (NB a small wooden footbridge from the field to Metes lane track has collapsed, as of Jun 21 pending replacement by NYCC. )

Cayton Carr and Folkton Carr

splash floods cayton carr lapwing flock winter
Winter wader flock Cayton Carr

A pull-in down Carr Lane, between Folkton and Cayton villages is a good place to scan for wildlife on Cayton Carr or Loder’s Carr (TA 056809). A small lay-by just north of the waste water treatment works on Carr Lane (TA 056806) is a better parking spot if you are stopping a little longer. Note here the dramatic peat shrinkage evidenced by the relative elevation of the Folkton Bridge (installed level in 1976). Sadly the lay-by attracts fly-tipping but the mauve flowers of Water Violet in the adjacent ditch seem to come back each summer all the same.

The north bank of the Hertford between the A64 bridge and Folkton Bridge are passable at times when vegetation growth permits and sometimes walked by locals, eg linking with Flixton Bridge half way along, but there is no formal public right of way. This bank is tracked along by the Internal Drainage Board digger most years to clean out the vegetation growth from the river. At other times it can be chest-high in vegetation, so check it out first.

Flotmanby Carr/Well Springs

Evening view at Flotmanby Carr
Evening view at Flotmanby Carr

The southern bank of the Hertford, east of Folkton Bridge can be passable in similar fashion and might be worth trying in the direction of Flotmanby Carr, but you may have to return the same way.

Another way to view Flotmanby Carr is from the gateway of Lingholm Estate just beyond the holiday cottages at West Flotmanby on the A1039 (TA 074796). A little further east at Well Springs is an area best viewed from a good public bridleway which runs north-east from Manor Farm on the A1039 (TA 080798). This forms part of a great circuit you can make on foot from Muston village, taking in a part of the Wolds Way which offers superb views over this eastern limit of the Hertford peatland. (Read more about the Flixton peatland and land drainage elsewhere on this blog.)

Willerby Carr /Binnington Carr

Willerby Carr, with its mix of arable cropping and wet pasture is attractive to a range of farmland birds

Park near the church in Willerby village (TA 008791) and walk along the track (Wains Lane) westwards. The sandy light soils here are conducive to annual ‘cornfield weeds’. A large arable field west of the church had a wide fallow margin established thorugh stewardship to provide refuge for rare arable flora in the seed bank. (Read more about the work of The Cornfield Flowers Project here.) Where Wains Lane swings north toward the railway line the telegraph wires are a good site to listen for singing Corn Buntings.

Return to the church (stopping to note the linear scratch marks in the porch doorway reportedly from sharpening of arrowheads on the stonework), then walk Willerby Carr Lane, crossing some cattle pasture with breeding wader wetland scrapes and reach the Hertford Cut and boggy woodlands of Robin’s Bottom. Here you may find Sparrowhawk, Willow and Marsh Tits as well as Willow Warbler, Blackcap and Roe Deer.

The public bridleway ends a little after the railway crossing, but locals use the river bank to make a return via Staxton Carr Lane two fields eastward (where there is a footbridge) or indeed cross via a stile to a footpath that traces back up to Ings Lane, halfway over that runs parallel. Both routes pass by fields with ground nesting birds, some with wetland scrapes. Here one is likely to encounter Skylark, Reed Bunting, Yellowhammer and Brown Hare. Green Sandpiper, Barn Owl, Kestrel are possible too. If you pass the cow sheds on Ings Lane look for the Tree Sparrow colony using external and concealed nest boxes on the side of the barn. Fencing alongside the footpaths in this area was funded by HLS to help reduce disturbance to ground nesting birds and others such as Snipe in the winter months in these wet fields, as described in another blog post.

Hay Bridge and Potter Brompton Carr

Hay Bridge (SE 978790) is just downstream of the confluence of the Derwent and the Hertford. To reach it from the A64 follow the signs to Ganton Golf Course, continue down to the level crossing, beyond which the road becomes a rough farm track. Park up and walk to Hay Bridge.

‘Bogg Hall’ just north of the level crossing is a good area watch for Tree Sparrow. Look also for fields sown with wild bird seed mixes which attract flocks of seed-eating finches and buntings. Hay Bridge is a good place to see the damselflies called Banded Demoiselles, azure bodies with a distinctive black mark on the wings like someone has left a sooty thumbprint. You may see Kingfisher here too. Listen for bubbling calls of Curlew over the fields nearby.

Sherburn Ings

The Derwent at Hay Bridge, nr Ganton.
The Derwent at Hay Bridge, nr Ganton.

Sherburn Ings is one of the most westerly areas which the Carrs Wetland Project looked at. Ruston Carr Bridge, a wide but off-the-beaten-track crossing over the Derwent is a good vantage point. Turn north off A64 at Sherburn village, take the single track road next right after the level crossing. In about 1km park near the bridge over the River Derwent (SE 962795). Listen for Marsh Tits in Ruston Carr Plantation, or Curlew which sometimes nest in the arable land north of the bridge. The bridge is a prolific spraint site for Otter, so you might be lucky. You can also reach the bridge by turning south off the A170 at Ruston, continuing past the ‘Wykeham Mature Plants’ nursery until the river.

See also seasonal highlights elsewhere on the blog.

The Scarborough Birders blog offers a useful reference on several sensitive sites  in The Carrs area with restricted access.


1 thought on “Wildlife watching

  1. Pingback: Exploring Yorkshire's Lost Landscape - Filey

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