Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s first nature reserve, this quiet gem lies on the outskirts of the City of York and is a good place for common woodland species, plus some scarcer species such as Willow Tit and wintering Woodcock.
Askham Bog SSSI is a lowland raised bog that has dried out in places allowing a mix of birch, alder and oak woodland to develop. Large areas have been cleared allowing fen meadow, bog, reedbed and damp grassland to reform. There are a number of ponds, reed-lined ditches and scrubby willow patches to explore.
More interesting resident species include Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Tawny Owl, Kingfisher, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Treecreeper, Willow Tit, Marsh Tit, Goldcrest and Bullfinch. Green Woodpeckers are occasionally seen and feed on the adjacent golf course. In winter, Woodcock can be found roosting in the Bog and large flocks of Lesser Redpolls and Siskins gather. During the spring and summer, all the common warblers are present, including occasional Grasshopper Warblers. Spotted Flycatchers have bred in recent years and Hobbies are seen occasionally. The site has attracted a few rarities with the York area’s first Yellow-browed Warbler in 1996 and a number of records of Waxwings in recent ‘Waxwing Winters’. There have been a number of reports of Goshawk from the site but none of these have been proven.
The site boasts some of the best botanical and invertebrate assemblages in Yorkshire, and hosts some very rare species such as Fen Square-spot moth. Impressive Royal Ferns can be seen from the boardwalk and the site hosts the UK’s largest population of Gingerbread Sedge, at the west end of the site. In June, the fen meadows are at their best with a host of Water Violets, Marsh Orchids, Ragged Robin and Yellow Flag Iris most obvious. Bee Orchids can be found on the verges around the car park. Roe Deer and Foxes are commonly seen, along with Common Frogs and Great Crested Newts in the ponds and ditches. Water Voles were present until recently, when an American Mink eradicated them, but it is hoped they may return from the nearby Holgate Beck. Dragonflies abound during the summer and the large pond is one of the best places to watch for them.
Approaching York on the eastbound A64 take the A1036 turn off and then turn sharp left in the car park just after the first set of traffic lights (SE575479). Coming from York, take the turning from Tadcaster Road to Copmanthorpe and access the car park on the right just after the railway bridge and before the lights. Buses stop adjacent to the nature reserve on the A64 and in the nearby village of Copmanthorpe. A cycle track links to both York and Tadcaster. Access to the reserve is on foot only, with a short boardwalk loop, containing a spur which leads to a pond. Access is permitted off the boardwalk, but wellies are advisable and there are deep holes and ponds, so care is needed. Dogs are permitted on the boardwalk only.
By Jono Leadley, July 2015