The Lower Derwent Valley (LDV) is used fairly loosely a site name by local birders to cover the flood plain of the River Derwent from Elvington south to beyond Bubwith and also including the Pocklington Canal. The national nature reserve (NNR) is actually a patchwork of individual sites in a section of the River Derwent’s valley between the bridge at Elvington (B1228) and Wressle, with the addition of Melbourne and Thornton Ings SSSIs along the canal. The area along the river also has various SSSI designations, the largest of which is the Derwent Ings SSSI. This covers an area encompassing the all the various sites of the NNR and areas in between. This also broadly coincides with the Ramsar designation. The NNR is also a Special Protection Area (SPA). See the Natural England website www.naturalengland.org.uk/lowerderwentvalleynnr for more information and explore the maps at http://www.magic.gov.uk/ for the complexities of the designations.
The LDV is managed by Natural England with some parts by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and the Carstairs Countryside Trust. Much of the area has no public access though some key sites can be visited.
Wet meadows, pasture and some woodland are the main habitat types making up the LDV. The area is important for plants and much of it is liable to flooding, notably in winter, when large congregations of wildfowl can be seen. Breeding waders are at nationally and internationally important levels for some species, though there has been evidence of decline recently. Waders also use the LDV during passage, notably Whimbrel which roost at Wheldrake Ings.
Some of the area is inaccessible to the public but there are significant sites where birds and other wildlife can be seen. These are highlighted on the interactive map with blue markers and are listed below anticlockwise from the village of Wheldrake.
There is a car park at Bank Island just to the south west of the village of Wheldrake at SE690447. From here one can overlook an area managed by Natural England (NE). There is a viewing platform and two hides, though these may be inaccessible when flooded. Bank Island is also the site of the NE office for the LDV which has toilet facilities, a small garden with feeders which can attract Bullfinches and Tree Sparrows amongst other species. A footpath can be followed along the River Derwent to the bailey bridge and car park at Wheldrake Ings.
Arguably the most important site in the LDV, Wheldrake Ings is run by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. It is an area of wet meadows with a pool and a scrape and holds large areas of water after flooding. The reserve is accessed down a lane off the Wheldrake to Thorganby road, just south of Bank Island. There is a small car park (SE694444) near a bailey bridge over the River Derwent. Cross this to find a path along the river which can be followed to access to four bird hides: the Andy Booth (formerly Tower) Hide, which is named for the YOC’s late recorder, the Riverside, Pool and Swantail hides. The path and hides allow views over the main reserve area and the Refuge, the area to the south of the path as it passes east by the Pool Hide. The Pool and Swantail hides can be productive at any time though the others are best visited when the reserve holds a lot of water. More information can be found on the YWT website.
The Ferry Boat Inn
Part of the Refuge at Wheldrake Ings can be viewed from the end of the lane that leads to the Ferry Boat Inn at SE688427 to the north of Thorganby.
This area of meadows can be viewed from a platform by the village hall at SE691419. There is a short path heading east from the corner of the village hall car park.
North Duffield Carrs
The NDC can be viewed from two hides: the Geoff Smith Hide, named for the late chairman of the YOC, overlooks a scrape; and the Garganey Hide. These are accessed from a path at the corner of the car park off the A163 to the east of North Duffield village at SE697367. In winter, check the fields to the south of the car park as well for herds of Whooper Swans and, occasionally, Bewick’s Swan.
Across the River Derwent from the NDC, it can be worth checking the ings at Bubwith. These can be viewed from the bridge at SE70736, there is space for a few cars to the west of the bridge and a car park to the west.
View Aughton Ings from the churchyard at SE702387. Park in the village and take the footpath through the gate to thre right of Aughton Hall.
To view Ellerton Ings, park by the church SE702398 and view from the gate or the churchyard, which will give a wider view with more height.
The west end of the Pocklington Canal can be accessed at East Cottingwith. The footpath in the fields near the small cemetery (SE705427) provide height to look over the Refuge at Wheldrake Ings to the north across the canal.
The Pocklington Canal towpath can be accessed at Hagg Bridge (SE717452) to the north of Storwood where there are parking spaces.
Melbourne & Thornton Ings
These SSSIs can be viewed from the Pocklington Canal towpath and public footpaths to the north of the canal. Cross one of the bridges near Melbourne (SE750441). Church Bridge at SE758445 has some space for parking and the towpath here can be followed eastwards to the lock where a reedbed holds a roost of buntings in winter.
By Rob Chapman, September 2015