Welcome to the Ben Rhydding Nature Reserve Website


Alongside the beautiful river Wharfe near Ilkley the Ben Rhydding Gravel Pits Nature Reserve has a variety of habitats and is a great place to observe birds, plants, butterflies and dragonflies and if you’re really lucky you may even spot an otter!

Whilst there is interest all the year round the best times are Spring and Early Summer where the plants, butterflies and birds are at their best.  Our famous orchids peak around the 2nd week in June

The reserve is owned by Bradford Council and has been managed by a small group of volunteers from the Wharfedale Naturalists Society since 2007.  This has involved the control of invasive weeds, woodland management, footpath maintenance, litter picking,  scrub clearance, wildlife surveys and a range of other activities to try and improve the site and maximise biodiversity.

With the support of Natural England,  we were declared  a Local Nature Reserve in October 2013 .  We were all then thrilled when, on Tuesday 6th May 2014, the Lord Mayor of Bradford joined us to celebrate our success with our official opening.  Tim Howson created this great website for us in the same year.

Over the following years we have largely go the himalayan balsam under control, our main focus is on controlling the bramble, removing hawthorn and re-establishing species that have been lost or are appropriate to the site.

We hold regular work groups, usually the 2nd Saturday of the month from 9.30 until about 12.30.  We are always grateful for new volunteers – no experience is necessary  and everyone works at their own pace  and tools are provided  why not give us a try?

If you would like to join us or arrange a group visit ( we can give guided visits) them please call or text me on 07770 840156 or email me parkes.steve@hotmail.co.uk

Wharfedale Naturalists

We hope you enjoy this website and feel free to contribute to it.

Steve Parkes, Wharfedale Naturalists Society.

Recent Updates

  • Workgroup Highlights Jan 13th Egret and Woodcock (Sunday, January 14, 2018) - A new year and and a resolution to post news more frequently! Very few birds on the reserve, today, we had hoped for some winter thrushes but with few hawthorn berries it was perhaps no surprise.  However what we lacked in quantity we made with quality.  Checking out the effectiveness of some of the glade … Continue reading Workgroup Highlights Jan 13th Egret and Woodcock
  • New Spring Arrivals 20 April (Thursday, April 20, 2017) - Sand martins now number over 50, the best we have had for many years.  The blackcaps and chiff chaffs have now been joined by willow warblers. With the river being so low the gravels and muddy banks have attracted a pair of redshank and a pair of common sandpiper. A female sparrowhawk was around I … Continue reading New Spring Arrivals 20 April
  • 8 April – Sand Martins & Butterflies (Monday, April 10, 2017) - 35 plus sand martins pairing up and exploring nest holes were the highlight of our saturday work group. Other birds included singing blackcap and chiffchaff and pair of kingfishers. A  newly emerged orange tip was joined by over wintering  brimstone, comma, peacock and small copper butterflies
  • Commas (Thursday, October 6, 2016) - The last week or so has seen the arrival of quite a few Comma butterflies at the reserve.  These are the autumn generation and are looking very fresh, (see featured image, taken October 1st 2016 ) leading you to believe they have not been around long. The life cycle of these butterflies is quite interesting: they … Continue reading Commas
  • Common Blues (Monday, June 20, 2016) - It has been a disappointing year for butterflies so far, but there have been a few encouraging signs. Despite their low numbers, a male and female Large skipper were seen on the South Lawn on 18th June and a Common blue (see featured image) was found by Phil Reed on 19th June. There used to be … Continue reading Common Blues


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