Following our success at Sylvan Nature Reserve, we were delighted to acquire our 111 acre (45 ha) site at Bank Woods, just outside Summerbridge, near Harrogate, in 2017. This allows us to carry out a much bigger habitat creation project. This land is very different to Sylvan, having steep gradients, and several different types of existing habitat. Bank Woods is in Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
We have semi-improved pasture, gorse and upland scrub, waterlogged grassland, several small streams and three areas of wonderful ancient woodland. You can read more about what make ancient woodland so precious here. This includes many veteran trees, which are recorded on the Woodland Trust Ancient Tree Inventory. We also have a small historic stone barn which is currently in need of repairs to its roof, although the resident barn owl doesn’t seem to mind! Old maps show a fort on the highest part of the land, and it is rumoured that this may date from the Iron-age.
The upper part of the reserve is managed as a ‘rewilding’ project. We introduced a small herd of Belted Galloway cows in 2018, and in autumn 2020, six Exmoor ponies arrived. These are our conservation grazing teams, performing a vital role in spreading wild flower seed, trampling the ground and maintaining paths through the gorse.
We have planted 9,000 trees at Bank Woods, with support from The Woodland Trust and The Forestry Commission. The main areas of planting are along our boundaries, and between our ancient woodlands. We have also taken the first steps to create a wildflower meadow, and created some ‘leaky dams’ to create new habitat. We have 40 bird boxes in our ancient woodland, and incorporated into our new barn.
The thousands of trees we have planted at Bank Woods are available for dedications or sponsorships. Many of them have been planted as part of our popular carbon offsetting schemes, described here. Some have been sponsored by our partners; more details here.
In September 2019, we acquired a further 44 acres adjoining Bank Woods – this land is known as Dowgill Grange. We will manage the land entirely for nature, and have ambitious plans for further tree planting.
If you would like to spend some time in wonderful Nidderdale, surrounded by our nature reserves, you could stay at Heather Lea, our luxury eco-friendly self catering holiday cottage. It sleeps 8, and has fabulous views across Nidderdale.
To our delight, in January 2020, Bank Woods was designated as a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation.
Bank Woods is located just south of Summerbridge, on the B6165. It is not generally open to the public, and please note there is currently no public vehicular access. Walkers are most welcome, and a public footpaths passes near the southern edge of the site. We are keen to welcome groups to our site by prior arrangement. If you would like to bring a school or similar group, for bird watching, nature walk, forest school or similar activity, please contact us. We can arrange access for a small number of vehicles. Our improved vehicular access and limited off-road parking will be completed early in 2021.
Summerbridge is on the bus route between Harrogate and Pateley Bridge. The grid reference is SE 20455 61680
Trees are the poems that the earth writes upon the sky