Four Great Walks To Enjoy Heather This August
Heather on Maltby Low Common
Photo: © Jim Horsfall
Anyone who thinks of Yorkshire in late summer can’t help but imagine swathes of purples and pinks up on the incredible moorland that so characterises our glorious county. A last burst of the summer warmth before the cool of autumn sets in, a walk amongst the heather can be awe-inspiring – and August is the best time to see it.
Plants have adapted to thrive in moorland areas; where the weather is often cold, wet and windy, low-growing, tough perennials and sparse hawthorn and occasional birch or Scots pine stand firm.
Heather, also known as 'ling', is an abundant plant on heathland, moorland, bogs and even in woodland where the light penetrates though. Plants often grow together to form a thick carpet, which helps protect them from the worst of the weather – and creates the stunning and iconic scene we – and the bees, moths and butterflies - enjoy so much.
Here are some of our best nature reserves; pick your way between the purple fronds, a little off the beaten track…
YWT Strensall Common nature reserve, York
Strensall Common -
Photo:© Caroline Comins
A fabulous large heathland close to York where the pink heads and grey green leaves of heath intermingle with the purple spikes and green foliage of ling heather. Common lizards bask on the stumps of silver birch, bold Southern hawker dragonflies patrol sheltered sunny areas and birds of prey often wheel overhead.
A 2.5km walk around the reserve will take around an hour to complete. However, the reserve forms part of the larger Strensall Common space used occasionally by the military for training if you fancy a longer walk. There are two car parks to choose from, and dogs are permitted on leads only.
YWT Maltby Low Common nature reserve, Maltby
Heather Maltby Low Common
Photo: © Jim Horsfall
Part of a network of commons on the south-east side of Maltby, Maltby Low Common is a wonderful place to enjoy an incredible array of grassland flowers in later spring and summer. As well as heather, enjoy an abundance of other wildflowers on the fen meadow including pepper saxifrage, meadow thistle, sneezewort and orchids as well as the huge range of butterflies that enjoy them.
You can enjoy a circular walk of around two miles from here to Maltby Far Common, parking either at the Far Common on Stoneywell lane or the small car park on Lansbury Avenue. Dogs are welcome on leads.
YWT Allerthorpe Common nature reserve, York
Bees buzzing around sweet smelling purple spikes of heather, a green woodpecker 'yaffling' from the woodland edge, an adder shyly slithering into the undergrowth below prickly coconut-scented gorse - all make up the sights, sounds and smells of Allerthorpe Common. The history of Allerthorpe Common can be traced back to AD 1086 when it was recorded in the Doomsday book as Aluuarstorp.
The reserve is reached via a gravel track about 1km from the nearby Forestry Commission car park, and you can extend your walk by exploring nearby Allerthorpe Wood. Please be aware that there are no formal footpaths or tracks on the reserve. Dogs are not permitted.
YWT Fen Bog nature reserve, North York Moors
220710 Fen Bog View
Photo: © Jono Leadley
Fen Bog offers a winning combination of stunning views and some of Yorkshire’s best wildlife. As well as purple swathes of heather intermingling with some of the reserve’s rarer plant species, curlew can be heard calling from the surrounding moors, small pearl-bordered fritillary and large heath butterflies flutter in the summer sun, and if you time your visit well, you may also see a steam train pass down the Pickering railway line adjacent to the nature reserve.
A visit to the reserve will take a couple of hours, but there’s plenty to see in the surrounding area too! The North York Moors includes one of England’s largest expenses of heather moorland, and most of Yorkshire’s heathland is included in open access rights, criss-crossed with paths under big open skies.
There is room for several cars on the track next to the gate onto the reserve, and dogs are welcome on leads.