Brockadale Nature Reserve
OS grid reference:- SE 514 173
Brockadale Nature Reserve, owned by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, is a wildlife area about two kilometres in length, which covers much of the valley eastwards between the villages of Wentbridge, famous for its connections withe medieval outlaw Robin Hood, and the Smeatons.
Brockadale lies in the valley of the River Went as it flows through a craggy, steep-sided gorge formed after the last ice-age when glacial melt-water burst through the magnesian limestone rock. Today the river meanders along the flat-bottomed valley. The nature reserve is particularly important for its flower covered slopes, which have never been ploughed. This grassland habitat is now rare, with magnesian limestone only existing in a narrow band stretching from Nottingham to Durham, its soil producing excellent farmland. The site's flowers only survive because the valley sides are too steep to cultivate.
Orchids and other wildflowers abound in the steep meadows at Brockadale, for the best experience visit in the spring and summer. The woodland in springtime boasts colourful carpets of wood anemone, bluebell, primrose, violet and early purple orchid before being shaded out by the new leaf growth in the canopy above. Whilst in the summer, the flower-covered slopes are alive with a jewel-case of butterflies and other insects.
Around 350 species of plants grow on the nature reserve, some of which are scarce. Early flowers such as cowslip, common dog-violet and spring cinquefoil, well suited to the limestone soil, can be seen in spring. Native plants such as rock-rose follow, as well as orchids, salad burnet, yellow-wort, betony, field scabious and, in August, a profusion of clustered bellflower. Butterflies abound in the meadows, with the spectacular marbled white and dark green fritillary are unmissable in July.
From the A1 take the Wentbridge and Kirk Smeaton turn. Drive east to Kirk Smeaton, go through the village to Little Smeaton and then head north west up New Road. Once out of the village turn left down Leys Lane to the car park at the end.