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Forge Valley
Nature Reserve

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Forge Valley Woods National Nature Reserve

OS grid reference:- SE 985 871

The strikingly beautiful Forge Valley Woods National Nature reserve near Scarborough is situated the steep east and west facing slopes of the Derwent river valley in the North York Moors. It is one of the best examples of mixed deciduous woodland in north-east England.

The valley was cut by glacial melt-water after the Ice Age. The River Derwent flows through the ravine at Forge Valley before joining the River Ouse at Barmby on the Marsh. The reserve boasts areas of ancient woodland which are thought to be 6000 years old, riverside boardwalks, a riverside bird feeding station and a geology trail to explore.

The woods are named after a fourteenth century forge that used to operate in the area. In the past the woods were coppiced to provide charcoal for the forge which processed ore from locally mined ironstone. The way marked geology trail follows a linear route throughout the woodland and valley base. There are also sign-posted riverside and woodland footpaths.

Alder are predominant in the wet valley bottom, the middle slopes of the valley support a mixed canopy in which ash and wych elm are dominant. There is also hazel, field maple, sycamore, holly, bird cherry and spurge laurel.

The reserve is managed by Natural England


From York take the A64 towards Scarborough and just after Rillington turn left onto the B1258 to Snainton. At Snainton turn right onto the A170. West Ayton is on the A170. Car parking is available next to the river on the left just before the bridge or on the roadside.

Wildlife in Forge Valley Woods

The Forge Valley National Nature Reserve, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, supports an abundant and varied population of wildlife. The woods are alive with bird life and insects, while in the summer months the valley is carpeted with a rich array of wild flowers.

The colourful display of wild flowers to be seen at the reserve include dog's mercury, ramsons, enchanters' nightshade, golden saxifrage, yellow flag iris, wild garlic, wood sanicle, wood anemone, marsh marigolds and toothwort and many more. There are also several varieties of orchid which grow there, including the lovely early purple orchid, broad-leaved helleborine and bird's-nest orchid.

The reserve contains a rich population of bird life, including herons, nuthatch, treecreeper, marsh tits, willow tits, blue tits, coal tits, jays, garden warbler, wood warbler, redstart, great spotted woodpecker, bramlings, grey wagtails, and black-cap. Birds of prey such as the merlin, sparrow hawk and the golden plover are often sighted, while Dipper can be found on the river at Hilla Green.

The river is home to trout, crayfish and otters, although the latter is seldom seen, the occasional deer is sometimes sighted in the undergrowth.

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