Introduction to Skipwith Common

Skipwith Common is one of the last remaining areas of northern lowland heath in England and there are  270ha of open heath, ponds and marshland.  Skipwith Common’s heathland has stayed almost the same for thousands of years – with evidence of its use by man for at least 4000 years. The common is dotted with Bronze and Iron Age features as well as much evidence of its more recent use during the Second World War.

Today, the site is a National Nature Reserve owned and managed by Escrick Park Estate, in conjunction with Natural England and the Friends of Skipwith Common.

In the past couple of months I have visited Skipwith common a few times.  My original intention was to take some autumnal photographs but there is such an abundance and variety of trees that I have returned to explore further.  The ideal conditions for photography are with frost, fog or snow.  I visited last week when we had snow in York but there was none on the heath when I arrived.

To the west of the common there are lots of silver birch trees, some of which are obviously very well established and others which are a lot younger.  Amongst the silver birches are some amazing oak trees which are refusing to be crowded out. 

The centre and east of the common contains very wet heathland which over the centuries was kept open by people grazing their animals, taking birch, gorse, and cutting turf and peat for fuel. This digging peat has created many ponds on the site, many of which are difficult to access but there are some boardwalks linking some with the network of footpaths.

There is a very useful pdf leaflet, including a map on the Natural England website