This eight hectare site was the town’s refuse tip prior to 2001 (along with Parish Wood), but is now a flourishing nature reserve owned and managed by FBOG. The shallow soils and irregular topography mean that most of the area is only suitable for rough grazing, though the northern two hectares, never having been tipped on, are given over to environmentally-friendly agriculture. Hedge planting and freshwater scrapes have greatly enhanced the area for wildlife and the reserve is now an exemplar of habitat creation.
Resting, as it does, close to the north cliffs, the reserve acts as an oasis for birds freshly arrived over the waves or using the coast as a fly-way. The mosaic of scrub, grassland, hedgerows and freshwater pools is in stark contrast to the monocultural surrounding fields, and birds are naturally drawn in from far and wide. As well as migrants, there are several resident beneficiaries (many of which are in grave trouble in the wider countryside) including Grey Partridge, Meadow Pipit, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting, Barn Owl, Brown Hare and Roe Deer.
Other groups are well represented: Fungi can be spectacular, especially in autumn, and the erratic appearance of four species of orchid in summer can be impressive. Insects abound, with a fantastic range of dragonflies over the pools, and bees, hoverflies and butterflies attending the flowering plants. The centre of the Old Tip is grazed by cattle between May and October to encourage ground biodiversity; access within is restricted to group members, but good views of the birdlife can come from the footpath running alongside the field and up to the cliff top.
Spring (April-May): Birdsong fills the air as Skylarks and Meadow Pipits start to nest, Grey Partridges lurk cryptically in hedge backs, and Brown Hares bound after each other around the fields. Spring-plumaged migrants arrive and quickly set up territories; listen for Sedge Warbler and Whitethroat, and keep an eye out for regular scarcities like Red-backed Shrike (or even Woodchat and Great Grey if your luck is in). Scan the pool edges for waders (Temminck’s Stint has occurred recently) and passerines (Yorkshire’s first Black-headed Wagtail visited here in 2013).
Summer (June-August): Flowers, butterflies and cliff-nesting birds make a trip in summer well worthwhile. Take the path up to the cliff top and witness the spectacle of auks, Fulmars and gulls scrapping noisily over nesting ledges. The only coastal Cormorant colony in Yorkshire is viewable from here and local Peregrines add to the mix. Cliff-top plants here include Fragrant Orchid, and Barn Owls become easier to watch as they strive to feed growing young.
Autumn (September-November): The most exciting quarter. Keep one eye on the weather forecast – north-easterly winds and overcast skies are best, and check the hedgerows and stubble fields for freshly arrived passerines. Huge, noisy arrivals of Redwing and Fieldfare are a good indicator, accompanied by Woodcock, Short-eared Owl, Goldcrest and almost anything from further east. Best birds in the past include: Dusky, Pallas’s and Hume’s Warbler, Rustic and Little Bunting, the aforementioned Shrikes and Rough-legged Buzzard. Timing a visit to coincide with a ringing session adds value – check the news page for details.
Winter (December-March): Listen for cackling geese early on, as Pink-feet coast down from Scotland and cut the corner here to cross Filey Bay. If the fields above the tip are in good condition Snow Buntings will gather; Lapland Buntings are scarce but worth looking out for, and the increasingly rare Corn Bunting might join the Reed Buntings and Yellowhammers. Snowfall produces a tracery of footprints; Brown Hare, Fox and Roe Deer all evident, and the Peregrines might be joined by a diminutive Merlin, dashing through the pipit flock.
For a fine blend of scenery, birds and flowers pick a nice day, park near the café in the Country Park and take the Cleveland Way footpath along the cliffs before dropping down onto the reserve. Take a slow circuit of the Parish Wood footpaths before returning along the cliffs to the café.
Access and directions:
The reserve is reached by either walking through Parish Wood or along the cliff-top from the Country Park / Carr Naze. The entrance to Parish Wood is on Sycamore Avenue on the Parish Fields estate. Approaching from Scarborough on the A1039 turn left onto Grove Hill Road, left at the end, and the entrance is 50 metres along on the right.
Dogs should be under control at all times and on leads between 1st April and 30th September. In order to protect all the wildlife in this reserve we recommend that dogs are kept on a lead throughout the year. Under no circumstances should they be allowed to enter the cattle enclosure.
Scarborough-Hull buses pass the end of Grove Hill Road; Scarborough to Hull trains call at Filey, and the Parish Wood entrance is approximately 20 minutes walk from the station.
Contact: Ian Robinson, firstname.lastname@example.org 01723 513991
Grid Reference: TA 112818
Nearest Postcode: YO14 9NU