Nature Reserve Spotlight: Skipwith Common
Skipwith Common is a National Nature Reserve and SSSI near York and one of the last remaining areas of northern lowland heath in England. Most of the valley around York was once lowland heath but now only three sites remain. Skipworth Common covers 270 hectares and is a beautiful mix of open heath, birch woodland and murky ponds.
This location spotlight shows some photos of the nature reserve and the mushrooms I found during my wander around, there was an amazing variety and the most Fly Agaric mushrooms I have seen. The land is owned by Escrick Park Estate and managed in partnership with Natural England. Longhorn cattle, Hebridean sheep and Exmoor ponies are now used to graze the common to prevent Silver Birch regeneration and allow the heathland to thrive. You can read a lot more about Skipworth Common at the Friends of Skipwith Common website.
The land was used as an airfield during the 2nd World War and consisted of three concrete and asphalt runways and seven hangers. Nowadays the airfield is once again used for agriculture and the only remnants are occasional buildings hidden amongst the trees and glimpses of the runways under the foliage.
There are many long, straight avenues of trees that look beautiful when the light shines through the trees to light the path underneath. Whether these are also left over from the airfield I don’t know.
And finally, the mushroom photos! There were a lot, so I’ve selected the best couple below and put the rest in a gallery. I did see a group picking mushrooms whilst I walked about though it is a National Nature Reserve, from a quick bit of research I believe that you can forage on the site as long as you don’t go over the top and strip the place bare, if it’s not for commercial use, or impacting rare species. You should also have permission from the land owner. The Wild Food UK site and Woodland Trust have some more useful information on what you should consider. If the location you have in mind is an Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) then please do not pick anything and do your best to leave it untouched as it will be home to many potentially endangered or rare species.
I personally dislike walking around to find mushrooms flipped over and then left as it spoils the experience for other people and families who enjoy mushroom spotting.