Experience nature at Kilnsey
Want to meet the UK’s rarest wildflower? Or watch red squirrels play? At Kilnsey you can simply enjoy the sights, sounds and scents of the Dales in all their beauty.
The nationally important Kilnsey reserve is a paradise for wildflowers, with over 150 different species of flowers and grasses. It’s especially famous for its wild orchids, with ten different species to discover. The star of the show is the Lady’s Slipper orchid. Up until 1930 this flower was thought to be extinct, then a single plant was rediscovered growing in a remote location in Yorkshire. It took decades to discover how to propagate young orchids, and they were finally reintroduced to Kilnsey in 2007.
Other orchids you are likely to see are Early Marsh, Narrow-leaved Marsh, Common Spotted, Twayblade, Early Purple and Fragrant.
Did you know? The Lady’s Slipper orchid takes 12 years to grow from a seedling to a flowering plant.
Each year we celebrate our wildflowers at the special Wild About Orchids event in May/June with guided walks and family activities.
Red squirrels at Kilnsey
On the Trail you can get close to one of Britain’s most iconic but endangered animals, the delightful red squirrel. Kilnsey Park has been home to red squirrels since 1998 when Vanessa Roberts, mother of the current owner, first set up our red squirrel conservation programme.
The Kilnsey Park red squirrels are part of the national Red Squirrel Captive Breeding Programme which ensures that the gene pool of red squirrels is as large as possible, hopefully ensuring that they will never become extinct. Red squirrels from the project have already been reintroduced to places where they will be safe from greys, including islands off mainland Britain.
Ultimately, we’d like to be able to release the red squirrels into the surrounding area around Kilnsey Park. But this can only happen when we’re sure that the area is clear of grey squirrels, as they pose too great a threat to the reds.
Happily you can still see red squirrels wild in the Yorkshire Dales near Hawes.
Red squirrels once lived in the wild all over the UK. However, since the introduction of the grey squirrel in 1876 there’s been a catastrophic decline in their numbers. There are still small pockets of red squirrels living wild in Scotland, the Lake District, Wales and the Isle of Wight and Anglesey.
Did you know?
- live up to 6 years
- store nuts in the ground in the Autumn
- do not hibernate over Winter
- can swim
- eat seeds, buds, flowers, shoots, fruits, fungi, insects & occasional bird eggs
- hang upside down
- have two litters a year with 3-4 kittens in each.
Towards the top of the Kilnsey Trail you will find the Butterfly Garden. It has been planted with butterfly-friendly plants and flowers such as buddleia and wild nettles.
Butterflies regularly seen in the season include the rare Northern Brown Angus, Common Blue, Peacock, Common White, Green-veined White, Red Admiral, Comma, Small Tortoiseshell, Painted Lady and Meadow Brown.
Did you know? There are over 50 different species of moth living at Kilnsey, including the locally rare Gold Spangle.
You can learn all about our butterflies and bugs at the Mad Professor’s Bug Day each July.
Other local nature attractions
Grass Woods, a nature reserve run by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, is a beautiful woodland with an unspoilt Yorkshire Dales flora. The bluebells are well worth visiting every May and you can often see roe deer.
The limestone pavements above Conistone are a geological attraction full of rare ferns and offer breath-taking views up Littondale and beyond Kettlewell.
Peregrines can be seen at Malham Cove every spring.
A colony of red squirrels can be visited at Snaizeholme near Hawes in Wensleydale.