Fordon Chalk Banks
Privately owned with permission for Butterfly Conservation Yorkshire to maintain site
Recorders: Kerry Metcalfe Distance: 1718m Altitude 98m Walk time: 1hr
This SSSI and surviving relic of semi unimproved Limestone grassalnd which was once typical of the Yorkshire Wolds is one of Yorkshire's best butterfly sites. It is excellant for Dingy Skipper, Brown Argus, Small Heath Wall and Dark-green Fritillary.
Fordon Chalk Grasslands comprise one of the most varied grassland systems, in terms of their floristic richness, aspect and management regimes, remaining in the Wolds. The site comprises a disjunct series of grasslands in the dry valleys of Cotton Dale, North Dale and East Dale, centred on the village of Fordon. The grassland communities include heavily-grazed, short-turf areas dominated by sheep’s’ fescue Festuca ovina and red fescue F. rubra, mixed grasslands with fescues, sweet vernal-grass Anthoxanthum odoratum, hairy oat Avenula pubescens, quaking grass Briza media and crested hair-grass Koeleria macrantha, and areas of course grassland with upright brome Bromus erectus and cock’s-foot Dactylis glomerata. Many areas are extremely diverse botanically, with an abundance of characteristic herbs such as clustered bell-flower Campanula glomerata, carline thistle Carlina vulgaris, woolly thistle Cirsium eriophorum, dropwort Filipendula vulgaris, rockrose Helianthemum nummularium, purging flax Linum catharticum, cowslip Primula veris, salad burnet Sanguisorba minor, devil’s-bit scabious Succisa pratensis and thyme Thymus praecox. Additionally many less common species occur: pyramidal orchid Anacamptis pyramidalis, kidney vetch Anthyllis vulneraria, purple milk-vetch Astragalus danicus, frog orchid Coeloglossum viride, bloody crane’s-bill Geranium sanguineum, felwort Gentianella amarella and saw-wort Serratula tinctoria. Gorse Ulex europaeus and hawthorn Crataegus monogyna scrub is present on many of the slopes, and in places forms dense stands.
The route starts from the style on the raodside up the stoney track to the BCY sign as you enter the banks near the North west corner with hedgerows either side and Speckled woods and other browns predominate. S2 was the original section restored by removal of scrub by volunteers and where Wall is most likely to be seen in good numbers along with high numbers of Smal Heath and Marbled Whit. S3 was restored next and Meadow Brown decreases alot but Dingy Skipper appear in numbers through to S5 which was unrestored til 2020 and they largely disappear.
A slow discent via S6, S7 to S8 in the far east where Small Heath, Wall , Marbled White and Dark-green Fritillary are at their best. Following back to the start along the bottom of the bank shows numbers very much higher than the higher areas with Dingy Skipper and Common Blue being extremely numerous in S9, a newly restored section and S10 through the hedge into the older restored area where Brown Argus is very numerous as are Dark-green Fritillary. S12 and S13 comes into the shade of the woodland and Speckled Wood predominate but few other species
A slightly better year although the banks did suffer in the drought conditions, Bucking teh county trend Skippers were up and Brimstone was pretty universally up this year on our sites. Brown argus and Common blue both suffered somewhat, as did teh smal ltortoiseshell and Peacock which were universally down with some huge losees in teh summer generation which in most localities failed to materialise at all. Dark Green Fritillary was down as it most across the county while speckled wood and wall were both up again following county trends. marbled white had a good year and was only just beaten by Small Heath of the Brown only Meadowo Brown suffered . Good to see gatekeeper return after a few years and this species has had a very good year with dispersal.