Fordon Chalk Banks



Site Details  

 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

Results: 2023

County wide 2023 results reflect  the 2022 and  2023 spring heat & drought with Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock nearly halved for the second year against their 5 year average. Red Admiral arrived in force in July and took advantage of soft nettle growth of the rains and had their best year ever. Drought sensitive species on thin soils were badly hit,  particularly Dark -green Fritillary and Northern Brown Argus but also Ringlet, Green-viened White and Small Heath.  Less drought affected species along with the hottest June on record built even more on gains last year leading to Comma, Brimstone, Holly Blue and most Browns  having a fantastic year reaching all time highs. A increase of 9% overall was mostly due to sheer numbers of Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers ment 2023 nearly pipped 2014 as best year in modern times.  Most noticeable was the large differeces between moisiture retaining mineral soils of the valleys and thin, dry limestone or sandy soils. A large number of damp grassland, hedgerow and woodland  dominated sites benefitted hugely with 3 sites seeing more than 50% increase . A smaller number of thin, chalky, sandy or craggy sites did badly some down up to 25%.

Fordon's dry steep  chalky slopes did better than expectatoions as many such sites suffered  way more  but still it was the lowest year so far. It follows the county trends with Rockrose Brown Argus down somewhat along with Dingy Skipper, Common Blue and Small Copper and the damp favouring  GV White and Orange Tip. Brimstone saw a healthy increase in common withe county giving it its best year ever.  Marbled white has its best year ever along with Comma and of course Red admiral.  Luckily the Dark -green Fritillary persisted but on many sites it was wiped out so hopefully it wil bounce back.  Wall suffered everywhere with a similar decrease to here of 60-80% loss.  The losses of damp lowing browns, Ringlet and Small Heath, almost equalled the increases in Meadow Brown and Marbled White. It could so easily have been a bumper year just a pity about the drought!

Transect reports

Results: 2022

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.