Hell Wath LNR

Owner: Tarmac leased to Harrogate Borough Council

Site Details: 

Walkers:  Jess Darwin (lead) Jeremy Dunford, Maria Atha, Jan Allon-Smith, Jean Houseman, Karyn Gordon, Carol Lea, Jane Horton.   

Distance:  2166m    Altitude:  40m    Time: 45mins

The land is leased by Harrogate Borough Council, from Tarmac. There has been light management since the lease started in 1991 with increased management from 2017 when Friends of Hell Wath was created, initially as a community Voluntary Group and more recently as a charity. HBC is directly involved in the activities but this is now supported by the Skell Valley Project through a Heritage Lottery Grant. This is further increasing the management with work to enhance and improve the grasslands a key part of this. There are two areas of playfields used by a local footbal club and this two fields have experenced much more signicant management over the years but are still bordered by hedgerows.Is an area of grassaland and scrub in the process of being restored by the side of the river Skell on the urban edge of Ripon.  Access is by Public Rights of Way off the B6265 Mallorie Park Drive  The total area is 9Ha. The Skell has cut through the magnesisan limestone ridge and about 800m from the reserve is another reserve and SSI at Quarry Moor LNR with a large variety of species including Dingy Skipper and many more calacareous grasslands and meadows in Studley Park.  View below is start of S2 of semi improved calcareous grassland


S1 is somewhat scrubby area  and part woodland and has good numbers ofshady  hedgerow species like Speckled Wood, Orange tip and Comma and few grassalnd species S2 has the highest counts and is the highest quality unimproved grassland area, It  has seen  the rare Wall  along with the threatened  Small Heath and other Grassland species including Gatekeeper and Large Skipper. S3 is scrubby with few butterflies. S4 is a little more grassy and Small Copper is seen along with a few Small Heath but S5 sees a big jump in numbers along leefy hedgerows with a wide variety of common species. S6 is the southside of a  hedge and mature trees. S7 is a favourite of teh small copper and lies at the back of domestic gardens S8 bounds teh play area  and its hedgerow is  a favourite of the orange Tip and teh other whites. 

Results: 2023:

County wide 2023 results reflect  the 2022 Heat and 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%.

Hell Wath had a small increase in overall numbers similar to the county average.  Great to see the Wall increased while in so places numbers tumbled after last years drought. Trends in the other species tend to mirror those of the county with Brimstone, Holly Blue, Red Admiral, Comma and Speckled Wood reaching record numbers . Most of the loses were in the Browns  particularly Ringlet but also Small Heath both being drought sensitive. It could have been so easily  a record year apart from the drought.

Transect reports

2022 Data: 

Its great to see the Wall present on this  site as well as Small Heath as restoration continues.