Skipwith National Nature Reserve is one of the last remaining areas of northern lowland heath in England. The 270 hectares of open heath, ponds, mire, fen, reed-bed, woodland and scrub are an ancient landscape, with its roots in pre-history.

Today the Escrick Park Estate is the main landowner and manages the Common in partnership with Natural England to ensure that its wildlife survives into coming centuries. Much of the Vale of York was once lowland heath. Now only three areas survive – Skipwith NNR, Strensall Military Training Area and Allerthorpe Common – the rest lost mainly to agriculture.

Skipwith has been identified as a Flagship Pond site by the Freshwater Habitats Trust due to its exceptional importance for freshwater biodiversity. This fantastic reserve, with its numerous ponds and pool, many probably originating as peat cuttings, sand pits and flax retting pits, support several of Britain’s most endangered freshwater plants and animals. Alongside enigmatic Great Crested Newts Triturus cristatus several rare pond species such as the elegant Pond Mud Snail Omphiscola glabra and Pillwort Pilularia globulifera, a rare delicate fern, reside in the Commons ancient wetland habitats.

Pillwort is a very distinctive little grass-like plant. It is in fact an aquatic fern with thin, threadlike leaves which unfurl from tight coils as it grows and produces hard spore cases ‘the pills’. In the right conditions it forms a creeping mat over bare mud at the margins of ponds and lakes which can look like a miniature bright green lawn. Pillwort is a Priority Species for conservation in both England and Wales. It is declining rapidly throughout its north-west European range and the UK now holds a substantial proportion of the global population

Pond Mud snail is a rare and declining wetland mollusc. Historically, this species was widespread throughout lowland areas of England and Wales. Although possibly under-recorded, it is thought that this species has undergone a marked decline in the last 50 years and it is now classified as vulnerable (IUCN).


Location: Yorkshire

Accessibility: Some Flagship Pond sites are accessible to the public, and some are not. If in doubt, consult maps for rights of way, look online for site information, or contact the site manager, and follow any instructions on site. It is up to you to check whether you require permission to visit and access the ponds on a site.

Site owners/managers: Owned and managed by Eskrick Estate with the help of Natural England and the Friends of Skipwith Common.