Scorton Lakes Nature Reserve is just a few miles from Richmond. With 5 miles of footpaths and bridleways, woodlands, wildflower meadows, and half a dozen lakes, noisy with wildfowl, you'd imagine it would be packed with visitors. But this beautiful reserve is almost unknown, even to many locals.
An RAF base during World War II, the site was later quarried for gravel by Tarmac. As quarrying started to wind down, in 2008, restoration began. Now quarrying and restoration have ended, and the diggers and earth-movers have gone. What's left is not just a glorious nature reserve, but a timeline of the process of transformation. The newest section is raw, raw, raw – but already the soil has a thin bloom of dock, weld and other colonising pioneer plants. Move on a few hundred yards to a section that was restored five years earlier, and you'll find successor plants in profusion, and thousands of new trees in guards. A bit further, and the wild meadows are in flower, and the oak, birch and alder saplings are starting to shade out smaller plants. Meanwhile, the lakes, elegantly carved by Tarmac's huge machines, are developing beaches and bays of sediment, which have attracted bulrushes and wading birds. It's lovely now, and in fifteen or twenty years it will be a paradise.
Whether you're a birder, a dog-walker or a family out for a picnic, you'll find Scorton Lakes an undiscovered gem. Get out there and see it now. You can park in Scorton village (nice pubs) or use one of the reserve's two car parks between the Brompton-on-Swale traffic lights and Scorton.
More details are at scortonlakes.org.
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