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This is hidden gem could easily be overlooked. Nestled in Yorkshire farmland this is one the best places to photograph a range of butterflies but especially the Marbled White – a fine black and white butterfly, which is on the wing in Summer.
There is always something to see at Brockadale Nature Reserve, although for the best experience visit in the spring and summer. The woodland in springtime offers carpets of wood anemone, bluebell, primrose, violet and early purple orchid before being shaded out by the new leaf growth in the canopy above. Whilst in the summer, the flower-covered slopes are alive with a jewel-case of butterflies and other insects.
The mixed woodland covers the cool, damp valley floor and dry limestone hills. Woodland butterflies like speckled wood and white-letter hairstreak live here. Around 40 species of bird breed on the nature reserve. Great spotted and green woodpeckers, nuthatch and long-tailed tit are resident, whilst warblers such as chiffchaff, willow warbler, blackcap and whitethroat are summer visitors. Yellowhammer and bullfinch are frequently seen in the hedgerows, kingfisher can be spotted along the river, and buzzard and kestrel may pass overhead.
Best Lens: 150mm macroBest time of year: Jul-AugBest time: EveningsFitness level: EasyDistance: 1 milePhone: 01904 659570What you need to know:
Brockadale is in the valley of the River Went as it flows through a craggy, steep-sided gorge formed after the last ice-age when glacial melt-water burst through the magnesian limestone rock.
Now the river meanders along the flat-bottomed valley. The nature reserve is particularly important for its flowery slopes, which have never been ploughed. This grassland habitat is now rare, with magnesian limestone only existing in a narrow band stretching from Nottingham to Durham, it's soil producing excellent farmland. The site's flowers only survive because the valley sides are too steep to cultivate.
The best locations for photography
The Marbled White is a distinctive and attractive black and white butterfly, unlikely to be mistaken for any other species. In July it flies in areas of unimproved grassland and can occur in large numbers on southern downland. It shows a marked preference for purple flowers such as Wild Marjoram, Field Scabious, thistles, and knapweeds. Adults may be found roosting halfway down tall grass stems.
Walk along the south-facing slopes in July and August when they are purple with clustered bellflower, greater knapweed, common knapweed, and field scabious. Budding photographers shouldn't miss the chance of capturing this smart butterfly on a sunny day.
From the car park the best places are the southern facing grassy slopes that can be found in a southwesterly direction. The best time to visit is warm sunny evenings as the Marbled White descend to the long grasses to roost. Once they are roosting they are quite docile and can be photographed easily without disturbance.