Springtime suspense by the Derwent


Last weekend I took the chance to seek out a pedestrian suspension bridge I had heard about crossing the River Derwent a few miles downstream of Malton. It makes possible an interesting circular walk taking in a favourite little nature reserve, a beautiful stretch of riverside habitat and a ruined priory. It was also an opportunity to do some birding and botanising. These days between full-time work and family commitments, when I am gifted a day ‘off-duty’ I need to seize it with both hands.


My walk made use of the Coastliner bus, alighting at High Hutton Lane end, (for Huttons Ambo) to begin my walk down to the river and the suspension bridge. Later I hailed the bus at the Whitwell Hill stop, close to my finish point at Kirkham. The walk between these points was about 10km, first crossing to the east side of the Derwent via the aforementioned footbridge, then staying close to the river, except to cut off a wide meander bend across arable farmland at Firby. I rejoined the river at Kirkham Bridge beside the ruins of Kirkham Priory.

The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust reserve of Jeffry Bog, near Menethorpe, was one of my key objectives en route. On the outside of a long, sweeping bend in the Derwent this old pasture running right down to the river is a hidden gem for plant-hunting. Although early in the season there was sufficient to hold my interest for a good while. Across the water, on the inside of the bend runs the York to Scarborough railway line, with regular trains passing by.


The most botanically-rich part of the old meadows – the smaller of the two fields offers a sward crammed with delicate leaves of emerging wildflowers. They will put on a striking show later in summer, at which time it can be breathtakingly beautiful. On this visit I was content to speculate upon the vegetative identities of dozens of species and imagine them in a blaze of floral glory later on. The wetter parts did have a great show of Marsh Marigolds and Wood Anemones. Later they will be swamped by the tall swaying stems of Meadowsweet, topped by frothy creamy-white flowers with a sweet scent, (formerly used to flavour mead – hence ‘mead-sweet’).

Something that may be appreciated right now, however, is the adjoining woodland Jeffry Bog Plantation, through which a gently curving boardwalk carries you, dry-footed, among wood anemones and water avens, wild garlic and flag iris. The mosses on the ancient overhanging alders are also worth stopping to admire.

I could happily have lingered for a good while longer looking for Instagram-worthy vignettes of moss and flowers to photograph with my phone but I knew I had another 6km to cover to rejoin the bus route so I pressed on. Throughout the walk I was noting first sightings of the year of birds or butterflies –  Willow Warbler, Swallow, Orange-Tip butterfly and Lesser Whitethroat. Other highlights included a pair of Mandarin Ducks on the river, quite unusual, and a Kingfisher zipping by.

Since the morning had turned overcast with a cold breeze and some rain showers, I was glad to see the sun return after lunch and it lent a real springtime feeling. It seems to have been a long time coming this year. Here are some of my incidental snaps of flowers or plants along the way – most taken as record shots for logging on the I-record app to submit them to the biological recording community.


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