Turning back the clock at nature reserve


Yorkshire Water has turned the clock back 60 years at the Tophill Low nature reserve, between Driffield and Beverley

The company has introduced a threatened breed of cattle to graze on an area of land at the picturesque site.

Five female Belted Galloway - originally from the South-West of Scotland – have been brought to the site to help restore the wetland site to its former glory.

Back in 1950, the whole of the site was originally a wetland pastoral farm which was grazed by cattle.

However, this idyllic country scene was all but lost when the then Hull Corporation Water Board used the site to develop Tophill Low water treatment works, which is now run by Yorkshire Water.

What had been the farm was bulldozed and the small fragments of wetland which remained were covered in trees for the next 40 years.

Last year, however, Yorkshire Water, as part of its programme of improvements to the site, which has become an award-winning nature reserve, obtained special permission from the Forestry Commission to restore one of these fragments back to how it looked in the 1950’s.

Restoration work began last year, with 617 poplar and 92 horse chestnut trees removed from a five hectare area at Hempholme.

Original ditches were restored using OS maps from the 1850’s, liberating dormant seeds from the soil and helping to create a carpet of wild flowers, including threatened species such as the large flowered hemp nettle, alongside traditional wetland species like meadow foxtail.

Now cattle have been introduced to the site to graze the site, ensuring that it doesn’t once again revert into a woodland habitat.

Richard Hampshire, Yorkshire Water’s warden, said: “This is all part of our commitment to managing the reserve sustainably and ensuring it remains one of the most biodiverse sites in England

“We’ve already seen the cattle eating aggressive plants like reedmace which if left alone would rapidly spread, damaging biodiversity and deterring breeding wading birds such as lapwing from using the site.

“These heifers will remain here until Christmas, when they will be returned back to the local farm until next August when they will be once again be brought back to graze and ensure our meadow remains a meadow.”

Tophill Low nature reserve, near Driffield, has a growing reputation as one of the best places to see a huge array of wildlife, particularly bird species, with around 65 different bird species showing on any given day.

* The reserve is open daily from 9am to 6pm with admission £2.80 for adults and £1.20 for concessions. No dogs allowed.