Ellerburn Bank is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) near Pickering, managed by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. It is a tiny (3 hectare) limestone grassland and one of the best recorded sites in Yorkshire, for good reason: it’s pure heaven. I hope I give you a flavour of what’s on offer. It’s such a shame that three hectares is all we have. It’s probably  not enough for many of the species that live there.

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The bank itself runs along the top of the meadow and is probably a bronze age boundary marker made of limestone rubble.

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Getting in amongst the grasses you can see a mass of common spotted orchids.

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Many of the grasses and herbs are limestone specialists; such as quaking grass:

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Agrimony:

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Rockrose:

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Hoary plantain:

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Restharrow:

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In disturbed areas is loads of Mignonette:

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Eyebright is a semi-parasite of grasses, also growing in the more disturbed areas:

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And the orchids are the big draw. I wasn’t sure about this one below at all: Brian Walker of Forest Enterprise immediately said it was a greater butterfly orchid, but the flower head is not the right shape for me. Other forums I have posted it on have suggested the white form of common spotted orchid, but typically theyhave broader lower lip. On balance however, I do think a variety of common spotted orchid is a good guess.

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Fly orchid is interesting if not dazzlingly colourful:

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Twayblade orchids are easy to miss too. I rather like them.

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And everyone loves bee orchids:

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With all that lovely flora, there’s got to be some interesting entomology, and there is. Six-spotted burnet moths are hard to miss whirring around the flower heads:

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And loads of meadow butterflies: marbled white only arrived this far north very recently. It’s common now at Ellerburn.

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Common blue:

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Meadow brown on wild marjoram

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Small skipper:

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Here’s one of this year’s super migrants: a painted lady.

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There are reptiles too: adders, common lizards, and this very long slow worm, presumably potential adder-fodder.

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With all that, it’s hard not to feel a great peace, that things are as they should be at least somewhere. Sitting on the bank there is just the constant sound of grasshopppers, and a blackcap and a yellowhammer singing. Bliss!

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