Where and why
Wykeham Forest is situated between Pickering and Scarborough in North Yorkshire and is one of several large forests in this area that together provide an ideal habitat for breeding Honey Buzzards and Goshawks. The forest holds a surprising healthy population of European Turtle Dove, a species that has seen an unfortunate dramatic decline over the last 30 years in other parts of Britain. The route takes you along the northern edge of the forest, where some special birds can be enjoyed in spectacular scenery.
To access the forest, take the minor road north off the main Pickering-Scarborough A170 road at the Downe Arms in Wykeham village, signposted for North Moor. At North Moor, continue north for 1 mile and turn left at the T-junction. Continue for about 500 m and park on the right in the Raptor Viewpoint car park (SE 935887). It’s a five-minute walk north to the viewpoint along a narrow footpath.
This brings you out in a clearing on a ridge that gives spectacular views over Troutsdale valley below and across the forests of Dalby, Langdale and Broxa. There are two wooden benches to relax on. Patient observers in the summer will often be rewarded with Honey and the more numerous Common Buzzard, as well as Goshawk, Sparrowhawk, Peregrine Falcon, Kestrel and Hobby. More scarce are sightings of Red Kite and Osprey. Black Kite and Black Stork have been recorded here.
Common Crossbills occasionally fly over and the delightful Siskin is ever present. European Turtle Doves occasionally pass by, but a more reliable site is found by retracing your steps to the car park and continuing on the road on foot to the right, listening for the species’ soft purring song, to the nearby Wykeham Nurseries (SE 934886). View from several gates along the side of the road, checking in between the rows of sapling trees.
Returning in your car to the T-junction, there’s a car park on your left for Highwood Brow viewpoint (SE 942889). This is an alternative lookout to the more open aspect of the Raptor Viewpoint. It too has a couple of benches and has the advantage of being just 20 m from your car. It has wonderful views looking north. The Forestry Commission plans to do some felling to open up the view in the near future.
This location is more reliable for Common Crossbill and closer views of common woodland birds, including Goldcrest, Coal Tit, Treecreeper and Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers.
Carry on slowly by car along the forest road, checking for Spotted Flycatchers, to the ‘shrike clearing’ (SE 953890) which is excellent for Tree Pipit and European Nightjar at dusk. Turn left at this point to access a small narrow road running down a steep hill to the village of Wrench Green, and follow the winding road to the River Derwent bridge where you can park (SE 967892). This is a great place to observe Dipper and Grey Wagtail. Keep checking the ridges above for raptors. The valley is good for Hobby in summer.
Continue on the road and turn left at the junction towards Hackness village. Turn left at the T-junction and carry on past Hackness Grange, taking the next left to Troutsdale. Park at Hilla Green bridge over the River Derwent (SE 948901). This stretch of the river holds a pair of Dippers. The small ox-bow lake just 20 m further up the road on the right often has a pair of Mandarin Ducks. The best views of Goshawks can often be had from this valley as they fly across. Exploring further up Troutsdale increases your chances of seeing Common Redstart and Spotted Flycatcher. Wood Warbler, although scarce in the area, is occasionally recorded. Carrying on up Troutsdale and beyond will take you back to the A170 at Snainton.
Sites and access
There is free open access to all sites all year round. The closest train station is at Scarborough. There is a bus service to Wykeham village from Pickering or Scarborough (contact East Yorkshire Motor Service on 01482 592929 or visit www.eyms.co.uk). Highwood Brow is the best viewpoint for the disabled, as it is close to the car park.
Ordnance Survey Explorer OL27 and Landranger 101.
• www.scarboroughbirding.co.uk for local daily bird sightings.
• www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/EnglandNorthYorkshire NoForestWykehamForest for further information on the forest.
• Follow on Twitter: @ForestryCommEng and @BirdGuides.