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Cropton Forest: Forest Ranger’s Watch

Welcome to Cropton Forest, a site located in North Yorkshire, on the edge of the North York Moors

If you are looking to escape somewhere for some peace and quiet then Cropton is for you. Its rural location makes it the ideal place for tranquillity and solitude. With 25 square miles of forest and the North York Moors right on your doorstep you’ll have plenty of open space to explore and you won’t bump into too many other people whilst out there.

Canopy 

Cropton forest is a fairly large forest of coniferous woodland set on the edge of the North York Moors. When combined with Dalby Forest to the east there is a huge area of forest to explore. The immediate area is hilly with a few small becks running through and a range of bigger tabular hills to the east and south. The planted conifers around Cropton are mainly Scots Pine, Norwegian Spruce and Larch trees fringed by the ubiquitous Silver Birch. The Scots Pine is the only native pine tree in Great Britain. They are fast growing trees, growing straight and tall, with a hardy wood making their use ideal for telephone poles. Their cones can be used to forecast weather, when they are open the air is dry and no rain is expected.

There are also deciduous trees on site such as oak, copper beech, lime and sliver Birch. These are all characterised by the autumn leaf fall so expect a lot of yellow, brown and reds around if you visit us at this time. The woodland rides and open spaces provide places where the sunlight reaches and stimulates growth of herbs providing food for insects, especially butterflies. Being mostly evergreen woodland the forest around Cropton provides year round shelter from wind rain and snow for many bird species and some mammals, too.

After the autumn leaf fall Cropton becomes a magical winter wonderland during the coldest months with everything covered in a white blanket of snow. Yes, it normally is a white Christmas here! Then spring comes and it is full of life with all the flowers, insects, reptiles and migratory birds in abundance.

Flora 

The wildflowers are found mainly on the edge of the limestone tracks and in some of the open meadows. This is where one can see plants like the Wood sorrel nicknamed ‘sleeping beauty’ for the way the leaves fold themselves up at night. Or Bugle with its purple flowers - this plant was considered a cure all by medieval herbalists for bone fractures and ulcers. Also seen are buttercup, Lord and Ladies, foxgloves, primrose and birdsfoot trefoil.

Edible plants include Wild strawberries and blackberries that grow here in good numbers but the most of all is the Bilberries that cover huge areas of the forest floor, it grows more to the west where there is more sunlight between the trees. The birds and roe deer take advantage of this feast of berries and some humans too. During the winter months of January and February Snowdrops are often seen, also called ‘snow piercers’ because of the way the flower pushes through the snow.

Cropton 2

Fauna

Roe deer are the main species of mammal to see at Cropton. These medium sized deer are native to the UK and are often seen in the open glades and edge of the woods around Cropton. They will lie up in the denser forest during the day and emerge early evening where they will feed in the clearings until first light. They are mostly solitary but occasionally seen in small groups. You would be really lucky to see a Red deer, there are only a handful of people that have seen these big antelope and the sightings have been mainly at night. They are normally found further north and common in Scotland, but these deer are rarity here in Cropton. We have a resident hedgehog on site visiting campers on the field. He rustles outside their tents looking for any easy meals left by campers. Foxes are present and live mainly off the high pheasant population.

Birdsong

Blackbirds, robins and chaffinches are active at first light, followed by, coal tits, blue tits and great tits. During the day Jays are seen regularly along with nuthatches, tree creepers, goldfinches, and the Greater spotted woodpecker. If you are lucky you could see the green woodpecker, tree pipits or crossbills. The Brambling is a winter visitor and this beautiful bird often makes an appearance at birdfeeders. The signature call at night is that of the tawny owl, the ‘toowit tohoo’ can be heard most nights if you take a stroll out and listen carefully.

Forest Floor 

Most of the conifers are evergreen but the Larch is unique in that it loses its leaves in autumn giving the forest a splattering of oranges and browns. There are fabulous forest walks right from our site or you have the option of walking across the moors for more open vistas. Many walks start and finish from one of the picturesque market villages around like Hutton-le- Hole, Appleton-le -moors or Lastingham. They are small quintessential English villages offering great tea shops, very good pub food and locally brewed beer. For the more energetic there are fun mountain bike trails through the forest and linking between the villages, there is something for all ages.

The Wild Wood 

There is a badger set between Cropton and Keldy (closer to Keldy) but they are extremely shy and seldom seen only coming out under the cover of darkness. Pipistrelle Bats are seen most evenings during summer flying erratically along the forest corridors or edge of the clearings picking off insects. 

“I think Cropton is ideally located to explore this part of Yorkshire. It’s only 30mins from Whitby for a stroll along the peer, followed by the best fish and chips you can find, or how about taking your dog for a walk along Filey beach? The historical city of York is only 45 minutes away. Castle Howard, Eden Camp, Sea life Centre, Nunnington Hall, to name but a few, is all within a short drive.”

Did You Know?

The Larch is also a fast growing tree producing good quality timber. There are a few Giant sequoia trees dotted about the forest. This North American tree is one of the longest living, up to 400 years, with the tallest reaching a record 83 meters tall!

Strange But True! 

At night, during summer, the strange rattling call of the nightjar can be heard, these visitors nest near Cropton and are seen during dusk flying around hunting insects on the wing.

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