Danes Dyke was declared a Local Nature Reserve (LNR) in 2002 in recognition of its wildlife value and its importance to the local community. Local Nature Reserves aim to protect places of special interest and provide opportunities for research, education and informal enjoyment.
The reserve is part of one of the finest stretches of coastland on the east coast, and is the most northerly outcrop of coastal chalk in the British Isles. This unique sea and cliff environment is protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and its seabird colonies mark it as a Special Protection Area. The offshore environment has been identified as a Sensitive Marine Area and a Special Area of Conservation. In 1979 the area was designated a Heritage Coast due to its rich history and landscape.
Danes Dyke LNR acquires its name from the ancient ditch and bank earthwork, which runs through the reserve. Danes Dyke runs for 4km across the whole of the Flamborough Headland, from the nature reserve here in the south to Cat Nab on the Bempton Cliffs in the north. It consists of two constructed features, a flat-topped bank and a west-facing ditch. The bank was constructed from earth, stacked turfs and chalk rubble, much of which would have come from the ditch. Undoubtedly constructed as a defensive feature, it would have posed a formidable barrier, topped with a wooden palisade fence. Although no exact date has been given to its construction, comparisons with other post Roman earthworks of a similar size have been made. In particular with Aberford Dykes in the West Riding, which has been dated back to the Dark Ages. Today, Danes Dyke is a Scheduled Ancient Monument of national importance.
We hope you will discover what a special place Danes Dyke is by exploring the woodland trails or visiting the seashore.
Discover The Reserve
Arriving in the car park, the woodlands of the reserve stretch out in all directions. However the trees give away its secret history. The monkey puzzle and other exotic trees seen here were much loved by the Victorians who would have known a very different Danes Dyke to that we see today. The car park is now situated on the former site of a grand house built in 1873 for Frances Elizabeth Cotterell-Dormer, lady of the Manor of Flamborough. The house was demolished in 1953.
As well as the exotic parkland trees, the woods contain trees that now grow naturally in East Yorkshire. As you follow the tree trail the ash, elm, lime, beech and sycamore trees tower above you along the ravine edges, with the smaller hawthorn and elder trees nestling beneath them.
The reserve contains the most extensive area of woodland on the Headland and so is important in attracting more resident breeding and wintering landbirds than any other nearby wood. In fact the blackbirds and robins you see on the reserve in the winter may actually be birds visiting from Scandinavia that have arrived to spend the winter months here. The woods are also important for bats that will search out the oldest trees with holes and cracks, which they can use as roosts during the day. Bats feed in the woods and around the trees of the car park after dusk on warm summer evenings.
In recent years the agricultural land has been included in a Countryside Stewardship Scheme to improve it for wildlife as well as visitors to the reserve. Not only are there wider field margins at the edges of the fields to encourage invertebrates, which is good news for birds searching for food, but many new hedges have been planted all over the Headland. The berry-laden hawthorn, blackthorn and holly trees in the new hedges will be very popular with hungry birds.
A Walk in the Woods
Walking in the woods is great all year round. Carpets of snowdrops appear early in the year at Danes Dyke. The yellow winter aconites give away more clues of the past; they were a favourite flower planted by the Victorians in the grand landscape around the house. As the year continues, vibrant bluebells appear on the woodland floor and listen out for the familiar call of the cuckoo to really know spring has arrived in the woods. Summer time isn`t only for heading to the beach! Its great in the woods too, and the tall trees offer welcome shade. The woodland edges and paths around the fields are good place to spot butterflies such as the ringlet or small tortoiseshell.
Autumn and winter walks on the reserve can be rewarding too, and is a time to take in the spectacular shades of autumn across the wood after the first frosts arrive. Danes Dyke ravine makes the reserve a wetter place than many of the woods in East Yorkshire, making an exciting place for fungi hunting in autumn. Why not be the one to take the first steps through newly fallen snow: Go on, come back in January and keep up with those New Year Resolutions!
The 3km circular Tree Trail starts from the display panel in the car park. You can also explore the trail in two shorter walks; a 1km walk through the woods in the south passing the beach, or a 2km walk through the woods in the northern half of the reserve. Due to the natural landscape of Danes Dyke ravine, the Tree Trail features several flights of steep steps, with flights having up to 100 steps.
A walk using the unsurfaced paths of the reserve also starts at the display panel. This walk has only one flight of steps to descend on returning to the car park. Turn right off the Tree Trail at the Pay and Display machine, and walk past the overflow car park. Continue alongside the exit road and take the path on the right towards Flamborough village. Turn off this path through Needles Plantation and enter the woods of the reserve again. Descend the flight of 25 steps, which bridge the gap in the earthwork to return to the car park.
Visitors can also explore Danes Dyke on horseback by using the bridleway. Entering the reserve at the top of the exit road, it crosses the ravine and heads across the golf course on to Sewerby. The bridleway allows you to enjoy the countryside of the Headland from a different angle.
Access to the beach can also be gained by walking from the car park down the steep surfaced road. There is no vehicular access for visitors on this road.
The following PDF document contains a map of Danes Dyke nature reserve.
Danes Dyke (map) (pdf 399kb opens in new window)
The following word document offers safety information for Danes Dyke.
Safety guidance notes for Danes Dyke (word 16.35kb opens in new window)
The Flamborough Head Marine website offers information on all aspects of Flamborough Head.
Flamborough Head European Marine Site (external website)