Skipwith Common


Ponies on Skipwith Common, October 2007

Skipwith Common was officially recognised as a National Nature Reserve in December 2009, and as I’ve been visiting here for years, I thought it was about time I got around to including it on this site, in honour of its new official designation.


Cattle drinking from a stream, Skipwith Common

This is a special place, a varied landscape, never dull. Most obvious are the four-footed creatures – cattle and sheep and ponies, among areas of wide open space and in the more enclosed wooded parts.


I first visited here in the 1970s as a child, with my dad. I realise now, in hindsight, that the airfield remains buried within Skipwith Common were probably one of the things that made it an interesting destination for him. For me, I do remember the weirdness of the mounds of earth and the remnants of brick buildings, but I was oblivious to the fact that we were walking for part of the time along old runways.


Brick buildings – remains of WW2 airfield, Ricall/Skipwith
Detail of former airfield building, Skipwith Common


Brick wall and fallen leaves, Skipwith Common, October 2007

In the early years of the Second World War, airfields were constructed all over Yorkshire, and RAF Riccall occupied part of the area now known as Skipwith Common. Visiting more recently, with more awareness of the importance of the remnants of World War Two airfields, I’ve found myself searching the area marked on the OS map as a ‘Camp Site (disused)’, and found brick buildings with small windows almost lost in undergrowth, hidden by trees that have grown much taller in the intervening years. Nature reclaims what we forget.


Skipwith Common – wooden walkway
Autumn landscape, bracken and trees


It’s an ancient, multi-layered landscape, always being added to. The common has earthworks and burial mounds from the Iron Age and Bronze Age. Though it seems wild in parts and like it would have been centuries ago, with trees and boggy places and bracken, in other parts are the remnants of 20th century conflict, in another area 21st century boardwalks and a viewing platform, and a memorial constructed in 2010. Cattle line up to drink at the ditches, in scenes that could be almost medieval if it weren’t for the plastic pipe outlets, and dark-woolled sheep meander through the undergrowth, leaving fragments of brown fleece on the branches.

Map and further information

View Skipwith Common – National Nature Reserve in a larger map

View a route around the Common: OS Explore – Skipwith Common wander

Also on this site: the Riccall airfield memorial at Skipwith Common

England’s newest nature reserve cleared for take-off – Natural England

Friends of Skipwith Common – their page on the history of the common may be of interest, and the site also has news of events taking place.

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