Natural England - Forge Valley Woods NNR

Forge Valley Woods NNR

Forge Valley NNR flanks the steep east and west facing slopes of the Derwent river valley. It is one of the best examples of mixed deciduous woodland in north-east England.

Forge Valley Woods NNR

County: North Yorkshire 

Main habitats: Woodland

Area: 63 Ha

Forge Valley Woods are owned and managed by Scarborough Borough Councilexternal link in conjunction with Natural England.  The woods are named after a forge that used to operate in the area. Traditionally the woods were coppiced to provide charcoal for the forge which processed ore from locally mined ironstone. The way marked geology trail follows a linear route throughout the woodland and valley base.

The complex series of rocks and soils has given a sequence of woodland types occupying different levels of the valley sides.

Alder and willow predominate in the wet valley bottom, with a ground flora of golden saxifrage, yellow flag and pendulous sedge.

The middle slopes support a mixed canopy in which ash and wych elm are dominant. Sycamore is locally prevalent and there's an understorey of hazel, field maple, holly, bird cherry and spurge laurel. The rich soils support a diverse flora dominated by dog's mercury and ramsons. Sanicle, wood anemone and toothwort are also found, and there are several species of orchid, including early purple, broad-leaved helleborine and bird's-nest orchid.

At the top of the slope more acidic soils support pedunculate oak with rowan and holly.

The woodland supports a rich population of breeding birds, including nuthatch, treecreeper, garden warbler, wood warbler, redstart and black-cap, while the river is home to otter, trout and crayfish.

Events and Community involvement

The Countryside team at Scarborough Borough Council offer educational visits to Raincliffe woods, Forge Valley Geology trail and run a countryside volunteers group working across the borough every Wednesday.

The Friends of Raincliffe Woods, or FoRWoods were formed in 2005 and has organised many improvements to the site and events to promote the woodland and to encourage responsible use of the site. For more information go to their websiteexternal link. 

The North East Yorkshire Geology Trust help with practical geoconservation on the site and provide guided walks along the Geology Trail as part of their wider public events programme. For more information visit the North East Yorkshire Geology Trust webpagesexternal link.

Location and access

The reserve is 5 km south east of Scarborough and 1 km north of the village of East Ayton.

There is a mainline train station in Scarborough and there are bus services from the town to East Ayton. For details go to the Travel Search websiteexternal link, visit Yorkshire Travelexternal link, or telephone the Scarborough & District Travel Centre on 01723 507300.

East Ayton is on the A170 and the reserve is accessed via a minor road that runs north from the A170, across Irton Moor, to the village of Everley. There are five car parks: (613kb)pdf document along the length of this road within the NNR.


The nearest toilet and refreshment facilities are in Scarborough and local villages. There are picnic tables near the carparks on the site.

The site has a riverside bird feeding station and there are sign-posted riverside and woodland footpaths. A 1.5 km easy access riverside boardwalk is suitable for wheelchair users.