Welcome to Clifton Backies!

Clifton Backies Nature Reserve is located in historic York, and has a very interesting story to tell. In May 2002 Clifton Backies was designated as a Local Nature Reserve because of its diverse wildlife, its recreational open space and its potential for education.


The diverse habitats of Clifton Backies support many different species of mammal, bird, insect and plant life. You can download a guide and walk the Doug Heald Trail or view our map to discover what flora and fauna you can expect to find in the different areas.

Clifton Backies has had a long and varied history. In recent memory the site was part of the former Clifton Airfield but after its last use in the Berlin Airlift in the late 1940’s, it was allowed to return to nature. Originally the land belonged to St Mary’s Abbey and would have been used for growing arable crops. After the dissolution of the monasteries the land was part of a furlong or field known as ‘Moor Broats‘ and cultivated under the strip farming system in medieval times. The current ridge and furrow appearance of the fields is a result of this.

Hobby sighting


Recently I saw and heard a bird of prey that I didn’t recognise swooping around above the Backies. It was flying through a group of swallows. When I looked it up on the RSPB and BTO web-sites it was that behaviour which clearly identified that the bird was a Hobby! Not a bird often seen in this area so I feel very lucky to have spotted it.  Hobby

York Buzz Flowers

We have been kindly donated some flowers from BugLife as part of their Urban Buzz project. These are being cared for by a Friend of Clifton Backies – Lesley, and will be planted once we have our new bench installed. Here is a taste of the flowers we will be seeing on Backies (photos taken by Lesley Booth):

Ragged Robin


Red Clover


Fantastic Mr. Fox! & Buttercup Meadow


Fantastic Mr. Fox! – This fine animal was very boldly exploring the hay meadow near the Oak trees

Buttercup Meadow

Buttercup Meadow in May

This fine show of yellow is from the North meadow where the main species present are Creeping Buttercup (ranunculus repens) and Meadow Buttercup (ranunculus acris). The Creeping Buttercups are low-growing and carpet the meadow, whereas Meadow Buttercups are a taller variety.

New Homes for Feathered Friends of Clifton Backies!

As part of National Nest Box Week, the Friends of Clifton Backies group decided to make and put up a number of bird nest boxes on site.

We purchased some wood and fixings, and set about making boxes with a hole suitable for Tits and Sparrows, and open boxes for Robins. Steve and Rob helped me to build 13 boxes in total! They were all then externally painted with environmentally-friendly wood preservative. Here’s a picture of the finished boxes:

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At the beginning of March, my son and I took a pair of ladders to install the boxes at Clifton Backies.

After fixing a few, I noticed that prospective tenants were already taking a look in the holes only 10 minutes after installation!

Here’s a few photos of the installation and a couple of nest boxes in situ:

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Let’s hope that they will help the birds to keep safe and raise plenty of young!