Embark on a voyage of nature discovery at the University of York

The University of York campus is a delightful green haven lying to the east of York. It’s well-known and loved by those from the University, but less so by the wider York community.

Well worth a visit any time of the year!

We recommend a route that starts at the Walmgate Stray entrance to campus. Head in towards the lakes and their wonderful weeping willows, and stroll along the shore. Cross the water on the far bridge and continue to Heslington Hall and the remarkable topiary Yew Garden. You can then return to your start along the other shore. Allow an hour.

One feature of the site is an extensive Campus Tree Trail with over 30 different tree species from around the world. Use the Tree Trail Map to find trees as you stroll.

There’s a real sense of being on a voyage of nature discovery, as you never know what you will find! It could be a unexpected tree, such as a purple leaved Indian Bean Tree, a Handkerchief Tree, or unusual wildfowl, such as a gaggle of Barnacle Geese.

Tuning into nature

Did you know that spending time around trees has been proven to reduce stress and lower blood pressure?

The winter is a great opportunity to get close to trees, when bark on trunks and branches is on display. Find a tree with bark that interests you. Get close to it, still yourself, and place your hand on its bark. How does it feel, is it smooth or rough? Can you feel any patterns on the bark? Listen, are there any birds in this or nearby trees? What are you thinking or feeling in that moment?

It’s always good to know a tree by name, too. Try a winter tree ID Quiz before you go.

And let’s not forget the wildfowl! Can you spot any unusual ducks? Get a good picture and identify them when you get back. You could share your best duck pic with friends online. It’s clearly a ‘thing’ at the University, with “daily duck delights” posted on the University’s Duck of the Day page. 🙂


The University West campus is an easy walk or ride from the east of the city. From elsewhere in the city, you can plan your bike ride there using the York Cycle Route Map.

To walk this route starting at the Walmgate Stray entrance, park your bike at the cycle parking directly opposite the Stray. Apparently, there’s also over 5000 bike parking spaces around campus, including accessible bays for bigger than usual cargo and adapted bikes, and free to use bike pumps. Well done University of York!

The campus also has a range of cafes if you want to grab a drink or bite to eat. There are plenty of outdoor benches in green, secluded spots or with lovely views of the water.

Accessibility: this route is mostly level and hard-surfaced all the way.

Giving something back

Winter is the season of tree planting! Do you have a space in your outdoor area where you can plant and look after a native tree? Here are some excellent guides to planting and nurturing trees. The Woodland Trust have a wide selection of young native trees in their online shop, or you can source trees from a local garden centre, such as Vertigrow.

If you want to get involved in local community tree planting, TCV, Treemendous York, St Nicks and Edible York have all held tree planting events. Follow them online to keep updated. Nationally, the Future Forests Network has a map of tree planting opportunities across the country.

One of the best ways to learn about planting and caring for trees is to join the Facebook group, Tree Planting UK, a knowledgeable and positive online tree community.

Have a look at other Nature Time Routes across York through the seasons from us. Enjoy time in Nature on a green route walk or ride – all year round!

Finally, we rely on donations, sponsorship and grants to fund our work towards a healthy, green and kind York. You can donate at www.givey.com/yorkbikebelles.

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