Former gravel pits in Ben Rhydding will be officially opened as Bradford District’s newest nature reserve – almost half a century after the potential of the area was recognised.

Ben Rhydding Gravel Pits Local Nature Reserve will be formally opened on Tuesday May 6, when the Lord Mayor of Bradford will join local conservation and wildlife groups at the reserve.

The riverside wildlife area, off Coutances Way, site is managed by Wharfedale Naturalists Society in partnership with the City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council.

The partnership started in 2007 due to concerns over the site’s deterioration particularly due to invasive weeds. A management plan was agreed to maintain and enhance the sites biodiversity. Implementation has been though regular volunteer work parties.

Following consultation with Natural England, the site was officially declared a Local Nature Reserve (LNR) – only the third to be declared in the Bradford District.

The official opening celebrates the achievements of local volunteers and our shared commitment to supporting wildlife in Wharfedale and the Bradford District.

But the potential of the gravel pits as a nature reserve was recognised at least 48 years ago.

Biology teacher and lifelong natural history enthusiast, Joan Elizabeth Duncan – who later received an MBE for her services to Yorkshire wildlife – wrote to the Gazette in 1966, suggesting it could become an educational nature reserve.

Running alongside the River Wharfe, the formal gravel pits have a variety of habitats including marshy grassland and a lagoon with yellow water-lilies.

A variety of wildflowers can be seen from May to July, including marsh orchids. The river is home to otters, waterfowl, waders and kingfishers.

Warblers nest in the summer, which is also a good time to see dragonflies. More than 20 butterfly species have been recorded.

The nature reserve is next to land owned by Ilkley Angling Association, which has mounted a simultaneous programme of improvements.

The opening will be at 7pm, followed by an informal walk around the reserve at 7.30pm.

The reserve is located alongside the River Wharfe between Ben Rhydding and Manor Row on the A65/Coutances Way.