Main Image by Kerry Fieldhouse.

Connecting to nature is something we can all do. Just being outdoors, listening, looking, smelling and feeling can be enough. If you can take the time to really notice the differences in the animals and plants around you, it will enhance your experience even more.

After many years of sharing my knowledge and enjoyment of the natural world with children and adults, I know how enriching it can be. Volunteers on the lineside have been pleased to learn the calls of birds like the green woodpecker and song thrush who are often heard on the lineside and brighten our days. Likewise, learning about the elusive adders and slowworms makes a day out on the lineside and moors around us even better.  

The links below are fantastic and will take you to activities and identification sheets for kids and adults alike and help you start your own journey of learning about life on the lineside. We will also be developing some family wildlife activities of our own in the next year (2022/23) so watch this space!

by Kerry Fieldhouse, NYMR Lineside & Environmental Sustainability Manager

Birds - Mammals - Trees - Reptiles & Amphibians - Butterflies & Minibeasts


A buzzard. Photo courtesy NYMNP.

I am hard pushed to choose just a few birds to get you started on your exploration of our feathered friends but I suggest linking through to the RSPB website (see below) where you can look and listen to birds (the calls and songs are often are only hint they are around) and try hearing the differences between:

The green woodpeckerGreen Woodpecker Facts | Picus Viridis - The RSPB - a loud, high, laughing call often heard in and around Goathland Station.

The great spotted woodpeckerGreat Spotted Woodpecker Facts | Dendrocopos Major - The RSPB -  the distinctive drumming you can hear around Beck Hole and a regular visitor to our Newbridge depot!

The long-tailed titLong Tailed Tit Bird Facts | Aegithalos Caudatus - The RSPB - a lovely chattering noise as they fly and move together often seen and heard around Pickering Station.

The song thrushSong Thrush Bird Facts | Turdus Philomelos - The RSPB - boldly calling its repeating patterns and easily heard all around Levisham Station.

The tree creeper - Treecreeper Bird Facts | Certhia Familiaris - The RSPB– shrill calls and trills from Pickering to Grosmont, watch out as they skip up the tree trunks around the stations, the white breast the only visible give away that they are there. 

The house martin - House Martin Bird Facts | Delichon Urbica - The RSPB – a soft chirruping sound, look out for the house martins nesting in Goathland station and around Grosmont. Related to swallows, they are similar but their forked tail does not have long trailing feathers like the swallows and they have a white patch on their rump.

The buzzard - Buzzard Bird Facts | Buteo Buteo - The RSPB – a loud mewing or keying sound above alerts you to the majestic buzzards as they soar on the thermals high in the sky from Pickering to Goathland.

For loads of activities, ideas and crafts about wildlife and birds check out Activities for Kids & Families | Educational DIY Projects -The RSPB


A roe deer in bracken. Photo courtesy NYMNP.

Mammals are secretive. We don’t often see them but a few make their presence known by the tracks and signs they leave behind.  

The most commonly seen mammal on the lineside is the roe deer. They appear gentle and calm when we watch them feed on the lineside around Beck Hole merrily munching the new spring shoots. Only once, when on a dawn survey for turtle doves by Levisham, were we told in no uncertain terms that we were in the territory of a male roe – who stood watching us from a safe distance but barked continuously and loudly!

The other most common mammals are hare, seen in the woodlands and fields on and near the lineside, and bats, which make summer roosts in the roof of our buildings in Pickering, Levisham and Goathland.

We know from our surveys and sightings that these are the mammals that visit our lineside:

  • Badger
  • Bank vole
  • Bats
  • Brown rat
  • Common shrew
  • Field vole
  • Fox
  • Grey squirrel
  • Hare
  • Hedgehog
  • Mole
  • Muntjac deer
  • Otter
  • Rabbit
  • Stoat
  • Water shrew
  • Weasel
  • Wood mouse

To find out more about British Mammals, how you can help them and activities for families, do look up:

The Mammal Society - For evidence based conservation.

Bat Conservation Trust - Education & outreach resources.

The British Hedgehog Preservation Society.

The Wildlife Trusts - Actions.


Woodland. Photo from NYMNP.

On our lineside there are scrubby patches of blackthorn, hawthorn and gorse; woodlands with ash and oak; and connecting habitats of birch, alder and willow. Our trees are all native and incredibly important for different wildlife. We manage some areas as coppice and others become tall, mature trees.

Of course as a railway we have to manage the trees to minimise fire risk and keep sightlines clear but we value the connections, food, shelter and aerial pathways that trees create.

We have small patches of woodland on our lineside which connects to the woodlands either side of us and although much of it is inaccessible to the public, we have a small part of the ancient woodland at Beck Hole which has a footpath through it connecting to the Rail Trail and Beck Hole village. You can also explore the woodland of the National Park and Foresty England from Newtondale Halt via footpaths and forestry paths which have permissive access.  

Take a look at the Woodland Trust website for information and inspiration to make your woodland day out even better.

Woodland Trust - Things To Do in Our Woods

Woodland Trust - Tree Tools for Schools

Reptiles and Amphibians

Adder (male) on the lineside. Photo by Kerry Fieldhouse.

A personal favourite, our amphibians and reptiles are often overlooked or reviled. Instead, I hope you will go looking for them, provide homes for them and come to love them as I do.


On the NYMR lineside we have frogs, toads and newts like the smooth newt. Being amphibians they all start life in the water but become dependent on good quality terrestrial habitat for adult life.

Learn how to identify them, provide shelter for them and have some fun with arts and crafts – Fun and games


It is not unusual for people to not realise that there are snakes and lizards native to the UK. Here on the NYMR lineside we survey for and try to conserve the habitats of our three local reptiles – adders, common lizard and slowworms (actually a legless lizard - not a snake despite its appearance!).

For more information about our native reptiles and links to great educational resources try:

Amphibian and Reptile Groups of the UK

Amphibian and Reptile Conservation

Butterflies and Minibeasts

Brimstone butterfly. Photo courtesy NYMNP.

Our lineside is teeming with bugs, beetles and minibeasts of all shapes and sizes. One of the easiest to spot and identify and count are the butterflies. We have started surveys for butterflies along some sections of the lineside and where we know they are, we also know there must be other minibeasts and their accompanying floral friends.

Some of the most unusual and splendid butterflies we have spotted include the Duke of Burgundy, the small pearl-bordered fritillary, ringlets, comma, brimstone, small skipper, green-veined white and small heath. Fantastic names aren’t they?!

Each species has its own flight ‘pattern’ and favourite foods and you might just be able to find out who you are looking at. Keep an eye out for their flutters and just enjoy them, even if you can’t identify them.

To find out more about our native butterflies do look up:

Butterfly Conservation

Identify British butterflies - The Wildlife Trusts

How to Attract Butterflies to Your Garden - Woodland Trust

Fun & Learning - The RSPB