Former gravel pits in Ilkley will be officially opened next month as the 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 there.

The riverside wildlife area, off Coutances Way, is managed by Wharfedale Naturalists Society in partnership with Bradford 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 site’s biodiversity. Implementation has been through 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.

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 – suggested in 1966 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 alongside the River Wharfe between Ben Rhydding and Manor Row on the A65/Coutances Way.

Parking is available in a nearby layby, and Ilkley Angling Association will make additional spaces available on its neighbouring land for the event.