A SECOND World War Spitfire swooped over North Yorkshire to celebrate the opening of England’s newest National Nature Reserve.

The site, at Skipwith Common, is a former RAF airfield, and relics from the Second World War have come to provide a habitat for rich and varied wildlife.

The Spitfire flew past a newly dedicated memorial to the RAF personnel who served at the site before heading to Elvington where it made a low-level pass along the old runway beside the Yorkshire Air Museum, followed by a roll into the sky to salute those commemorated.

Ian Reed, director of the museum, said: “The Spitfire flying directly from one memorial to the other is a symbolic link to remember those who have gone before. It is a fitting mark of respect to the men and women who initially built these bases and then those that were stationed at them during the Second World War.”

Skipwith Common National Nature Reserve is run by Natural England and Escrick Park Estate, which it occupies 274 hectares of, and is home to a wide variety of rare heathland plants, a rich collection of dragonflies and more than 70 species of breeding birds including nightjars and woodlarks.

Charlie Forbes Adam, of the Estate, said: “Skipwith Common has been very special to me since I was a small boy and I am delighted that it is receiving the status it deserves. The common is an oasis of biodiversity in the arable lands of Selby District and is a magical, almost primordial, place. We all hugely appreciate the resources Natural England has allocated to the common in recent years.”

Celebratory events will be taking place today and tomorrow and more information can be found at naturalengland.org.uk/nnr