Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve has sprang from the old Kirkstall Power Station. The land was leveled and seeded with native wildflowers and surrounded with trees and shrubs in 1992. Kirkstall Nature Reserve is a concoction of unrestrained wildlife within an urban geography. The two environments work well together.
Take a look around
Things to Note
Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve has the following on-site or nearby:
- Dog Waste Bins
- Nearby Food & Drink
- Nearby Parking
- Nearby Shops
- Nearby Toilets
- Rubbish Bins
Kirkstall Nature Reserve is located west Leeds, just outside the urban heart of the city. It is 10 hectares in size and is divided up into ribbons of land courtesy of the river, canal and railway.
Things to Do
There’s plenty to see and do at Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve:
It’s trails galore in the reserve with plenty of snickets to the canal or river. This gives you’re dog lots of ground to cover and plenty of opportunities to cool down on those hotter days. We’ve been told by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust – who manage the reserve – that dogs need to be on a lead.
Kirkstall Reserve Circular Walk
First and foremost there is a circular path that takes you all the way around the reserve, finishing back at the entrance. This walk is just over a mile long and at an average pace will take you around 45-minutes complete.
Kirkstall Reserve Trail Running
If you go by the official nature reserve map there are only two paths marked clearly. This almost 2km run route follows these.
However for something longer… Fellow runner and outdoor enthusiast Chris Worfolk has taken the time to run every single trail in the reserve. He’s mapped it out and included a Strava link that looks more spaghetti junction than anything. Go and get exploring over on Chris’s blog.
With the decline of the textile industry and the introduction of the Kirkstall Nature Reserve, in turn the quality of the water – particularly on the River Aire – has improved significantly. As a result two rarities have begun to re-colonise the area. Stay alert and get ready to spot Salmonid fish – salmon, trout and graylings – and otters.
At the top end of the nature reserve is a pond. With some simple lightweight equipment – a net, tray and a spoon – you can go pond dipping with the little ones. Pond dipping brings the diversity of creatures from the water close up. Using a spoon you’ll be able to observe creatures like leeches and dragonfly nymphs.
Pebble Beach & Weir
On the second half of the Kirkstall Nature Reserve Circular Walk is a pebble beach next to a weir – this could be the ideal spot to dip your toes or do a bit of stone skimming. It’s a striking find amongst the muddy banks along the rivers edge on the rest of the reserve. The Weir doesn’t look it but it’s an old one; a Grade II listed structure from the 1800s.
Once your gaze moves past the Weir you’ll see an island opposite you. A island reserve within a reserve type of thing. You can’t access this and shouldn’t try as it’s a protected spot for nesting birds.
With each seasonal period comes a different chance to spot a different species of bird. For example, in Autumn, keep an ear out for the high pitched redwing call and the cheeky chuckles of the fieldfares.
Birds that love all seasons in the reserve include Kingfishers, Treecreepers, Sparrows, Greenfinches, Goldfinches, Wrens, Robins and Dunnocks. Sparrowhawks, Kestrels and Heron. And lookout for the blackbirds indulging in the Hawthorn berries.
At night it is the turn of the noctule, pipistrelle and daubenton bats.
Since the rewilding process of the Kirkstall Nature Reserve began in the early 90s the wildflower species have boomed. Recently a survey of the reserve recorded 130 plant species. With sixteen butterfly species – including comma and small copper – spotted amongst the flowers.
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LGBT+ Blackberry Picking
Every year in September the LGBT+ Sport Fringe Festival makes the regular trip to Kirkstall Nature Reserve for some blackberry picking. It’s free to attend and all the family are invited. Get a ticket online from Eventbrite.
The Kirkstall Abbey (just up the road) plays a pivotal role in the way the land we now know as Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve was formed. The Abbey was constructed in 1152 and from there the monks developed agriculture and leather working in the area.
Within the agricultural cultivation there was a focus on growing fruit orchards. Trees including medlar, quince and five apple varieties, cherry, greengage, damson, pear and plum were grown in the middle ages. Today these fruits are being regrown as part of efforts to connect the dots from that pivotal period to now.
With the boom of the industrial revolution towards the end of the millennium, came the use of water to power the growing mill production. You can see the remnants of this process in the Weir on the river within the reserve. It’s this ingenuity that allowed the area to become a key producer for the woollen industry in Britain.
If you’re caught short and need the loo the nearest place is the City Golf club house opposite the entrance to the nature reserve.
Food and Drink
Just off Redcote Lane on Kirkstall Road is the aptly named Meat is Dead restaurant. These guys have created a junk-free plant based bar and restaurant. Come and experience what it feels like to unite, feel nourished and walk away entertained, all in the same place. It’s dinner and drinks free of harm, prejudice and exploitation!
On Stanningley Road you have Sambuca Armley serving a selection of Italian dishes. On Kirkstall Road you have Smak specialising in Polish cuisine, Manjit’s Kitchen serving vegetarian Indian food and Viva Cuba with a selection of authentic Cuban tapas dishes.
Park for free on the access road – but avoid blocking the gateway to the reserve – on Redcoat Lane, postcode: LS4 2AW (Google Map Directions)
Wheelchair access is limited; contact the Trust for more details. And for those accessing on foot there is some uneven ground and muddy paths on a wet day to consider.
How to Get To Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve
There are regular buses along Kirkstall Road from Leeds City Centre with a bus stop at the end of Redcote Lane. Buses 15, 19, 60 and 72 all stop at the end of Redcote Lane on Kirkstall Road.
Train & Taxi
Burley Park Station is a 30 minute walk away with trains running on the hour to and from Leeds. Or a taxi from the centre of the city will take you under 15-minutes.
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