Managed by the RSPB, St Aidans is an incredible spot for birdwatching and walking.
Since it’s transformation from an open cast mine to a nature reserve, St Aidans has become a haven for birds and wildlife who nestle amongst reedbeds, lakes, woodlands and open pastures.
Covering a massive 988 acres St Aidans takes you on a journey through diverse landscapes. There is lots to see and do, allowing you to explore and adventure though nature at its best.
Things to Note
St Aidan’s Nature Reserve has the following on-site or nearby:
- Accessible Toilets
- Disabled Access
- Nearby Food & Drink
- Nearby Shops
- Pushchair Access
- Rubbish Bins
- Wheelchair Access
St Aidans is a large nature reserve located in West Yorkshire, based in Leeds and on the edge of Castleford. Managed by the RSPB St Aidan’s is a stunning site bursting with wildlife and amazing views. Whether you decide to bring the family, dog or bike out for a day, you are sure to have fun exploring.
Things to Do
Great Place to Bird Watch
Managed by the RSPB, St Aidans is an incredible spot for birdwatching, letting you see birds like never before. Look up to the skies and you may just spot kestrels, short wares, owls, water rails. Keep your eyes peeled and you may get lucky and spot little owls, the smallest owls in the U.K. To take your bird watching experience to the next level, hire some binoculars for just £3.
In the Autumn thousands of starlings came to St Aidan’s to roost. Hang around just before dusk and you may be able to see the incredible starling murmuration, where the thousands of Starlings that come to roost at St Aidans, join together in unison to create changing patterns in the sky. Think of it as nature’s very own Red Arrows performance.
Explore the magical reedbeds, waterlogged areas of vegetation, home to a host of wildlife and rare birds. There are only 900 of reedbeds left in the UK, with St Aidan’s being one of the largest. Keep your eyes peeled for rare birds Bittern, Marsh Harries and Bearded Tits nest exclusive amongst the reedbeds.
Wanting to Hike?
Delve into the woods via the park’s two woodland trails. Lowther Loop is a 2.8km trail that takes you through the trees and around the lake. Be sure to take your wellies as things can get a little muddy. If you fancy something more challenging with hills and inclines then why not try the Hillside Hike. The climb is worth it for the stunning views. Visiting in the autumn is a foragers dream. What can you make with the blackberries, rosehips, elderberries and hawthorn berries ready to harvest?
With 12km of paths running through the park, St Aidans is a great place to go for a cycle. There is also the Transpennine Trail to explore which passes on the southern side of the park and is and will take you to Leeds City Centre.
St Aidan’s is a great place to explore with your little ones as it has two buggy (and bike) friendly walks. Bowers Bimble is a 1.8km route that takes you around the lake and through grasslands and wildflower meadows, before returning to the carpark. Reedbed Ramble is a longer 4.6km route through the reedbeds. What wildlife can you spot on your travels?
To ensure those little ones are kept well and truly entertained why not grab a £3 bug hunting backpack from the visitor centre, located by the main entrance, and see what you can find. Give St Aidan’s a like on Facebook to keep up to date with all the fun activities and advice sessions going on at the nature reserve.
Explore the History of St Aidan’s Nature Reserve
St Aidan’s is rich in history from its mining past. You can get a glimpse into the site’s open cast mine via the 1200 tonne coal Bucyrus BE 1150 Walking Excavator named Oddball that remains on the site and is now home to nesting birds. Probably the biggest digger you’ll ever see and one for the kids to enjoy. Head over to the café to get a great view of it and keep your eyes peeled for open days for a chance to go inside.
The great thing about St Aiden’s is that they cater for the inquisitive minds. With an education centre, visitor centre and volunteers wondering about there is always someone on hand to answer your questions about the wildlife and the history of the park.
Wanting to Walk the Dog?
St Aidan’s is a great place to walk the dog, with so much for them to explore. The nature reserve is dog friendly with free dog biscuits and poo bags at the visitor centre and a dog friendly balcony to eat your lunch. You are free to take your dogs anywhere in the park but make sure to follow the rules. Dogs must either keep to the path and come when they are called or be kept on a lead. If your dog needs some time to run wild, there is a dedicated recreation area where you can let your dog roam.
Want to Volunteer?
For those who have some spare time on their hands, why not give volunteering a go. Head over to RSPB website to find out how you can get involved.
Make the most of your visit and stay and watch the sunset. The visitor centre offers amazing panoramic views of the reserve and provides a perfect spot to watch the sun go down.
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St Aidans used to be an open cast mine up until 2002 when production on the site ceased. The River Aire was diverted to dig six million tonnes of coal from the area. In 1988 the site was catastrophically flooded after the River Aire burst its banks and thousands of gallons of water flooded back onto the site.
The site was reopened in 2013 as a nature reserve after extensive works to make it a sanctuary for rare and endangered wildlife.
There are public toilets located on the ground floor of the visitor centre. There is also a unisex accessible toilet, with baby changing facilities that can be used from a seated position.
There is not a shop on site. There is however a shop up the road at Fairburn Ings another RSPB site, which is also worth a visit. The shop sells gifts, information about the RSPB and takeaway drinks and snacks.
Food and Drink
St Aidans Nature Reserve is a lovely place to picnic. Stop for a bite to eat the trees, in the open pastures on or perched by the lake. Picnic benches are available in the visitor centre and out on the balcony, a great way to still enjoy a picnic in the windy and rainy weather. Fancy a picnic, but not making it? Sandwiches and drinks are available to buy from the café.
The onsite café has a self service ‘grab and go’ selection of hot and cold drinks, sandwiches and snacks.
Too tired to make dinner after an exciting day out at St Aidans Nature Reserve? Why not grab a fish and chips takeaway from Woodend Fisheries.
The nature reserve has 86 onsite parking bays and 5 disabled spaces. Parking is free for members and £4 for non members. Disabled parking and the first 30 minutes are free. Between February and October the car park closes at 8pm.
In the winter months, November to January, the car park closes earlier at 4pm. The car park is closed on Christmas day. Please be aware that there is no lighting in the car park.
St Aidans Nature Reserve is wheelchair and pushchair accessible. The park features two pushchair friendly walks.
In 2019 it was awarded the Good Access Scheme award in its efforts for making the reserve accessible to all. The park features a 120m accessible path designed especially with wheelchair users and those with disabilities in mind, which includes 6 level resting areas and new benches.
There are 5 disabled parking spaces, accessible toilets, baby changing facilities that can be operated from a seated position.
Mobility scooters are available to hire, to access the open space. Bookings must be made 24 hours in advance by contacting the visitor centre on 01132 320529 or sending a message on Facebook.
Paths and bridleways are suitable for cyclists and horse riders.
How to Get To St Aidan’s Nature Reserve
St Aiden’s is accessible by car, bus and train.
The nature reserve can be reached by road via the M1 Junction 46, the M621 or Selby Road. Use postcode LS26 8AL in your Satnav for directions.
Bus service 167 runs to Allerton Bywater from Leeds City Centre and Castleford. Get off at the stop on Bowers Row and the visitor centre is a 0.2 mile walk. Plan your journey here.
The nearest train stations to the reserve are Woodlesford (3 miles away) or Garforth (4 miles). Both areas have taxis that can be booked to get you to St Aiden’s.
For those who like to cycle, you can use the National Route 67 – Trans Pennine Trail Central, Yorks and Derbyshire and the National Route 697 which both run along next to the site.
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