A visit to Rodley Nature Reserve in Leeds

Rodley Nature Reserve is a wetland habitat located just outside the city of Leeds in the quaint suburb of Rodley by the River Aire and Leeds to Liverpool Canal. The area is stop-off route for migrating waders and wildfowel and was designed to encourage wetland wildlife back to the Leeds area.

The Nature Reserve is free to visit but is only open on Saturday’s, Sunday’s and Wednesday’s 10am until 5pm. The centre has a small café with hot drinks and snack on sale, disabled toilets, ample parking and a series of paths suitable for most prams and wheelchairs in dry weather. During the summer months, pond dipping equipment can be hired. The kit consists of a net, basin and identification sheet and there are a couple of ponds with decked edges for visitors to do their dipping from.

Several hides are located along the wetland offering vantage points to look across the water at the bird life. Some of the hides are wooden, but most are made from shipping containers; presumably to reduce the risk of criminal damage. When I worked on and RSPB reserve in a built up area the hides were often subject to arson so were replaced with metal versions.

The Reserve  runs a harvest mouse breeding program and has two tanks containing the UK’s smallest mammal on display in the visitor centre. A few were snuggled together in a mock harvest mouse nest and others were negotiating the obstacles in their tank. These cuties are well worth a visit.

This reed warbler’s nest displayed in the visitor centre is fascinating. The reeds are so intricately entwined together; all of which has been done with the tiny beak of a bird.

The visitor centre has a good display of mammal and bird skulls, feathers and nests in a glass cabinet. I am fascinated by skulls and even have a collection so I had lots of fun identifying the ones on display. Each item is clearly labelled which is great for educating visitors.

The highlight of the day, for me, was seeing common terns catching fish and feeding their young. They were too far away to get a good snap of but we got a good look at their activity using the binoculars.

We had a go at budget digiscoping with the binoculars and our iPhones to snap picture of the swans and their signets preening in the long grass and of a juvenile coot. The results are a little grainy but not bad for improvisation.

Wildflowers were blooming in all areas of the reserve and the gentle hum of insects filled the air. I was pleasantly surprised by how peaceful the area is despite it being encircled by houses, roads and factories. It really is a hidden gem in the city.

The weir located on the river next to the reserve is 1.8m high and makes passing moving upriver impossible
for migrating fish. In 2013 a fish pass was constructed to allow fish to move up and down the river. The reserve land is leased from Yorkshire Water who built the fish pass with funding gained from the Environment Agency. It is also part of Yorkshire Water’s wider scheme to enhance biodiversity in the rivers of Yorkshire which is detailed in their 25-year strategy document labelled Blueprint for Yorkshire. The fish pass features as a case study in the Blueprint  and Yorkshire Water plan a further 14 fish passage projects by 2020 costing over £6 million. Impressive news for nature conservation.

Rodley Nature Reserve really is a little piece of heaven in the city worth visiting and a great place for all ages to get closer to nature. For more information visit their website here.

By Jenni Tulip

I'm a bright-haired, hill walking, magpie whispering, skull collecting, tree hugging, money saving, bird watching, happy campervanning, ferret fanatic, woodland dweller sharing my stories and passion for the outdoors to inspire you to immerse yourself in nature.