Only two miles from Leeds' bustling city centre and surrounded by both residential and commercial development, Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve is a surprisingly green, quiet and relatively undisturbed mix of wetland, meadow and young woodland copse with great views of the River Aire.
Situated on the site of former Kirkstall Power Station, Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve now supports large areas of wildflower meadow and wetland areas of pond, bog and reedbed.
A large tree planting exercise also saw 15,000 trees planted to complement the existing oak, birch and willow on site with an understory of fruiting shrubs such as guelder rose, blackthorn and sea buckthorn. The area, once noted for orchards in medieval times, also supports a number of fruit trees including medlar, quince and five apple varieties.
Over 180 plant species have been recorded on site along with 65 species of birds including grey partridge and a number of mammals such as fox, badger, as well as pipistrelle, noctule and Daubenton's bats. Otters can be seen by the old ford, which is generally impassable for most of the year. There are also some large mature oak trees with spring bluebells on the island and a pond and wader scrape that has been used by little ringed plovers. Sixteen butterfly species have been recorded including comma and small copper and also six species of dragonfly.
Get here by foot or bike along the Leeds-Liverpool canal towpath - with links to Leeds centre, Kirkstall Abbey and Rodley Nature Reserve.
Much of the site is raised above the floor of the Aire valley as its rests on a plateau formed by the deposition of fly ash from the power station which was demolished in the late 1970s. The area was then used for landfill. Capped in the early 1990s the area was seeded with native wildflower mixes which are the basis of the meadows today.
Yorkshire Wildlife Trust manages the meadows through cutting and raking in late summer. The woodland is lightly coppiced and thinned in the winter.
There is a bar at the City Golf club house and toilets used with their permission.
Discover Yorkshire’s Wildlife
Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Discover Yorkshire’s Wildlife book, which has detailed information on all of Yorkshire Wildlife and Sheffield Wildlife Trust’s reserves, is available to buy now from our online shop.
There are regular buses along Kirkstall Road from Leeds City Centre with a bus stop at the end of Redcote Lane. Burley Park Railway Station is about 1.5 miles away or a 30 minute walk.
The entrance to the nature reserve is towards the end of Redcote Lane (just off Kirkstall Road), past Fitness First and City Golf and just before the railway bridge on the right. There is parking here on the road near the entrance. It is about two miles from the centre of Leeds.
Want to see more of Kirkstall Valley before your visit? Have a look below.