This site is based around a network of streams, meadows and a disused railway line. Many people don't realise the former importance of this area as a manorial hunting estate. These days however there are water voles rather than wild boar at large!
Rothwell Pastures and Disused Railway is a Leeds Nature Area in recognition of its value to the local community and wildlife.
It is a site steeped in history as Rothwell Pastures was once the site of grand mansions passed down over the centuries between landowners and even frequented by Kings. The stack of stones, known locally as Rothwell Castle, are all that remain of these royal buildings.
Around 1069 Rothwell Pastures was granted to Ilbert de Lacy by William the Conqueror and amongst the many changes that came to be under the de Lacy family one was that the vast woodlands which covered the district of ‘Rothwell Haigh’ became a hunting park. It is thought that the park was rich in wildlife with wild boar and deer regularly becoming part of the feast for the many lords and ladies and other guests which frequented the manor house and grounds.
In fact the area became a little too popular and as ever more regal guests visited, including King John and Edward II, the popularity of hunting increased until by 1339 John O’Gaunt reputedly killed the last wild boar. The manor house and buildings, which had been the administrative centre for the district, then too fell out of favour and by the end of the 15th century the manor and area were said to be in ‘great ruyine and decay’. Over the coming years the buildings were in various states of use and although the land around was used as farm land until the late 1970s the buildings were all but demolished leaving Rothwell Castle as the last remnants of the medieval manor house.
Rothwell Pastures is now a mix of scrub, hedgerows, ponds and meadows each being home to a wealth of wildlife. As you walk through keep a look out for ragwort, bladder campion and bird’s-foot-trefoil, all plants which are food to butterflies like the common blue and moths like the day flying cinnabar. Watch too as the hawthorn, oak and ash trees change from their nectar producing blossoms to their nut and berry autumn larders for birds like the dunnock, yellowhammer and blackbird.
If you are lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of the rare and shy water vole as they tentatively emerge along the beck banks to feed.
Listen out for the sound of the woodpeckers as they drum holes in the trees looking for grubs to eat and keep your eyes peeled for the toads and frogs in the marshland and ponds.
Whilst the Rothwell Pastures element of the site supports a locally important mosaic of habitats, the disused railway link on the western side of the site also connects a similar variety of often small-scale habitats, providing a locally important corridor for both wildlife and public access.
Rothwell Pastures is part of a corridor of green spaces in the Lower Aire Valley in Leeds which is owned by Leeds City Council and managed in partnership with the Trust.
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.
Want to see more of Rothwell Pastures Nature Reserve before your visit? Have a look below.