Woodhouse Washlands are an ever changing tapestry of colours and textures throughout the seasons. The winter wetland attracts flocks of lapwing, which give way to a spring buttercup meadow. Then the early summer grassland and riverbank provides insects for swallows, swifts and martins, which feed over the area, giving spectacular displays.
Lying in the floodplain of the River Rother, the nature reserve straddles the boundary between Sheffield and Rotherham.
This suburban site, whilst surrounded by roads, housing and industry, has a rich and varied history. Until the 1950s the river meandered through extensive marshland and flooded on such a regular basis that a rowing boat was kept at the Methodist chapel to transport people between the housing and factories. The disruption resulted in a flood alleviation scheme being put into operation and by 1960 the river had been straightened, flood banks built and ditches dug to control the water. Since then the river has only flooded the washlands three times; lastly during the major floods in June 2007.
The scheme transformed the widespread marshland into a rich mosaic of grassland, marsh, ponds, ditches and temporary pools with willows and remnant hawthorn hedges dotted across the site creating additional habitat features. The River Rother was once one of the most polluted rivers in Europe, a legacy of the industrial past. Today, the river supports a good fish population as well as a range of invertebrates and plants. Watch out for the occasional flash of turquoise as a kingfisher flies past. In winter, see ducks including goosander and gulls.
In early summer, skylarks are signing and the grassland is full of wildflowers, grasses, rushes and sedges atatracting a wide range of insects.
The nature reserve is managed by a mixture of cattle grazing and periodic maintenance of the ditches, ponds and hedges. The land is divided by the river and a railway viaduct which helps create the distinct characteristics of the different compartments. Metal sculptures have been installed along the route, giving information on the industrial history as well as the plants and animals that can be seen.
The Trans-Pennine Trail, running along an edge of the site, allows easy access for cyclists and wheelchair users in good weather (it can get very muddy in wet weather).
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.
Nearest bus stop Furnace Lane; Woodhouse Railway Station within ½ mile of the entrance.
The nature reserve has three main entrances. The entrance on Furnace Lane leads to a small section of the nature reserve with a walk along a tree-lined path. The other entrances are on Retford Road via a public footpath, part of the Trans-Pennine Trail, and on Rotherham Road accessible from Beighton and Swallownest.
Want to see more of Woodhouse Washlands before your visit? Have a look below.