Adel Dam Nature Reserve

Adel Dam
Two colourful mandarin ducks on a mist morning lake

Mandarin duck  - (C) Jon Hawkins

Bluebell carpet in an ancient woodland

Luke Massey/2020VISION

A kingfisher sat on a small branch.

Kingfisher - Jon Hawkins

Adel Dam Nature Reserve

Our bridge next to the bridleway at Adel Dam has become unstable and we've had to close it.

Please follow the signs showing the diverted route.

A little gem of a woodland and wetland nature reserve. Stroll among dramatic high canopy trees planted as a victorian garden, enjoy close up views of the bird feeding station, popular with woodpeckers and mandarin duck, then overlook the lake with an almost guaranteed sighting of the resident kingfishers.


Next to Golden Acre Park (you can access through the park)
Nearest town: Leeds: (5.6m/9.3km)
West Yorkshire
LS16 8AG

OS Map Reference

SE 2712 414

View on What3Words

A static map of Adel Dam Nature Reserve

Know before you go

8 hectares

Entry fee


Parking information

Use the main Golden Acre car park on Otley Road – a short, flat walk to the reserve.

Grazing animals

None on site.

Walking trails

There’s a circular route of around 1 mile or a shorter ‘there and back’ path to the hides. Please keep to the path to minimise wildlife disturbance on this small site, and to avoid the boggy areas.


The path to Marsh Hide is suitable for standard wheelchairs and pushchairs, while the rest of the route is more uneven. Wheelchair users can access the reserve through the gate - no RADAR key necessary! Boggy areas frequent so keep to path.

People using wheelchairs, powerchairs and mobility equipment can find more information about this reserve here thanks to Accessible Nature.


No dogs permitted


Bird hides

When to visit

Opening times

Open at all times. We recommend a 1 hour outing for this reserve. For a longer outing or day out to Leeds take a look around Eccup Reservoir, Harewood House and Tropical World, or neighbouring Golden Acre Park, where there are toilets and a café.

Best time to visit

March to May, August to October

About the reserve

It’s been an operational dam, and a central feature of a Victorian garden (there are no fewer than 36 species of high, majestic trees here), but today this reserve is one of the best places in Yorkshire to see kingfishers, enjoy some peaceful down-time, and capture some stunning wildlife photography.

Kingfishers are Adel Dam’s star species but there are many other birds to look for from two hides, a viewing screen, and the paths around the reserve. From Lake Hide you can see tufted ducks, grebes, coots and moorhens, which all raise their families on the pool in summer. At Marsh Hide, the feeding station attracts woodland birds including great spotted woodpeckers, nuthatches, jays, finches and tits. Away from the feeding areas, with luck, you might even spot the tiny lesser spotted woodpecker or an elusive water rail. And don’t forget to look up for birds of prey, as red kites are a common sight, along with sparrowhawks and buzzards.

Unusually, the reserve combines both dry and wet woodland. Adel Dam is a fantastic example of a wet woodland and the whole habitat acts as a big sponge – the mosses, plants and trees soak up and hold lots of water. This increasingly rare habitat is brilliant for beetles, moths, snails, spiders, frogs and toads. The fungi in autumn is worth a visit all by itself, with a mix of colours and shapes, including the bright scarlet elf cup and yellow sulphur tuft. Last but not least, you might also encounter roe deer, tawny owls, foxes or even a badger.

Contact us

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust
Contact number: 01904 659570
Contact email:


The gently shelving edges and muddy margins of the central lake provide valuable feeding area for a variety of waterfowl throughout the year. Managed as a nature reserve since 1968, the site extends beyond the lake to include marsh and ponds within a wooded setting.

The reserve is unusual in that it combines both dry and wet woodland types - the latter being an increasingly rare habitat, vital for a great number of invertebrate species.

Introduced tree species such as the spectacular corsican pine are mixed together with more traditional native trees and shrubs.

Read more about the origins of Adel Dam below under 'history'.

Seasonal highlights

  • Spring: Plants - Bluebell; Marsh marigold; Birds - Blackcap; Chiffchaff
  • Summer: Plants - Foxgloves; Invertebrates - Dragonflies; Birds - Mandarin Duck; Mammals - Bats
  • Autumn: Fungi - Yellow sulphur tuft; Scarlet elf cups; Birds - Fieldfare; Siskin; Lesser redpoll
  • Winter: Birds - Little grebe; Goosander; Kingfisher


Adel Dam was once an operational dam to the water power industry. It then became a central feature of a Victorian Garden, which saw the planting of many exotic trees that can be seen today in their majestic maturity.

The original dam wall holding back a large lake eventually declined and is now reprofiled to create a much more natural, shallower lake, resilient to flood events.


Public transport
Take a bus from Leeds or Otley, alight at Golden Acre Park.

By car

Park in the Golden Acre car park (off A660) and take the underpass into the park. Turn right onto the Meanwood Valley trail and continue with the lake to your left. Turn left onto the bridleway (not over the bridge) and the Reserve entrance gate is on your right.

There are wheelchair friendly paths from the car park to the nature reserve and to Marsh Hide, a RADAR key is required by wheelchair users at the nature reserve entrance.

A big thank you!

Your donations help us to maintain the hides and stock up the bird feeding station at Marsh hide, to help ensure great views of the birds.

side profile of a kingfisher about to take off from a branch and fly to the right

(c) Simon Basford

Magical Wildlife Moments...

The first time a child (or even a grown-up) sets eyes on a kingfisher or woodpecker – unforgettable!

A tree top canopy with a blue sky.

Guy Edwardes/2020VISION

Let’s go wild for Yorkshire's wildlife!

From the heights of Ingleborough to the tip of Spurn, our nature reserves are a home (often the only home) to Yorkshire’s rarest and most incredible wildlife. Will you help us continue our work and provide these vital sanctuaries for nature?