Birdwatchers’ paradise between Leeds and Castleford is 60

FLASHBACK: An archive shot of Fairburn Ings, which was designated as a local nature reserve 60 years ago.
FLASHBACK: An archive shot of Fairburn Ings, which was designated as a local nature reserve 60 years ago.

A former industrial wasteland is celebrating 60 years as a haven for nature.

RSPB Fairburn Ings has gone from ‘coal face to wild place’ since it was first classed as a nature reserve in 1957.

A swan walks on the December ice at Fairburn Ings, Castleford. Picture by Simon Hulme

A swan walks on the December ice at Fairburn Ings, Castleford. Picture by Simon Hulme

Its anniversary coincides with the opening of a new RSPB reserve nearby on Monday at former open cast site St Aidan’s on the outskirts of Leeds and Castleford.

Darren Starkey, senior site manager for the Aire Valley, said: “Fairburn owes its existence to the legacy of the coal mining industry. Most of the wet areas on site are caused by mining subsidence.”

“A large part of it is a raised colliery spoil heap. The one at Fairburn was the first in Britain to be restored for nature conservation.”

He said the site on Newton Lane had undergone a ‘pretty amazing transformation’ and was now home to bitterns and bearded tits. A rare spoonbill has also been around for a week. It is the third to turn up in the breeding season and the hope is it will find a mate.

A bird watcher at the Coal Tips area of Fairburn Ings.  Picture by James Hardisty.

A bird watcher at the Coal Tips area of Fairburn Ings. Picture by James Hardisty.

To celebrate Fairburn’s 60th, the first in a series of ‘From the Coal Face to a Wild Place’ guided walks will be held at 1pm on Thursday, April 20. The walks will look at how the Ings has always been important in the local community, how it was forged by mining, and now acts as a flood plain to protect local homes and businesses.

And a new chapter will begin at St Aidan’s on April 10 when it is unveiled to the public.

Mr Starkey added: “It has taken a great deal of work, time and effort by a number of different people and organisations to turn St Aidan’s into the wonderful space we see today – and it’s rapidly becoming one of the best wildlife habitats in the country with bitterns, lapwings, barn owls and little owls already frequenting the site.”

The vibrant colour of Kingfisher at Fairburn Ings RSPB reserve, near Castleford. Picture by James Hardisty.

The vibrant colour of Kingfisher at Fairburn Ings RSPB reserve, near Castleford. Picture by James Hardisty.

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