Ex-mining site between Leeds and Castleford is nature haven

WILDLIFE HAVEN: St Aidan's RSPB reserve is just 5 miles from Leeds city centre.
WILDLIFE HAVEN: St Aidan's RSPB reserve is just 5 miles from Leeds city centre.
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A new nature reserve on the outskirts of Leeds is a true urban gem.

Former coal mine St Aidan’s has been has been transformed from a bare hole in the ground to a wildlife haven with some of the rarest species in the UK.

The RSPB site between Leeds and Castleford, which opened in April, is now home to species like the bittern. In 1997, there were only nine males left in the whole of the country. St Aidan’s now has three breeding males,

A rare Caspian tern has also visited the reserve recently.

The RSPB has been managing the site for a decade. The Aire Valley warden team has been hard at work on the site since 2007 to create the vast and diverse habitats seen today.

Warden John Ingham said: “I’ve been working on the site, along with a dedicated team of local volunteers, for three years now. It’s taken a lot of hard work but it’s an absolute pleasure to now see so many visitors enjoying the site, its habitats and the wildlife that makes its home here. It makes all the effort so worthwhile.”

The vast site off Astley Lane is only 5 miles from Leeds city centre.

Assistant warden Andrew Tiffany said: “So much hard work has gone into clearing the shrub and preventing willow overgrowth in the reedbed to encourage bitterns to the site. In the process we have also made brilliant nesting sites for black headed gulls, pochard and black necked grebes.

“Bittern numbers have increased greatly over the last 20 years, all across the UK, which is testament to the conservation efforts in places such as St Aidan’s.”

There is also a busy sand martin ‘wall’ (nesting site) and a vast area of wildflower meadow.