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Opening of St Aidan's RSPB nature park. Allerton Bywater'Sean Thomas, Keith Wakefield and Andrew McIntosh
Opening of St Aidan's RSPB nature park. Allerton Bywater'Sean Thomas, Keith Wakefield and Andrew McIntosh

A new nature park opened its doors to the public for the first time following a decade-long project to restore a former open cast site.

RSPB St Aidan’s Nature Park, on Astley Lane in Allerton Bywater, which opened on Saturday, was an open cast mine from the late 1970s to 2001, but is now a 400-hectare site with grassland, reed beds, woodland, open water and islands.

There are also 12km of interconnected pathways which will be open for activities like cycling, walking, horseriding and jogging.

It has been restored by Harworth Estates (formerly UK Coal) and the RSPB, and has already become home to many rare birds, mammals, insects and wildflowers.

Darren Starkey, site manager, said: “The restoration has been ongoing since 2001, it has been a long time in the making.

“I think the transformation in the last few months has been pretty miraculous.

“From a nature point of view, what was a 70m hole in the ground in less than ten years has become the most amazing habitat in the north of England.

“But it’s not just about nature, it’s about people, it’s an amazing space for people to enjoy and we hope it’s going to be really popular.”

The park was opened by Leader of Leeds City Council Keith Wakefield, ward councillor for Kippax and Methley, who said: “We have a fantastic opportunity to have a natural resource that people can enjoy, particularly young people.”

Andrew McIntosh, director of communication at Harworth Estates, said: “This is a jewel in our crown, it’s a national asset, we are delighted something so fantastic has been created here.”

Darren added: “We want to get across that the RSPB isn’t just about birds or birdwatching, it’s about all nature in its widest possible sense.”