New nature reserve to open

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People can enjoy the great outdoors in Allerton Bywater with the opening of a new RSPB nature park later this month.

St Aidan’s, the site of a former open cast mine on Astley Lane, will officially open on Saturday May 25, and will offer 1,000 acres and more than 12km of footpaths, bridleways and cycle paths interconnecting, allowing visitors the chance to explore the natural world and exercise.

Darren Starkey, RSPB site manager for the Aire Valley, said: “Althuogh the site will be managed for nature conservation – just like other RSPB sites – the difference here is that it will also be open for a wide range of activities, from cycling and walking to jogging and horse riding.”

St Aidan’s has been restored during the last ten years by Harworth Estates – formerly UK Coal – working with the RSPB, and has become one of the best wildlife habitats in the country. The site is already home to many rare birds, mammals, insects and wildflowers.

Darren added: “It has taken us over a decade to get to this point, but we’re all so excited to finally be able to open up the space to the public and invite people to get closer to nature.”

The site is made up of grassland, reed beds, woodland, open water and islands, the site will be carefully zoned so that a number of different activities can be carried out, without compromising the wildlife of the site.

Chris Woolner, visitor experience manager, said: “Healthy habitats are vital to both people and wildlife, and we will be managing the site in a way to both enhance recreation and access for visitors, while also ensuring healthy populations of amazing wildlife thrive in sustainable surroundings.

“We’re already planning an exciting programme of events and activities which will be suitable for all the family, witha bioblitz – basically a large-scale nature stock take, and a fun run planned for summer.

“We really want to hear from people what they want to do on the site, or any events they would like us to consider.”

The RSPB is offering free parking for the first week, until May 31, after which it will be £2.50, or free to RSPB members. The site is open access, but opening times apply to the visitor centre and car park, 9.30am to 5.30pm from March to October.

Visit, email or call 01977 628191 to find out more about the site or to become a volunteer.

Birdwatching at St Aidan’s, Allerton Bywater.