Woodhouse Washlands

A mosaic of wet and dry grasslands, swamp, wet ditches, ponds and scrub.

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About Woodhouse Washlands Nature Reserve

Sitting on the boundary between Sheffield and Rotherham, on Sheffield’s eastern edge, Woodhouse Washlands comprises 53 hectares of grassland, scrub and floodplain grazing marsh.

The Washlands’ mosaic of wet and dry grasslands, swamp, wet ditches, ponds and scrub are typical of the landscape which once fringed the River Rother as it passed through its floodplain. During the summer, swallows, swifts and martins can be seen feeding over the area, providing spectacular displays.

A bird survey in 2017 revealed around 60 species using the site – some of which were recorded for the very first time and included less common species such as grasshopper warbler, hobby and little egret. The reserve has also seen a good increase in breeding skylark numbers.

This suburban site, whilst surrounded by roads, housing and industry, has a rich and varied history. Until the 1950s the river meandered through extensive marshland and flooded on such a regular basis that a rowing boat was kept at the Methodist chapel to transport people between the housing and factories. The disruption resulted in a flood alleviation scheme being put into operation and by 1960 the river had been straightened, flood banks built and ditches dug to control the water. Since then the river has only flooded the Washlands a handful of times, most recently during the major floods in November 2019.  

The scheme transformed the widespread marshland into a rich mosaic of grassland, marsh, ponds, ditches and temporary pools with willows and remnant hawthorn hedges dotted across the site creating additional habitat features. The River Rother was once one of the most polluted rivers in Europe, a legacy of the industrial past. Today, the river supports a good fish population as well as a range of invertebrates and plants. Watch out for the occasional flash of turquoise as a kingfisher flies past. In winter, see ducks including goosander and gulls.

The nature reserve is managed by a mixture of cattle grazing and periodic maintenance of the ditches, ponds and hedges. The land is divided by the river and a railway viaduct which helps create the distinct characteristics of the different compartments. Metal sculptures have been installed along the route, giving information on the industrial history as well as the plants and animals that can be seen.

The Trans-Pennine Trail, running along an edge of the site, allows easy access for cyclists and wheelchair users in good weather (it can get very muddy when wet).

Volunteering at Woodhouse Washlands nature reserve

Find out more about volunteering with Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust.

Thank You

Together with our members and volunteers we take care of 15 nature reserves, including Woodhouse Washalnds, spanning almost 600 hectares, across Sheffield and Rotherham. These are places where you can enjoy nature and where our conservation work helps the wildlife you love to thrive.

Your donations make it possible for us to care for Woodhouse Washlands nature reserve. Thank you!

If you need to get in touch with us about any of our reserves, please email us or call 0114 263 4335.

Woodhouse Washlands User Forum

Woodhouse Washlands User Forum is usually held at Woodhouse Library and is a great way to find out more about your local Nature Reserve, ask questions about how it is managed and learn about future plans for the site. We would love to hear your views and ideas. Visit our Events page for more details.

Access Information

Getting There

  • Public Transport
  • Bus X35 and trains from Sheffield to Woodhouse station both stop within a 5 minute walk of the reserve. Find more details on the Travel South Yorkshire website.
  • Directions
  • From Sheffield city centre head out on the Parkway (A57) and continue, taking the left hand slip lane to Worksop/Mosboro’ and take the 1st exit from the roundabout onto Mosborough Parkway (A57), continuing for 1.5 miles. At the roundabout, take the 1st exit onto Coisley Hill (B6064). Continue to Market Street then turn left onto Station Road to continue on the B6064 until you reach Furnace Lane.


  • Please note the reserve is closed when the flood defence system is in operation.
  • Public and permissive footpaths.
  • Limited wheelchair access.

Other Information

  • Dogs are permitted on the reserve but must be kept on a lead.
  • Cattle grazing from April to November.
  • Cyclists are permitted to cycle on the Trans-Pennine Trail paths.
  • Camping is not permitted at this reserve.
  • Barbecues and campfires are not permitted at this reserve.