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 three times, lastly during the major floods in June 2007.
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).
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.