Brought to you by


Where to spot wildlife on a walk this winter in Yorkshire

Winter at Broadhead Clough Credit Karen McD
Winter at Broadhead Clough Credit Karen McD

Frosty fields in the twilight and the peak of a rosy dawn changing to clear blue skies are as much loved in winter as snow-laden fields, and a needed balm to colder, wetter and overcast days. Crisp clear days are the best time to get out and about – the views are often made sharper, the ground is harder, and there is an ethereal quality to the light that makes winter walks just that little bit more special.

Wildlife can be easier to spot too. Finches and winter thrushes often form flocks at this time to look for and improve their chances of finding food. Look up as you wander through woodland to catch a better glimpse of blue, great, coal and long-tailed tits, goldcrests, wrens or chaffinches – or a classic winter flock of siskins, lesser redpolls and goldfinches.

Roe deer and brown hares roam our woodlands, otters and water voles take to the waterways, birds of prey wheel in our skies – and seal pups born on our coastline in the early winter begin to strike out on their own.

In Yorkshire we are incredibly lucky to have a veritable wealth of wild experiences waiting on our doorsteps – too many to choose from! If you’re looking for a way to make the best of the watery winter sunlight or walk an appetite up for a big Sunday lunch – or even a post-Boxing day feast – try something little different this year and visit a Yorkshire Wildlife Trust nature reserve?

We’ve put together a list of just some of our favourite reserve walks, with something for everyone to enjoy. Please take care, plan and prepare to enjoy the shorter days and outdoors responsibly, as winter weather can quickly change and the temperature can plummet at dusk.

Great British Life: Filey Dams. (c) Jono LeadleyFiley Dams. (c) Jono Leadley

Filey Dams, Filey: An hour’s peace and quiet

For a moment of peaceful calm amongst the reedbeds, watching the glimmer of sunlight on water, look no further than Filey Dams. Set back from the town centre on the edge of a residential area , the reserve is the last remaining freshwater marsh for miles, making it a magnet for migratory birds. Look for tree sparrows and listen out for green woodpeckers on your short walk through the copse to the boardwalk, and a popular place too for winter waxwings arriving in early winter. Dwell for a little while in the three viewing hides. These provide wonderful views across the reserve and often close views of the birds – water rails, dunlins and greenshanks are becoming increasingly common.

With a flat path and an accessible main hide, Filey Dams is a great wildlife-watching experience for everyone – and is only a ten-minute walk from the train station if you want to get your green points in too!

Great British Life: Water Haigh. (c) Amy CooperWater Haigh. (c) Amy Cooper

Water Haigh Woodland Park, Leeds: Something for everyone

Whether you’re looking for a leisurely stroll, somewhere to entertain the kids or walk the dog, or to spend some down-time enjoying a variety of wildlife, Dearne Valley Country Park offers something for everyone. Eshald Woods at the south of the reserve is home to finches and winter thrushes, which often form flocks, darting in from the sky to enjoy the last of the season’s food from swaying seedheads and berried bushes. The grassland and scrubland beyond has been gradually planted by jays caching their acorns, and is a fantastic place on the reserve to enjoy roe deer on an early morning stroll emerging from the mists, and the occasional hunting tawny owl swooping overhead. Further north on the reserve, park at the free car park at the top end of Fleet Lane to enjoy a ramble along the canalside towpath and keep an eye out for birds of prey - buzzards, kestrels and kites – wheeling overhead. The winding river nearby is home to resident cormorants, herons, kingfishers and otters, and the hill at the top end of the reserve is a wonderful place to look out over the winter woodlands beyond.

Great British Life: Much to explore in winter at Potteric Carr. (c) Jono LeadleyMuch to explore in winter at Potteric Carr. (c) Jono Leadley

Potteric Carr, Doncaster: A view with a brew

Wetland reserves are always wonderful in the winter, filled with thousands of overwintering birds and glimmering in the cold winter sunlight – these are some of the best places to watch the spectacular flocks of starling murmurations which gather in staggering displays before roosting at dusk. Potteric Carr is home to over 230 different bird species including the elusively booming bittern and marsh harriers – make sure to tarry and listen a while to see if you can hear one. The reserve also hosts a number of events throughout the season, including some late-night Christmas shopping!

At 200 hectares Potteric is one of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s biggest reserves, with a network of fully-accessible paths with pre-marked routes varying between one and four miles allowing for however many hours of walking you feel comfortable doing – and the opportunity to get a hot brew with a lovely lakeside view at the end!

Great British Life: Winter at Broadhead Clough Credit Karen McDWinter at Broadhead Clough Credit Karen McD

Broadhead Clough, Mytholmroyd: For the ambitious!

The steep, invigorating climb from the deep valley floor up through the woods will ultimately reward you with beautifully rugged Pennine views, though there’s plenty to savour on the way in this lovely reserve. In the 18th century, Broadhead Clough was home to the notorious Cragg Vale Coiners who produced fake coins, but the reserve today has gems of a different sort. Rare mosses grow in abundance here, providing food for birds including curlew, cuckoo, woodpeckers, and finches, and the woodland paths wind up to crisp views out over the nearby hills – particularly spectacular in the snow! Please stick to the paths when exploring – we wouldn’t like you to get stuck!

If you’re looking for even more winter walk inspiration – or you’re in need of a present for a perpetual rambler – consider a copy of Discover Yorkshire’s Wildlife. Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s companion guidebook to their reserves is full of information on over 90 reserves (all but one of which are free to visit) wildlife spectacles and how to make the best of our glorious county. Find out more at ywtshop.org.uk or pick up a copy at Potteric Carr.



BROUGHT TO YOU BY…

Yorkshire Life Read more

Latest articles

More from Yorkshire Life

BROUGHT TO YOU BY…

Yorkshire Life Read more