Despite being the fourth most populous area in the UK, Leeds has a multitude of green spaces just waiting to be explored. And opportunities to escape the hustle and bustle of city life are closer than you may think, with parkland, woodland and wetland areas surrounding the city centre on all sides. Even a walk from Headingley to the university campus can encompass the green spaces of Woodhouse Moor, and by venturing just a little further, even better sights and experiences can be accessed. Chances to get stuck into viewing and conserving the wildlife and green spaces of Leeds on a budget are bountiful, and certainly worth taking advantage of.
Woodhouse Ridge, The Hollies, and the Meanwood Valley Trail
For most students the closest of these areas would be Woodhouse Ridge, bordered by Headingley and Woodhouse, and with multiple access points from both. The Ridge as it is locally known is a thin strip of woodland overlooking Meanwood valley, offering a quick and easy escape from the busy streets it lies so close to. Despite this proximity to the busy Otley Road, Woodhouse Ridge is a great place to visit for a bit of peace and quiet, and with a bit of luck spot some interesting species. The Ridge is no stranger to more experienced members of the ConVols, as we often join the Woodhouse Ridge Action Group, to aid their efforts in maintaining the Ridge allowing it to be utilised by the whole community.
Another area near to most students, especially those in Oxley Halls, and not unfamiliar to experienced ColVols is The Hollies. Located just beyond Headingley, and also within Meanwood valley, The Hollies is a mixture of woodland and botanic gardens, great for exploring all year round. The area is managed by the Friends of the Hollies, another group with which ConVols often collaborate with.
Both Woodhouse Ridge and The Hollies are features of the Meanwood Valley Trail, which has its beginnings on Woodhouse Moor and leads all the way up to Golden Acre Park. The trail is perfect for anybody wanting a day out in the countryside without having to pay for transport, as the majority of the route takes in parks and woodland areas. The ConVols organise an annual walk along the trail, which this year takes place on the 17thNovember.
Hollybush Conservation Centre
For those who want to really get stuck into conservation during their time at Leeds, not just with the ConVols, there are a number of great choices available with little travelling required. The Conservation Volunteers, are a great charity and have two sites in Leeds, the nearest of which is The Hollybush Conservation Centre in Kirkstall. The Conservation Volunteers always have opportunities to help out with no experience required to join. The work they carry out is varied and always rewarding, ranging from walks to hands on conservation activity, as well as training and workshop activities.
Rodley Nature Reserve
Slightly further afield, but still only a short bus or bike ride away is Rodley Nature Reserve. The reserve is set within a bend of the River Aire and encompasses a range of habitats, including wetlands, grasslands, and woodlands. Volunteer days are on Mondays and Fridays, and there is always some rewarding work to be done, no matter what conservation experience you have, time spent here always leaves you with that little bit more. The Reserve recently won the Countryfile Reserve of the Year Award, a huge source of pride for anyone who volunteers their time to help out. On Wednesdays and weekends the Reserve is open to the public and is well worth a visit with a huge range of plant, and animal species to be discovered. For anyone not available on Mondays or Fridays, these days still offer a chance to volunteer in the visitor centre or as a source of information for visitors.
RSPB St Aidan’s
For those feeling a little bit more adventurous, the RSPB St Aidan’s Reserve in the South West of Leeds is a wonderful place for either volunteering or just for a visit. The journey here is slightly trickier than Rodley but can certainly be worth it with stunning scenery on offer. The RSPB St Aidan’s website offers useful information on how to get there and what you can expect once you arrive.
Golden Acre and Roundhay Park
For those who want a more relaxed day out, the Leeds area has numerous public parks to visit including Golden Acre Park and Roundhay Park, both easily accessed by bus and well worth the visit. Golden Acre contains beautifully managed gardens, and various national plant collections. Roundhay Park offers an array of activities set within its 700 acres of award winning parkland, with tennis courts, boating ponds, and woodland walks. Any trip to Roundhay wouldn’t be complete without visiting Tropical World, home to a large array of tropical plants and animals. A tour around the attraction gives visitors the chance to see butterflies, tropical fish, meerkats, and a whole host of other amazing animals.
These sites are all great starting points for the exploration of Leeds wildlife and conservation, and for getting to know the real Leeds.