The Woodhouse Washlands Nature Reserve is managed by Sheffield and Rotherham wildlife trusts. It has a wide range of habitat, from wetland, ponds and grassland as well as scrub and flood plain grazing marsh.
The Trans-Pennine way runs along one side of the site and it’s a great route for cyclists and accessibility for wheelchair users. A real oasis in-between Sheffield and Rotherham with lovely walks beside the river Rother.
River Rother, South Yorkshire
The river Rother derives its name from the town of Rotherham and the Rother Valley in South Yorkshire. Its origins begin in Pilsley near Clay Cross in Derbyshire, and it winds its way through Chesterfield, where it also feeds the Chesterfield canal, and eventually through many districts of Sheffield and then into Rotherham in South Yorkshire where it finally joins the River Don.
There are other rivers that could be confused with this one in South Yorkshire. The River Rother, East Sussex or River Rother, West Sussex.
The river Rother is managed by the environment agency to mitigate flooding through the Catcliffe and Rotherham areas. This is possible by use of regulators and washlands to alleviate flooding when the river becomes high, and flooding would otherwise become high risk to populated areas.
The Regulators hold back the high flow of the water, and the excess water then diverts onto the lower laying washland areas, therefore avoiding floods elsewhere.
The river Rother has had it’s course changed over the years, in the 1820’s it ran through the area, now called Woodhouse Washlands close to the Shire Brook.
The Shire Book
The Shire Brook has been an important boundary line for over a thousand years. In Anglo-Saxon times the Brook formed the boundary between the kingdoms of Mercia and Northumberland. For 900 years it marked the division between Yorkshire and Derbyshire, which gave the Brook its name.
It was well known informally as County Brook and Der Brook, Der being short for Derbyshire. Another alternative name for the brook was Ochre Dike, due to the runoff from mines in the valley which made the water a yellow brown colour.
In 1967 the City of Sheffield expanded its borders southwards to take in the suburbs of Hackenthorpe and Mosborough and due to this change, the Brook no longer marked the frontier between the two counties.
Woodhouse Washlands Nature Reserve
The nature reserve is on the boundary between Sheffield and Rotherham, on Sheffield’s eastern edge, Woodhouse Washlands comprises 53 hectares of grassland, scrub and floodplain grazing marsh. This expanse of diverse land is perfect for many species of wildlife, and the landscape changes vastly throughout the seasons. In the winter the wetlands even attract flocks of lapwing.
Late spring to early summer, the large meadows are filled with a beautiful display of buttercups which in turn are perfect for pollinators and of course other smaller insects, that are great food for the birds such as Swifts, Swallows and Martins. They are wonderful to watch in the early summer on a walk beside the river Rother.
The river was once quite polluted, in fact one of the most polluted rivers in Europe, due to the heavy industry in the area, but now is home to a great many fish species, invertebrates and plants. If you are lucky, you may be able to spot a beautiful Kingfisher dart past or in the winter months spot ducks, including the Goosander, or gulls.
According to the Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trusts, 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 it is surrounded by roads, housing, and industry, has a rich and varied history. Up 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 site is divided by a railway viaduct where you can walk beneath it to go through to explore the other side. There is grazing on site to maintain some of the areas from April through till November, and work is done periodically to keep ditches, hedges, and ponds in good order.
There is also a North to South route that connects Leeds and Chesterfield, a spur that goes to York and a spur to Kirkburton, that means there are approximately 370 miles (595km) of Trans Pennine Trail available to explore.
The trail links the North and Irish seas, passing through the Pennines, alongside rivers and canals along the way, and goes through some of the most picturesque and historic towns and cities in the North of England.
The trail is well signposted, and maps are available too. You’ll find most parts are accessible to all users including wheelchairs and pushchairs when the weather is fine, though there are parts where the trail can be rather muddy under foot too, so it is best to be prepared.
Most of the routes are traffic free and very peaceful, making it a perfect choice for a relaxing journey.
Location and accessibility
The nature reserve is located at Furnace Lane, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S13 9WG. Access is also available at other points from the A57 which spans across one of the meadows on an overpass.
Directions to the site according to Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trusts. 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 and continue on the B6064 until you reach Furnace Lane. Public transport links are also very good from Sheffield. The X35 bus and trains from Sheffield to Woodhouse station both stop within a 5-minute walk of the reserve.
The reserve will be closed when the flood defence system is in use, for public safety. Certain areas are not open to public access due to wildlife preservation and cycling is permitted on the Trans Pennine Trail. Dogs to be kept on leads through the reserve area.
The nature reserve and pennine trail at Woodhouse Washlands is a beautiful little haven for wildlife and makes for a peaceful walk amongst nature and history.
The reserve has a number of metal sculptures that depict the kinds of wildlife you might spot while visiting the area, as well as very informative information about the local history here too.
We covered a small circular walk on our visit, maybe a mile and a half with our older dog but there is so much more to explore and enjoy on your visit.