The Rushes is a beautiful family home in the heart of Warkworth village, positioned between the…
Stanley Marsh hasn’t always been a marsh. Maps of the area from more than 200 years ago show an area of fields where the tiny tarn now sits. Over the last half-century, a combination of subsidence from coal mining and the blocking of field drains has caused the area to flood, creating the tarn and surrounding wetlands.
The area was opened to the public in the mid-1980s by West Yorkshire County Council, which had inherited the 25-acre (10ha) area a decade earlier from Stanley Urban District Council. With help from the (then) Countryside Commission, several tons of rubbish were cleared from the site and it was prepared as a place for public recreation and wildlife. Today the wetland site is managed by the Friends of Stanley Marsh, together with Wakefield Council’s countryside rangers. There’s a well-engineered path around the tarn and through its surrounding woodlands, as well as a viewing platform on the water’s edge that enables you to observe birdlife including mallard, swan, coot and moorhen. A hay meadow on the perimeter of the reserve is alive in springtime with wild flowers and butterflies, including the common blue, speckled wood and comma species, while the same time of year sees the tarn become a breeding ground for amphibians such as frogs and newts. Throughout the year resident birds including green woodpecker, kingfisher, heron and sparrowhawks can be seen.
Deep Drop Pit
The warden’s hut on the car park in Lime Pit Lane stands on the site of a spa discovered in 1826, when a 240ft (73m) bore was dug to test the area’s potential for coal mining. Spa Fold Cottages were built to accommodate those coming to bathe in the red-stained waters, purported to have medicinal qualities. The business didn’t last long – the development of a coal pit in what is now the nature reserve led to the water being pumped away and the spa drying up. Sunk in 1835 and known locally as Deep Drop Pit, the shaft was the deepest of five that made up Stanley Victoria Colliery and little remains of it today: if you search hard you might find the pit’s overgrown outline. Another clue to the site’s industrial past is the walk’s only real incline, up which a few steps have been built. This highest point, just a few feet above the tarn’s shore, is what’s left of a raised tram bank, built to ferry coal from the pit to nearby Bottom Boat where it could be distributed by the canal network, via the Aire and Calder Navigation.
Pit ponies were grazed in the fields before the colliery was closed in 1879 after an underground explosion killed 21 men, including five boys. The landscape reverted to fields before subsidence and flooding changed the character of the landscape again.
Trees planted in the memory of the miners who died in the 1879 explosion were replaced when the reserve was created. Today the marsh is a peaceful wildlife oasis, close to the centre of Wakefield.
Before starting your walk it's worth noticing the warden’s hut in the car park in Lime Pit Lane. It stands on the site of a spa discovered in 1826, when a 240ft (73m) bore was dug to test the area’s potential for coal mining. Spa Fold Cottages were built to accommodate those coming to bathe in the red-stained waters, purported to have medicinal qualities. The business didn’t last long – the development of a coal pit led to the water being pumped away and the spa drying up. From the car park, enter the reserve through the metal kissing gate and bear right at a junction encountered just beyond. At a second junction 240yds (219m) later turn left, keeping the golf course on your right and soon crossing a stream to pass between wetland areas.
Bear right at the next junction, to exit the woodland, then immediately left along the edge of the wild-flower meadow. This soon slips back beneath trees and brings you to a crossroads of paths close to Lime Pit Lane.
Climb the bank ahead-left for the best views across the water; there is a wooden viewing platform to your left, an ideal spot from which to get close to the ducks and swans.
Regain the mound and descend steps on its far side to continue with the pond on your left. Fork right a few paces beyond, back into the car park.
Engineered woodland path, good field path
Wooded pond and wetland, wild-flower meadow
Dogs are free to wander but should be under close control during the nesting season between March and July
OS Explorer 289 Leeds
Car park, Lime Pit Lane, Stanley, Wakefield
None on route
<p>Parts of the path around the reserve are suitable for assisted wheelchair users – RADAR key required</p>
WALKING IN SAFETY
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.
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