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This page describes some of the best places to see wildlife in Leicestershire and Rutland. It's not comprehensive but we will keep adding new sites as we get records and images. If you have a favourite site that you would like to see added, let us know.
Check out our Wild Places Interactive Map.
You can use the filters below to find sites in your district or parish, or type any part of the site name to search for a particular site. Just click on APPLY when you have entered your selection. Alternatively you can browse the full list below.
This 8 acre site at Six Hills is owned by the Duke of Somerset and is part of a large area of common land known as Burton Common. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and was, until 2010, managed as a reserve by the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust. A public footpath runs through the middle of the site. It has a mosaic of grassland, scrub and woodland - standing on poorly drained acid soil.
Abbey Park is Leicester’s premier park and lies approximately one mile north of the City centre. The River Soar divides this beautiful park into two distinct areas: to the east of the river lies the highly decorative Victorian part of the park with its evergreen shrubberies, trees, lakes and formally planted flower displays and to the west of the river lies the fascinating Abbey Grounds. Within this area are the remains of the twelfth century Leicester Abbey and the ruins of Cavendish House, a seventeenth century mansion.
This area contains two very different sites, Albert Village Lake which includes a large expanse of open water excellent for a wide range of notable birds and Pick Triangle, an attractive 30 hectare young woodland. Both sites have been created on land reclaimed after coal and clay extraction.
The site is a rocky hill with rough heath grassland, stone walls and rocky outcrops. It combines the former Altar Stones Country Park with the adjacent Blacksmith's Field (named after the blacksmith's shop that was located on the corner of the site.
This is an old industrial site, comprised of a sandy soil which is the result of the historic dumping of waste materials from the nearby steel works. It is a mosaic of wildflower-rich grassland and scrub.
This group of reclaimed greenspaces includes 5 very different sites covering a wide area of land formally used for heavy industry. This section of the Ashby Woulds Trail links the sites together and includes Sarah’s Wood which was planted in 1995 with designed for access for all, and the Moira Furnace Industrial Heritage site.
The Attenborough Arboretum site occupies about five acres and forms part of the land that used to belong to Home Farm. (The old farm house still exists nearby and has been converted into maisonettes.) The arboretum features possibly the only surviving example in the city of a mediaeval ridge-and-furrow field and also contains two large ponds. The arboretum was opened on 23rd April 1997. About 20 local schools helped in the planting phase in March 1996, and over 40 attended the grand opening ceremony, conducted by Sir David Attenborough, after whose family the arboretum is named.
The planting scheme at the arboretum is designed to display our native trees more or less in the sequence in which they arrived in this country following the ending of the last ice-age, approximately 10,000 years ago. Thus among the first trees you will meet on going for a walk around the arboretum will be Scots Pine, Juniper, Hazel and Birch; among the last is the Beech, which apparently crossed from France just before the English Channel formed about 7,500 years ago. The timing of the various arrivals is based largely on fossil evidence, especially of pollen.
Aylestone Meadows is the best area for wildlife within the city of Leicester. It is a sizeable green wedge along the River Soar and Grand Union Canal and is also bisected by the former Great Central Railway line - now a popular walking and cycling route. In the past, a large area of the flood meadows was used as a landfill site and today the landscaped mound is used as a sports pitch. The mixture of aquatic habitats, grazed meadows, ponds and rough grassland provides a rich and diverse habitat for much wildlife.
Less than a mile south of Bagworth, towards Merry Lees and Desford, this 75 hectare (185 acre) Country Park has been tranformed from scarred industrial landscape of Desford Colliery into a valuable recreational resource. Owned and managed by Leicestershire County Council Bagworth Heath Woods are made up of woodland, grassland, heathland, lakes and ponds. There is a network of grass and surfaced paths throughout, offering relaxing walks through varied habitats and extensive views. The site is linked to Thornton and Bagworth by the circular walk around Leicestershire, the 100-mile Leicestershire Round.
Bardon Hill, near Coalville, is the highest point in Leicestershire, 278 metres (912 feet) above sea level. The hill has two very distinct faces – one half preserved as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), the other removed by Bardon Hill Quarry. It is also the site of a radio mast. Though it is the highest point in Leicestershire, it is easy to get to the top and the summit offers tremendous views across the county plus a dramatic vista over the adjacent quarry. The rocky outcrops at the summit are surrounded by overgrown heathland, which is being restored.
This 20 hectare local nature reserve, located in the north of the borough of Hinckley and Bosworth, consists of a variety of habitats including acid grassland, which is ecologically significant at a local level. Additionally, there are a number of rocky outcrops of Markfieldite, making the hill a regionally important geological site.
The site consists of formerly improved pasture, surrounding a small hilltop plantation, dating from the late 1800's/early 1900's, and a small quarry.
This site, managed by Blaby Parish Council, includes the 'old cemetery', established in the later 19th century, which is managed as a nature area. The old cemetery is particularly good for wildlife due to its mix of meadow, trees and hedgerow.
Bouskell Park is an attractive area of parkland set on the remains of a medieval village. It is an old Victorian parkland with a pond, grassland and woodland
Bradgate Park is Leicestershire’s most popular park. Located in Charnwood Forest just northwest of Leicester it covers 850 acres (3 km²). The River Lin runs through it, flowing into Cropston Reservoir which was constructed on part of the park. To the north-east lies Swithland Wood. The park's two well known landmarks, Old John and the war memorial, both lie close to the 200m contour. The landscape is rocky moorland with a covering of coarse grass and bracken. Several spinneys of woodland (pine and mixed deciduous) are enclosed by stone walls, and are not accessible to the public. There are a number of magnificent specimens of ancient oaks several hundreds of years old. The park is home to herds of red deer and fallow deer.
Brocks Hill is a relatively new country park with a large visitor centre, built as a demonstration building for environmental technologies and with a cafe, toilets and exhibition area. The park has a large pond with dipping platforms, meadows and many young trees. Though a new park, some of the grassland is older and contains a few interesting plants. Lucas's Marsh, a Wildlife Trust nature reserve, adjoins the park.
The church of St Mary’s probably dates from 1220 although there is some evidence that there are remains from an earlier building circa 1100 incorporated into the nave walls. A Thomas de Astley or Eastley was lord of the manor and patron of the church, and gives Broughton the ‘Astley’ name. The majority of the church grounds are grassed and subject to mowing but an area at the back of the church supports a number of mature trees with a small patch of open ground in the centre. This area is being nurtured to become a wildlife area and work is ongoing to enhance the existing planting and making wildlife features to encourage wildlife onto the site. There is also a brook that runs adjacent to the site which should increase the sites excellent potential.
This 80 hectare site is a country park with a visitor centre and a network or well-marked paths. It has extensive mature woodland, unimproved grassland and a number of other features such as ponds and streams.
This quiet country lane offers a lovely walk into the National Forest, with rolling hills, new woodland and a historic landscape around you. The lane only offers access to a few houses but there is a very small car park at Burroughs Wood. At the end of the lane there is a tarmac cycle path that weaves its way to Thornton Reservoir. It is just possible to glimpse Bury Camp, a large Iron Age settlement, now on private land about 150 metres from the road.
The reserve is owned by the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust and covers 193.5 ha. Most of the reserve is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and part was declared a National Nature Reserve in 2000. Note that significant areas of this important and sensitive nature reserve have no public access. Other areas have limited access to LRWT members and other permit holders only.
Habitats include planted oaks and other mixed woodland, acid grassland, heath grassland (called moorland by some), with occasional sphagnum dominated wet areas, a small reservoir and a number of small ponds.
This 33 hectare site is ancient woodland and a Site of Special Scientific Interest. It stands on Keuper Marl and Boulder Clay and is one of the most floristically rich sites in the county. In the past it was a larger site standing on Carboniferous Limestone but this has since been quarried out. The woodland was clear-felled around the time of World War II but was allowed to regenerate naturally. It was donated to the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust in 1993 by Ennstone Breedon plc. The Trust has now reinstigated coppice management in parts of the site.
Franklin Park Community Orchard was created in 2007 when Leicester City Council sold off 1.1 hectares of disused allotment space. This has now been converted to a Community orchard, a wild flower meadow, a pond and two separate wild life areas.
The area had been fields up until the late 1930's when new housing development started. However, as war was imminent no further house building took place and the field was turned over to the Ministry of Food. After the war the field was acquired by Leicester City Council for allotments.
The site is only open at specific times of year in order to protect the wildlife that lives there.
This site includes 120 acres of young woodland in amongst a popular nature discovery centre.
Cossington Meadows covers 86 ha and is the largest of the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust’s six nature reserves in the Soar valley. The area was quarried for gravel during the 1980s and 1990s, the pits then being filled and the area relandscaped, with several deep holes in the north of the site filling with water to form lakes. The Trust has created new wader scrapes and grazes the grassland aeas.
This is a private site - the offices and grounds of Leicestershire County Council. Though we usually only include sites with public access, we have included it partly because over 2,500 staff have access to the area and also because the grounds include areas of notable wildlife interest.
Croft Hill stands 128m high in a largely flat area of Leicestershire. The Hill provides a number of habitats including broad-leaved woodland, scrub land, acidic grassland and two other distinct areas of grassland. The site has been a SSSI since 1956 and forms a natural focus of the passage of spring and autumn birds. It has a good system of paths. For those who are not energetic enough to tale the steps to the top of the hill, there are pleasant walks on well made paths around the base. These include boarded walks in damper areas and a jetty the protrudes out into the lake allowing a chance to look into the shallow water near the edges. Parking is available in various places but is limited.
This Wildlife Trust reserve was glebe land, and is mainly unimproved grazing, with the exception of the south eastern corner, which has been top-dressed at some time in the past. The River Soar runs northwards and eastwards across the reserve, and was excluded from the 'improvement' when much of the upper Soar was deepened and canalised in the early 1970s.
Habitats include running water, river bank, and neutral and siliceous (sandy) grassland.
The main form of management is by grazing with livestock, supplemented by slashing back of nettles, thistles, etc, in some years.
The woodland park is managed by Leicestershire County Council on the site of the former Donisthorpe Colliery that closed in 1990. The site has been planted with oak/ash woodland, poplars and Corsican pine. Stone surfaced paths take you around the site and link with the towpath of the restored section of the Ashby Canal that leads to the Moira Furnace.
Donkey Lane in Sapcote is a short unmade road which runs from the Bassett Lane Cemetery for a few hundred yards. The wide verges of lush vegetation and high hedges either side encourage a rich insect population typical of woodland edge, and at the end of the lane is a small copse with Aspen amongst other species. Having reached the small copse area anyone wishing to extend their walk can follow public footpaths into the fields in two directions.
Only two miles away from the City centre, Evington Park has the tranquil atmosphere of the country estate it once was. The 44 acres of parkland includes meadow areas, ponds and a wide variety of trees. The land was purchased by Leicester City Council and opened as a park in 1948. A Bioblitz was held on 25-26th May 2012 to record as many species as possible over a 24 hour period.
This large reservoir straddles the border between Leicestershire and Rutland. Access is limited but good views of the inflow end are available from the road and this is where most of the birds are. It is an excellent bird watching area and has produced a number of unusual species. The reservoir has a famous history as it was the test area for the revolutionary 'bouncing bomb' used in the Dambuster raids during World Word II. It was built between 1937 and 1940 by damming the Eye Brook and the site now covers around 200 hectares (150ha of open water).
Feanedock and Boothorpe are new woodlands planted on former farmland in the Ashby Woulds, both sites are owned by the National Forest Company. The neighbouring Mayberry Wood and Rawdon East Wood are examples of reclaimed habitats on former coal mining sites.
In 2004 Fishpond Plantation was bought by the Parish Council on behalf of the village with villagers’ donations and grants from Leicestershire County Council and Charnwood Borough Council. The Plantation is close to the centre of the village and covers 1.6 hectares; all that remains of a larger wood. There has been woodland here for at least 300 years, probably due to the area being quarried for gypsum and then being unsuitable for agriculture. The ponds are thought to be remnants of the quarry pits. The present area of the wood was clear felled during World War II because it was in line with the north-south runway of Wymeswold Airfield. So now the woodland comprises many self-sown sycamores, ash, wych elm and beech, with an understory of yew and holly at the northeastern end around the ponds.
This site of approximately 20 acres was opened in 1993 with extensive grassland, woodland, ponds and a small lake with a bird hide. The areas of woodland are maturing well now and the whole site supports a rich diversity supporting good populations of birds and insects.
This area had been fields up until the late 1930's when new housing development started. However, as war was imminent no further house building took place and the field was turned over to the Ministry of Food. After the war the field was acquired by Leicester City Council for allotments.
Part of the allotments were sold to the Town Council in the 1970’s and converted into Franklin Park, all the existing hedges were retained.
The area around the ruins of Grace Dieu Priory are very varied and offer rich and diverse habitats for wildlife. Meadows, ponds, streams, a disused quarry and extensive woodland present a fascinating landscape which has revealed many surprising plants and animals. The area is now managed as public open space (except the old quarry) and there is no charge for entry.
This central part of the Grantham Canal stretches for 5 miles from Harby eastwards through Plungar and Barkestone-le-Vale to Redmile. A Site of Special Scientific Interest covers most of this section stretching from Rectory Bridge, Harby (bridge no.44) to Redmile Mill Bridge (no.53). The Canal opened in 1797 and was closed to boat traffic in 1929. After several decades of public ownership the management of the Canal passed from British Waterways to the newly formed Canal and River Trust in 2012.
This western part of the Grantham Canal in Leics stretches 2.5 miles from the county boundary at the River Smite aqueduct north of Long Clawson, eastwards past Hose, to Harby. The Grantham Canal was built to supply coal to Grantham and runs from the River Trent in Nottingham for 33 miles to Grantham. The Canal was opened in 1797 and closed to traffic in 1929. After several decades of public ownership the canal management passed from British Waterways to the newly formed Canal and River Trust in 2012.
Forming the eastern section of the Grantham Canal in Leics this site stretches nearly 4 miles from Redmile eastwards to the county boundary south of Muston. The Canal was built to supply coal to Grantham and runs from the River Trent in Nottingham for 33 miles to Grantham. It opened in 1797 and closed to traffic in 1929. After several decades of public ownership the management of the Canal passed from British Waterways to the newly formed Canal and River Trust in 2012. The scenery of this section is dominated by views of the forested ridge to the south running from Stathern eastwards to Belvoir Castle.
These three woodlands make up an area of mixed aged trees, hedgerows, grasslands and open space. Gresley Wood is a 42 hectare site with a history of farming and opencast mining. Tunnel Woods is community woodland and both of these sites are owned by the Forestry Commission. The neighbouring Princess Diana Wood is a developing woodland with excellent access and is owned by the National Forest Charitable Trust.