This page enables you to search for 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.
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Key:Wild Places (outlined in red); Public Rights of Way (green); county boundaries (blue), parish boundaries (lilac)
Map Key: Wild Places (outlined in red); Public Rights of Way (green); VC55 boundary (blue)
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.
Astill Lodge Park and Spinney is one of the smaller areas of Open Space found in Leicester and covers approximately 4.6 ha. Although used historically for hunting deer, then grazing sheep as part of the much larger Beaumont Estate, the site has had a mixed history. In 1890 it formed part of the Beaumont Leys Sewerage system, but then reverted to farmland with the small spinney planted in the early 1900s and extended in 1916 to the boundary still in place today. In the 1970s the site was used as a domestic refuse site with parts of the old Astill Lodge farms knocked down and debris sprea
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.
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.
Belgrave Hall was built in the early 18th century, in what was then a small village three miles from the City of Leicester. John Throsby described the Hall in his ‘Excursions in Leicestershire’ in 1790 as “a neat little box in the midst of Flora’s pleasure”. The formal gardens are protected by high red brick walls which shelter a variety of shrubs and climbers, including a magnificent Wisteria sinensis, reputed planted by John Ellis in 1860.
Castle Gardens is a green oasis close to the City centre in Leicester. It is located in the historic “Castle Park” area with the River Soar forming a natural boundary on the west and the old Courthouse and St Mary de Castro church to the East (note that access to the churchyard is restricted).
The Gardens contain many specimen trees, shrubs and seasonal planting whilst the Castle motte has more natural vegetation and mature trees with fine views from the top.
The park was established in 1985 and comprises of approximately 104 ha of mainly improved grassland and plantation woodland which are located between Beaumont Leys and the village of Anstey. The A46 Western Bypass divides the park into two linear sections with the Rothley Brook forming the western boundary.
Until 2015 this site was a piece of regularly mown amenity grassland which formed part of the former John Ellis School site (the school was demolished in the early 1990s).
The area was identified as part of a strategic flood alleviation scheme with works planned along the River Soar to improve flood storage during storm events. Fortunately both the Environment Agency and City Council sought to implement Blue-Green techniques for flood storage rather than rely on traditional engineering methods that could have resulted in high walls and hard infrastructure.
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.
Gilroes Cemetery is Leicester's largest municipal cemetery. Opened in 1902, it contains Leicester's main crematorium. The site contains many mature trees, shrubs and wide pathways. It forms part of Leicester’s green wedge and is well connected to surrounding Local Nature Reserves and Local Wildlife Sites.
The site has recently been extended to the north-east which provides an open expanse of grassland which has been seeded with native neutral meadow wildflowers and which is separated by mature hedgerows and field ponds.
The former brick quarry was designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in 1981. It is one of the smallest SSSIs in Leicestershire and is designated for its geological importance (Gypsum quarry made up of mudstones and dolomitic limestone with rich sulphide minerals).
Goss Meadows LNR is a long narrow strip of grassland that is separated out into a number of meadows demarcated with fencing. It was an old drovers road into the city and now forms part of the more extensive green wedge on the north-western outskirts of Leicester and stretches from the bottom of Anstey Lane to the major roundabouts at Beaumont Leys.
The green network of sites adjacent to Goss Meadows adds value with the City Farm and Gilroes Cemetery located directly adjacent to the west.
Goss Meadows LNR is a long narrow strip of grassland that is separated out into a number of meadows demarcated with fencing. It was an old drovers road into the city and now forms part of the more extensive green wedge on the north-western outskirts of Leicester and stretches from the bottom of Anstey Lane to the major roundabouts at Beaumont Leys. This smaller stretch is on Anstey Lane jest to the west of the outer ring road.
Highway Spinney is a semi-natural woodland and was designated a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC) in 1999. It lies at the edge of Leicester and is separated from its sister woodland, Meynell's Gorse, by Hinckley Road. Conservation work is undertaken by the Friends of Highway Spinney, supported by Groundwork Leicester and Leicestershire.
Kirby Frith Local Nature Reserve (LNR) is the last (and fortunately probably the richest) fragment of a much larger area of unimproved and semi-improved grassland. It is adjacent to the former Western Golf-course Local Wildlife Site, and was originally part of the golf-course. It is now surrounded on three sides by roads and industry, and is designated as public open space as well as a Local Wildlife Site. It is managed by cut and bale with removal of arisings to retain low nutrients and encourage greater diversity.
This site is made up of two adjacent areas in the former village of Knighton. Knighton Green lies east of the churchyard along the Washbrook and includes a large area of amenity grassland, stands of trees and the banks of the stream. The local group ‘Knighton Wild’ has regular working parties here to improve the site for wildlife and also carries out wildlife recording.
Knighton Park is a significant area of green open space at the southern boundary of the ward, where it meets with Oadby and Wigston. It contains Knighton Spinney, which is a local nature reserve, and is open to the public on some Sundays. The Saffron Brook runs through the park, and there is a pond in the Heath Garden, both of which provide habitats for a number of aquatic species. The park contains a large number of native and ornamental trees, and there is a tree trail to guide visitors round 20 interesting and significant trees.