I’m not particularly a ‘bird person’. In fact, flashbacks from Hitchcock’s The Birds result in me still flinching when there’s too many of them around me. So an RSPB nature reserve isn’t usually my first choice of walk. But given its super local and is gorgeous, I thought I’d brave it without my protector- come hubby, and I’m so glad that we did! Today I joined it up with a walk along the canal and an all-important cafe stop in Methley.
St Aiden’s Website: https://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves-and-events/reserves-a-z/st-aidans
Parking: Plenty around Lemonroyd Marina, Fleet Lane (LS26 9EU).
Access: Mostly flat, but some tracks can get muddy and some are quite rubbly, so your buggy needs to be quite robust!
Facilities: Although St Aiden’s has a visitor centre, this route doesn’t pass it, so I’ve built in a cafe stop at River’s Meet Cafe. It does fantastic sandwiches and cakes 😍 and is incredibly child friendly with a children’s menu, changing facilities and a toy and book selection.
From Lemonroyd Marina, we walked over the bridge waving at a passing canal boat.
The canal path passes a lock before it drops down to join the Trans Pennine Trail. We were lucky enough to watch a boat dropping from the canal onto the river 😍😍
Just be careful that you follow the river path- if you go under the railway bridge you’ve gone wrong! We walked along the track with the river to the left through the trees and the sounds of the railway to the right. Arriving at the bridge over the river, we turned right to join Station Road. There was further excitement as we arrived at the level crossing as the red light showed, woohoooo a train was coming!
Just through the gate and to the left is the road to Rivers Meet Cafe. It’s a bit of a squeeze for a buggy, we were lucky that there were no craft events on so could leave it in that room. On a warmer day I probably would have just sat outside. If you want something more substantial you could walk a little further to the Boundary House; one of our favourite pubs in the area. It does great food and a great outside area.
After our food stop we retraced our steps back to the bridge and went over it to enter St Aiden’s. We were immediately struck by the noise of all the birds! Totally incredible. We took the bridleway that leads towards Swillington, crossing the causeway which Jess was a big fan of! The swans were very interested in our passing.
We headed towards Swillington until the path crossway in front of the uphill climb, where we turned left onto the perimeter route. Along this route Jess was quite happy playing with sticks, but if you needed to keep interest in a buggy you could try a birdspotting or nature sheet such as this one.
This path follows the side of the wetlands with plenty of benches to stop and enjoy the view or for a picnic stop.
Look out for the right turn towards North West Lake, otherwise you’ll end up heading back to the causeway. This track brought us round to the edge of St Aiden’s and along the side of the river. There is a cutting on the right that takes you over a Weir to cross the river and back onto the canal.
Straight ahead we found ourselves back facing the Marina, and walked right to cross the canal on the bridge. Alternatively you could be more adventurous and cross on the lock 😋. Lots of fisherman and canal boats meant we took our time enjoying the short distance back to the car.
It’s a great walk with plenty to see. And at 5.5km it’s short enough that little ones retain interest if they are in the buggy!
There’s lots of scope to extend this walk, starting at Woodlesford for a longer walk up the canal, or for even more, adding it onto this walk around Woodlesford Lock.
Let me know if you give it a go or have any other suggestions for this area!