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Leeds Has A Secret Garden

Free Photos, Eccup Reservoir, West Yorkshire

Article By: Dave Roberts

First Published: 26 April 2011

Rarely do we encounter a nature reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) within the boundaries of a large city. Eccup Reservoir in the north of Leeds is probably one of the best kept secrets of West Yorkshire, at least to those not in the know about this wonderful city escape.

Eccup Reservoir is approached from Alwoodley Lane via an access only service road (used mainly as a footpath) to the western / left perimeter of Sand Moor Golf Club. There is no official parking, although I parked on the roadside of Alwoodley Lane without any problems. The walk down to the reservoir took me along the access only road leading downhill to the Reservoir Keepers House or Lodge. At this point I had the choice of turning left or right, I chose right.

Within only a few yards I was greeted by the pleasant view across the water with what at first sight appeared to be sandy beaches on the other side. There were people clearly playing along the water's edge, some with their dogs retrieving sticks which were being thrown into the water. However, along this side and section of the reservoir a steel fence about 5ft high topped with barbed wire told its own story. Clearly the owners of the reservoir (Yorkshire Water) don't want people heading down to the water (at least from this side), as I walked along more people came into view on this side too, so I quickly concluded that the measures taken by Yorkshire Water seemed to have failed. I would have a to walk a bit further to discover how they had circumvented the barbarous looking fence.

A few yards further on and Emmerdale's own Bob Hope, played by actor Tony Audenshaw went jogging past a quite a pace, he didn't slow but smiled, waved and said hello as he jogged on.

About a third of the way around I entered the area known as High Wood where the constant chatter of birds could be heard as they busied themselves preparing their nests for the forthcoming chicks. On the ground between the trees a carpet of flowering bluebells interspaced with the white and yellow of daisy could be seen. As I had expected, this is more than just a reservoir, it was becoming obvious how this city oasis had earned its SSSI status.

As I came out of the wooded area I suddenly noticed that the high steel and barbed wire fence had gone, being so caught up in the natural surroundings I hadn't actually noticed where it ended. Now there was a lower, older and less austere fence - more fitting the environment, which I have to admit was the weak link in the reservoir's defences as this is obviously where people were gaining access to the edges of the water - where they were entertaining their dogs. The long period without rain had reduced the water levels providing greater access around the edge of the water. Yet there is no shortage of signs making it clear that these areas are out of bounds, on one such sign I noticed it said: "Birds and other wildlife are easily disturbed, therefore access around the most sensitive area of the reservoir is restricted." I don't think these people were malicious or intent on doing damage, or distressing wildlife, but they certainly did spoil the view, sometimes the absence of the human being is something to behold. Not that it is a big issue, it was just a very small number of people in a densely populated city, what it demonstrates is that the vast majority follow the requests and advice provided.

As I reached the end of the woods a glimpse of the dam wall came into view with what looked like a large house to the far end, then soon I was passing over the dam itself with the large body of water stretching out in front. But not to be ignored were the impressive views over the tops of trees behind the dam wall, all with their lush green and new springtime canopies creating further havens for the wildlife.

At the far end of the dam was a large sluice which serves the out of view water treatment and pumping station, then from this point onwards the reservoir all but disappears from sight, only to come back into the field of vision intermittently on the next stretch, which takes its route along the footpath/service road on the other side. The lack of water on this part of the walk doesn't take anything away, on the contrary it adds much to the experience. Now with the reservoir out of sight, I was presented with some quite remarkable views of green fields and woods, then I came to a farm gateway with a derelict cottage almost at its entrance, hard to believe I am still in Leeds at this stage, these are the kind of scenes which are not uncommon in the Yorkshire Dales or North York Moors.

Then to cap it all, as I reached the far end of the walk I came across a wall complete with an old arched doorway and timber bolted door, overgrown with Ivy, Moss, Willow and Nettles, could this be the ancient entrance to a secret garden?

 

 

 

 

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