Newest Review: ... many different species of dragonflies and butterflies that can be seen fluttering around the reserve. You can even borrow the equipment a... more
An oasis in the middle of a building site
Dearne Valley Old Moor RSPB (England)
Member Name: cha97mw
Dearne Valley Old Moor RSPB (England)
Advantages: site is well set up for bird watchers, but also very family friendly
Disadvantages: a bit hard to find without sat nav
Old Moor Lane is a very recently discovered gem in Yorkshire. It came to my attention when my sons brought home a copy of the primary times activities guide from school. It carries details of events that are happening and places to go in the area, giving a bit of an idea of where to take the kids during free time like school holidays. The latest issue contained many adverts for this site, and it struck me as somewhere I had not heard of before.
Because this site is celebrating the 10th anniversary of opening, they were heavily promoting it through running activities for children over the half term week, and giving free entry to everyone. As well as this we got another free voucher for entry for the whole family from the magazine, which the volunteer staff did not take from us on our visit, so we get to go again for free another day. Even without a free entry voucher, this is somewhere I would be quite keen to go to as it was a fun day out, and the site is like a little oasis of tranquility within the building site of Wath Upon Dearne which is an area undergoing huge rennovation.
Firstly, this site was a little tricky to find for us, as it is in an unfamiliar location for us, and not terribly well signposted like other major tourist attractions seem to be. The postal address for the site is Old Moor Lane, Wombwell, Barnsley, S73 0YF. We used Sat nav to get there, but would have needed some sort of map if we didn't use sat nav as it took us through the rural roads near our house in Rotherham.
Arriving at the site, I wasn't sure how busy it would be. There were a few other people there on the day of our visit - a weekend day in half term, but I wouldn't have described it as busy. There was a small car park that was ample big enough, with some people taking bikes with them to go cycling, and others clearly prepared for twitching with various binoculars and spotter books.
You enter the site through the shop. There were two members of staff who were extremely friendly in particular with our children. They were offered the use of special childrens kits for doing a nature spotting trail, going bird watching, or trying out pond dipping. These were free on the day of our visit thanks to their anniversary celebrations, but I am not sure what the charge would be on any other day. There was a sign saying pond dipping kits were £2.50 per hour - each kit we borrowed had enough in it to occupy our two children.
Initially I thought the site looked quite small - you walk through the back of the shop and there is a bird hide there immediately, and a small type of cottage garden. There are various herbs planted, and a spectacular bug house. We then stumbled across a small ornamental type pond where the kids could pond dip to their hearts content, and they were happy to do so as there were a variety of worms, snails, fish, tadpoles, types of flies and larvae within this small area.
I then realised that if you followed the path round past this area, there was then several large areas of water surrounded by wild grassed areas that had been left to turn more into a meadow, and then there was another larger pond for children to dip in. We started to walk around the gravelled path, stopping in various hides as we went along. Some were more family oriented than others, with play tables for the kids, but we felt quite comfortable going into all of the hides as the people we came across were all very friendly, helping each other to spot the rarer birds visiting the water, and not put off at all by the fact that the kids were not perfectly quiet. My children were happy because the equipment they were loaned included a pair of basic binoculars, so they could look at some of the birds - some they could recognise like mallards and canada geese, and the more garden type birds like blackbirds and robins, but thanks to their grandparents being with us with a spotters book they did spot some other birds they had not seen before.
You can walk for several kilometers around the lakes if you wish to do so - we were only there for a few hours, so probably only covered a quarter of the paths if that, but we did enjoy seeing the colours of the flowers, the insects that were also in plentiful supply, and learning something new like wild gorse smells like coconut.
As well as the practical tasks to do with nature, there was also a fantastic playground for children. It all looked very new equipment and in great condition, designed to look fairly natural like the environment it is located in. This park is located in a seperate field away from the bird watching so the kids could be a bit noisier here and not offend anyone by it.
If we had not had a free voucher, we could have paid to go in as non-RSPB members (member entry is free) at a cost of £8 for our family of 4, or £4 per adult, £2 per child. I don't think this is unreasonable cost if you are into nature and walking as there is enough to occupy you here for a good bit of the day. We were there about 2 hours and it didn't feel long enough to do it all and the kids didn't want to leave. The site opens at 9:30, and during summer the reserve itself is open till 8pm, though the visitors centre is open till 5:30.
The amenities on the site seem reasonable. There were well stocked toilets located within the visitors centre. There is also a cafe which serves hot meals and snacks as well as the usual tea and coffee. We didn't go in the cafe, but a sign said we could have had Sunday lunch for £5.99. It would also have been possible to picnic at the site - there were plenty of benches along the paths, and picnic tables in certain areas like the park.
We haven't personally visited any other RSPB sites, but my parent-in-laws are members and have visited others near their home in London. They complemented this one on the amount of space and the greenery being really suitable for attracting a wide variety of species to the site.
I wouldn't say that I am a bird watcher, but I do enjoy sitting somewhere peaceful for a bit watching nature get on around me for a while, and I also enjoy walking around somewhere where it is safe for my children to look around without having to stand right next to me to keep them safe. Here the children enjoyed the freedom, and getting chance to try some new activities like pond dipping. They felt rather grown up having their own equipment to carry, and being able to do the activities.
I highly recommend the site to anyone wanting to get closer to nature in a safe environment.
Summary: A real gem of an attraction for anyone who likes peace, quiet, and nature.