Although the weather wasn’t anything very special for the middle of April we decided on a visit to our newly opened RSPB Reserve at St Aidan’s. The reserve isn’t very far from where we live so it was just an afternoon visit. The reserve is part of St Aidan's Country Park which is owned by Leeds City Council but looked after by the RSPB. Difficulties over land ownership have delayed the opening of the site. St Aidan's Country Park is the site of the former St Aidan's opencast coal site which is within the flood plains of the river Aire.
It's like many of the nature reserves around us that have come about as the result of previous coal mining operations. Unlike all the other reserves though a massive piece of the past remains preserved at St Aidan’s.
The excavation of the coal was done by an enormous walking Dragline Excavator. When the works were completed this massive machine remained on site and has been preserved by the Friends of St. Aidan's BE1150 Dragline.
These draglines aren’t powered by conventional diesel engines as you would expect but are sort of connected directly into the National Electricity Grid so huge is their energy demand when working.
In March 1988, the St Aidan’s opencast site suffered from a failure of the banks and flood-protection of the river Aire causing massive flooding of the site. A lake of about 100 ha (250 acres) and up to 70 m (230ft) in depth was created, and coal extraction was halted for 10 years. Remedial works cost around £20 million and included rerouting the River Aire and the Aire & Calder canal. It’s thought old mine workings beneath the opencast site may have contributed to the failure of the river banks. Water was eventually pumped out of the lake and open cast coal mining completed.
The site is large and open and a cold wind was whistling across most of the site making it feel colder than it was. We still managed to see a few birds though even if they were a bit camera shy.
Great Crested Grebe
No doubt we'll be making a few return visits hopefully when it's a bit warmer.
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