Covering 1.4 square kilometres, Ecclesall Woods is the largest semi-natural woodland in South Yorkshire. Just 2.3% of Britain’s landcover is classed as ancient woodland, making large examples like this particularly important. The woods are in three parts. Wood 1 lies to the north of Whirlowdale Road which separates it from Wood 2. Wood 3 – the largest – lies to the south-west of Abbey Lane and stretches almost to the edge of Dore.
Ecclesall Woods are dominated by oak and birch with other native trees being alder, ash, elm, field maple, hawthorn, hazel, rowan and willow. Non-native species include beech, hornbeam, larch, Scot’s pine, sweet chestnut and sycamore. Beneath the trees is a typical ancient woodland flora. The bluebells and wood anemones are particularly notable in the late spring but a total of 421 flowering plant and 171 fungus species have been recorded.
In the past, the woods were used for timber and charcoal production but they are now managed by Sheffield City Council for wildlife and recreation. The area is a Local Nature Reserve and home to several UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority species. In 1929, shortly after the woods became publicly owned, a bird sanctuary was established in Wood 3 with seventeen hectares being fenced off to protect birds from human disturbance. The number of bird species breeding in the woods rose from 41 prior to the creation of the sanctuary to 61 in 1980. Typical woodland species include nuthatch, treecreeper, sparrowhawk, song and mistle thrushes, tawny owl, great spotted woodpecker, bullfinch, siskin, jay and goldcrest. Other species include buzzard, stock dove and long-tailed tit – joined in winter by redwing and fieldfare. Several streams run through the woods, of which Limb Brook is the most significant, and here species such as grey wagtail may be found. Wood 3 also boasts a heronry, situated in larch trees just outside the western edge of the sanctuary area.
Adjacent to Wood 2, on the opposite side of Abbeydale Road South, is Millhouses Park. The River Sheaf runs through this offering aquatic species such as kingfisher, grey wagtail and dipper. A short distance upstream is Tyzack’s Dam which supports waterfowl including mandarin and tufted ducks.
Ecclesall Woods lie in Sheffield’s south-western suburbs between Millhouses, Whirlow, Beauchief and Dore. Parking can be found in many places along the roads around and through the woods and there are car parks at the Woodland Discovery Centre off Abbey Lane and a picnic area off Limb Lane. Access by public transport is good, with Dore and Totley railway station close to the southern corner of the woods and frequent buses along both Abbeydale Road South and Ecclesall Road South.
Access through the woodlands is also good with more than 9.5 miles of bridleways and paths to explore – mostly on gently sloping land. There is an ‘Easy Going’ trail for those less able bodied or with pushchairs. There are toilets at the Woodland Discovery Centre where refreshments are available from the Woodland Coffee Stop at weekends and on some weekdays.
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Latitude / Longitude: 53.337594639082, -1.5156761528928