Places to see birds

Moss Valley

Marsh Harrier (female), close up of head
Buzzard Photo: RSPB

The Moss Valley is an area of ancient woodlands, meadows, hedgerows, ponds and marshland located to the south-east of Sheffield on the border between Derbyshire and South Yorkshire. Its defining feature is the Moss Brook which flows eastwards for about five miles to enter the River Rother near Eckington. Though a working agricultural valley with both livestock and arable farming, it is rich in wildlife habitat - some of which is designated as nature reserves and Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

Moss Valley Woodlands nature reserve, near the top (west) end of the valley, has been managed by Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust since 2001. Its 26 hectares of semi-natural ancient woodland, scrub and grassland run in two limbs along the Moss Brook and a tributary of this. The two woodland areas are separated, near the confluence of the two watercourses, by Dowey Lumb - a small meadow with scattered trees and scrub, increasingly rich in wildflowers. In spring and early summer, the woodlands themselves are carpeted in bluebells, sweet woodruff and wood anemone.

Birds recorded on a walk by our Group in March 2015 included jay, tawny owl, song thrush, greenfinch, nuthatch, treecreeper and a variety of tits - including the relatively scarce willow tit. More open areas had linnet, yellowhammer and red-legged partridge, with grey heron, moorhen, coot, teal and mallard along watercourses. The area also proved to be something of a raptor hotspot with kestrel, two sparrowhawks and seven common buzzards sighted.

Other birds found in the woodlands include regular green and great spotted woodpeckers plus the much less common lesser spotted woodpecker. At the scrubby edges of the woods can be found garden warbler, blackcap and bullfinch. Birds recorded along the Moss Brook and its tributaries include grey wagtail and kingfisher. The Moss Valley Wildlife Group (see link) are particularly interested in receiving records of skylark, Kingfisher, grey partridge and barn owl as well as news of any sightings of the potentially invasive ring-necked parakeet.

Other wildlife includes fox, pipistrelle bat, stoat, bank vole, roe deer and brown hare and a wide variety of insects. Grass snakes inhabit wet grasslands by the Moss Brook between Ford and Mosborough. Great crested newts are also found in this area, with the increasingly rare native British freshwater crayfish living in the Brook itself.

The Moss Valley is blessed with an extensive network of footpaths and bridleways, all of which can be found on an Ordnance Survey map. Rights of Way run through or along the edge of all of the Moss Valley Woodlands nature reserve. There are many places from which to access the valley, especially from settlements around its edge including Coal Aston, Ridgeway, Mosborough, Eckington, Marsh Lane and Troway. All of these are served by buses and have places for roadside parking as well as pubs - though not public toilets. In addition, there is a car park at Ford (in the bottom of the valley between Ridgeway and Marsh Lane) from where the valley can be explored in all directions.