Places to see birds

Gillfield Wood

Tree sparrow on twig
Tree sparrow Photo: RSPB

Gillfield Wood (also known locally as Gillyfield Wood) is a narrow curving strip of woodland a little over a mile long and lying about six miles south-west of Sheffield city centre and just to the south of Totley. Although much of the wood was felled and replanted with non-native red oak and larch in the 1960s, it is still clearly an ancient woodland. Its first documented record dates from 1561 (though it is certainly much older) and it retains much of its original flora including swathes of bluebells and wood anemones plus yellow archangel, yellow pimpernel, woodruff and the delicate grass, wood melick. Small depressions known as Q-pits show that the wood was once used for the production of whitecoal used in lead smelting.

Sparrowhawk, tawny owl, great spotted woodpecker, jay, mistle thrush, goldcrest and nuthatch are present throughout the year and many of these nest. Common buzzards are regularly seen and heard calling over the wood. In summer months these resident species are joined by spotted flycatcher and a variety of warblers - particularly chiffchaff, blackcap and garden warbler. In winter, flocks of goldfinch and siskin, sometimes accompanied by lesser redpoll, feed in the tops of larches and alders while long-tailed tit and treecreeper move through the wood with feeding tit flocks. Both fieldfare and redwing may be seen in adjacent more open areas along with little owl, kestrel, long-tailed tit and raven. At times, there may also be a small population of tree sparrows. The Totley Brook runs along most of the wood's length and marks the boundary between South Yorkshire and Derbyshire. Clean and often meandering, it provides a home for mallard, grey heron and grey wagtail.

More than two hundred species of fungi have been recorded and insects include speckled wood and white letter hairstreak butterflies and hawker dragonflies. Visit early morning and you may meet red or roe deer; in the evening and you may see badgers and pipistrelle bats hunting along the paths and edges.

The wood is owned by Sheffield City Council and looked after by the Friends of Gillfield Wood whose main aim is to protect and conserve the wood and encourage biodiversity. Other aims include learning as much about the wood as possible (for example by researching its history and mapping its flora, fauna and woodland archaeology) and involving the local community and wider public through events held most months of the year. Over time, the group has done a lot to improve the woodlands including thinning trees, widening woodland rides and creating ponds and glades as well as improving footpaths and repairing stiles, gates and dry-stone walls.

Access to the wood is free and unrestricted. It can be approached from many directions but the two best places to park are at the 97 bus terminus on Baslow Road, from where there is access directly into the western end of the wood, or at the end of Totley Hall Lane from where several footpaths run into the wood. The wood itself has a relatively flat (though sometimes muddy) footpath running along its entire length and this is crossed by three other main footpaths. Pubs can be found nearby at the Cross Scythes, the Shepley Spitfire and Crown in Totley and The Moorlands and Peacock at Owler Bar and there are also a number of shops and cafes serving food along Baslow Road in Totley.