Langsett, Midhope Moor and Reservoir

History For Walkers, Birdwatchers and Cyclists

Previously known as Penisale, Langsett first appears in a charter of 1252 which tells of an agreement, whereby Walter de Houdham granted his whole manor at ‘Langside’ to Elias de Midhope now an area named Upper Midhope. It held a weekly market on a Tuesday until this was transferred to near-by Penistone.
Langsett reservoir was built between 1889 and 1905. It is around a mile long and supplies water to Sheffield and Barnsley.

Langsett Reservoir

Bird Watching Langsett Reservoir and Moor

The habitat like many Pennine reservoirs is surrounded by conifer plantations. There is extensive open heather moorland to the southwest which can be seen from the Low Moor view point.
For timing the autumn is good for Red Grouse and birds of prey. Spring and summer show most of the breeding species.
Species include a large range of ducks, Teals, Mallards and Tufted Ducks. Owls and wood peckers can often be seen and the fringes of the fields and moors have breeding meadow Pipits, Ouzels and occasional Twites.
Access from the village via a minor road sign posted Strines & Derwent valley which passes over the reservoir dam where you can watch the reservoir birds. Then move on through Upper Midhope, turn sharp right and park near a sign Privilege Footpath for Low Moor and views of the moors and paths through the woods.

Moorland Grouse

The Local Inn and Cafe

The yearly visit from Thurlston Brass Band to the Waggon and Horses takes place in June – (24th June 2012 from 12 until 5.)
Langsett independent film festival has been bringing people together for over 17 years to show and enjoy films at the inn.
The Waggon and Horses Inn is the watering hole of choice for walkers, birdwatchers, cyclists and local beer drinkers.
Langsett cafe has won cyclist cafe of the year chosen by local CTC members. ‘It serves good food at a very reasonable price and is very cyclist friendly.’


I like the vision of created by the Guardian ‘Gazing across the broad acres of Langsett Moor and the Thurlstone Moors towards the formerly “forbidden” Snailsden Moor at the head of the Holme Valley I was reminded of the words of Halliwell Sutcliffe (1870-1932). Though perhaps remembered best as a creator of historical romances, this son of the West Riding was a pioneer thinker on open access to the high country, for so long reserved exclusively for grouse shooting. He highlighted in A Benedick in Arcady the rules to be followed, tongue-in-cheek, by the “Complete Trespasser”. read the full article from a Country diary.

Photo and Other Credits
Langsett Reservoir by sheffieldhammer CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Moorland Grouse by timdifford ‘Photographs taken on a family stroll around Langsett Reservoir’ CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
IMG_0835 by CC BY-SA 2.0 A ‘look at The Haunted House on a Hill overlooking Penistone and Holmfirth then onto Langsett Bank Woods Moor, and reservoir Sheffield’

Yorkshires top Twelve Birdwatching Sites

Walk 1 around the reservoir and history
Yorkshire Water Langsett, Midhope Moor and Reservoir Walking.
Share my Routes

Clever Little Tit or Bird Brain

I had fallen into the trap of calling various birds ‘Tits’ but I now remember they were really Titmice or a titmouse

Book Cover

The Wisdom of Birds: An Illustrated History of Ornithology

Tim R. Birkhead is professor of behavioural ecology at Sheffield University.
He has three main research areas:

1. Post-copulatory sexual selection, mainly in birds.
2. Population biology of birds.
3. The history of science, and of reproduction and ornithology in particular.

With this book he has produced a complete history of ornithology. The illustrations, prints and pictures are illuminating and there seems to be a reference to every bird you could imagine. Good value for money in terms of size, scope and content.

Reviews of The Wisdom of Birds

‘I speculated as to the origins of another science, ornithology, hazarding that it similarly was based upon a wealth of local knowledge brought together and systemised by the protoscientists of the day, or savants, as Rudwick calls them. Tim Birkhead, in The Wisdom Of Birds, appears to confirm this premise.
Using as his starting point the 16th Century ornithologist John Ray, Birkhead describes how ornithology developed from folklore and superstition into a coherent science. Ray’s own book, The Wisdom Of God, provides Birkhead’s title, although it is knowledge rather than wisdom which is shown accumulating. As with the sciences dealt with by Rudwick, some knowledge originates from the museum, some from commerce (poultry farmers and hunters), some from what we may call hobbyists (bird keepers) and, eventually, from savants in the field, and like the early geologists, such ornithologists were considered strange birds indeed at first. …….

Throughout the work Birkhead has found some beautiful pictures to illustrate his point, although this is also one of a number of sources of frustration, as often there is very little advantage taken of them, or explanatory comment, as for example where a picture appears of a bird looking remarkably like a Northern Cardinal but labelled in its 17th Century setting as a Virginian Nightingale, with no covering narrative, including why this North American bird should appear on a page accompanied by five European birds (four finches and a sparrow)……. the result is still an excellent book.’
Steven Keen Review

‘….Tim Birkhead is an academic who can communicate brilliantly with the ordinary reader. From bird intelligence, migration, physiology to reproduction, the author covers a wide range of material……
Ashton 455

‘….The range of issues covers subjects such as egg development, instinct and intelligence, migration, the influence of daylight on the breeding cycle, territoriality, vocalisations, sexual differentiation, infidelity, reproduction and longevity…focused on the individuals behind the development of ornithology while Tim Birkhead is more interested in what they discovered. ‘
K F Betton

A Fellow of the Royal Society and Professor at Department of Animal and Plant Sciences Sheffield University Tim Birkhead has produced a brainy book on birds and those who have studied them as you would expect from an academic. However he has also been very clever in making it accessible to all ornithologists. (ed.)

Sheffield University Department of Animal and Plant Sciences
Review by Steven Keen
K F Betton and Ashton 455 on amazon
Daily Telegraph Book Review

Yorkshires top Twelve Birdwatching Sites
Midhope Moor and Langsett reservoir

Visit Rodley Nature Reserve

Rodley lake

Set in an oxbow on the river Aire near Leeds is Rodley Nature Reserve. Close by is a section of the Leeds Liverpool canal and these two waterways attract wildfowl and waders in great profusion. Created on a floodplain this makes a natural ‘flyway’ for migrating birds.

Inside the many bird hides are chalkboards recording the species recently spotted and many RSPB information panels. We spent time in half a dozen hides some wooden but a couple of new metal versions installed after vandals set fire to their predecessors.

The main lake or ‘Lagoon’ is home to little grebes and tufted ducks but you may also spot Oystercatchers, Pochard and Gooseander. The shallow duck marsh for dabbling ducks such as Gadwall, Snipe and Shovelers. The ground is well maintained with areas left as wet grassland, flower meadow, Reedbeds and a willow coppice. One areas is renown for it’s ‘Farming for Birds’.


On a hot spring day (yes I said hot and spring in the same sentence) I was most grateful for the visitors centre which provided chocices at 30p and a cup of tea for a donation. The display tank full of pondlife included beetles and snails of many varieties and childern were give pond dipping lessons and the loan of equipment.

Several small ponds have been grouped together to attract a large variety of Damselfly, Skimmers and Dragonflies. For more information and a club to join check out Yorkshire Dragonfly the local branch of the British Dragonfly Society

In June at  Rodley Nature Reserves events including pond dipping, moth trapping, small mammal trapping, a bug hunt, bird and botany walks and other activities take place.

Insect home
Continue reading Visit Rodley Nature Reserve

Bempton Birds in Paradise Cliff Hanger

bempton scarborough

Bempton Cliffs are a paradise for sea birds at this time of year, May. Nesting on the chalk cliff face the gulls are building nests and laying their young. The early starters are already hatching the chicks.

The crowds gather in one particular spot in the hope of seeing Puffins, the iconic bird found at Bempton. We saw three on the cliff and several flying shapes that seemed just like a puffin in flight. However I also spent a long time watching a Razorbill only to be told I couldn’t tell my Puffin from my pullover.

bempton scarborough

I know I need to invest in a camera with a better lens and a telescopic one to boot. Even with the best I can afford I would still be put to shame by some of the cameras on show by the other ornithologists (twitchers to most of us). Still they probably have photographs of birds not just cliffs and sky.

bempton scarborough

Continue reading Bempton Birds in Paradise Cliff Hanger

Yorkshire’s RSPB Reserves

2011 05 09_Fairburn Ings_0163.JPG

For Yorkshire’s birdwatchers and nature lovers we are blessed with four top notch sites maintained by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).

Fairburn Ings

There are three main trails on the RSPB reserve and some nice walking country to local villages. Walks on site take you through a variety of habitats allowing stunning views of birds such as willow tits and tree sparrows in the woodland, and lapwings, snipe and redshanks in the wet grassland.
In winter you may need to keep walking to stay warm as there are few hides but Fairburn Ings hosts an array of swans, ducks and geese on the main lake.

The visitor centre was a welcome respite from the cold breeze when we visited. The feeding station was abuzz with activity and made the visit worthwhile on its own as we nursed a hot drink and watched the feeding antics of the many birds.


Blacktoft Sands

Blacktoft sands has the largest tidal reedbed with brackish water in England and is important for its breeding bearded tits, bitterns, marsh harriers and over 175 different species are recorded on this RSPB reserve each year. The outer edge of the reserve with the two rivers forms a saltmarsh that is inundated with birds at hightide.
There are 6 observation hides overlooking six man made lagoons looking over the reedbeds to the river Ouse.
April – June and August- October are the best times to visit to see the spring and autumn migrations of waterfowl and waders.

Hornsea Mere - East Yorkshire

Hornsea Mere

Hornsea mere is the largest freshwater lake in Yorkshire. It was formed at the end of the last Ice Age and at times you could believe we were starting another. Close to the North Sea the lake attracts a variety of wintering birds including gadwalls, common pochards goldeneyes, and tufted ducks.
The mere’s reedbeds provide breeding sites for hundreds of pairs of reed warblers. It is also an important site for little gulls which congregate in large numbers in autumn but there is something to see at all times of the year.

Whilst at Hornsea Mere you can also visit the boulder clay cliffs at Hornsea and Mapleton to watch seabirds moving south from July-November.
bempton scarborough

Bempton Cliffs

We went to Bempton to see the Puffins and were not disappointed. An RSPB warden was spotting for the visitors and this proved invaluable as they seem to have X-ray vision. The chalk cliffs as son high it is hard at times to get close to the birds but it is a great location for a reserve.
You can stay in near-by Scarborough as we did and get more than your fair share of Gulls, Gannets and Guillemots. Visit in May-July when the breeding activity is at its height.

Gannet, Bempton Cliffs

Photo Credits
2011 05 09_Fairburn Ings_0163.JPG by Keith Laverack CC BY-ND 2.0
Ruff by GrahameB@Richmond CC BY 2.0
Hornsea Mere – East Yorkshire by Bradford Timeline CC BY-NC 2.0
Gannet, Bempton Cliffs by Richard Carter CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Yorkshires top Twelve Birdwatching Sites

Yorkshire’s Top Twelve Bird Watching Sites


John R Mather ( ‘Where to watch Birds in Yorkshire & Humberside‘) has compiled a list of 156  Yorkshire sites from which I have selected a personal favourites list or top dozen. To make it a bakers dozen please comment below with your own personal favourite.

  1. On the Coast RSPB Bempton Cliff stands out in more ways than one.
  2. Humber Estuary in the East Riding you may want to check out Cherry Cobb Sands or Welwick Salting.
  3. North Yorkshire Moors have a different environment at Dalby and Staindale Forest.
  4. Richmond and Northwestern Dales around Arkengarthdale
  5. Settle and Upper Wharfedale particularly Malham Tarn or Semer water near Hawes.
  6. Masham and Upper Nidderdale Yorkshire Waters reservoirs at Grimwith or Gouthwaite
  7. Nidderdale and Washburn Valley gravel-pits at Hay-a-park Knaresborough
  8. Downstream Aire Valley you can’t beat Fairburn Ings close to the A1
  9. Lower Derwent Valley National Nature Reserve and Weldrake Ings.
  10. Doncaster Area and Thorpe Marsh run by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust
  11. Southern Pennines Hardcastle Crags owned by the National Trust
  12. My own garden with feeders and bird friendly garden features.

From the various links you can see how many organisations help with the protection of birds and support their hobby of birdwatching. It can be a low or no cost hobby that you may find very rewarding.

Top Bird Web Sites for Yorkshire

  1. Read about all RSPB reserves in Yorkshire
  2. South Yorkshire Bird Guides.
  3. Bird Nerd in East Yorkshire
  4. Yorkshire Naturalists
  5. Bird and nature reserves of Yorkshire
  6. Yorkshire Dales bird guide
  7. Where to watch birds in and around York
  8. Fat Birder in South Yorkshire
  9. For more on bird baths for your garden read Garden Products

Appropriate Birding Books

Bird watching walks in the yorkshire dales by Brendan Threfal
Book Cover
Book Cover

Bird Watching in East Yorkshire, the Humber and Teesmouth by Stephen C Elliott
Birds of the Yorkshire Dales by W R Mitchell
( ‘Where to watch Birds in Yorkshire & Humberside‘) by John R Mather

Photo Credits

Sparrow by Hitched Hiker CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Puffin by nigel_appleton CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Yorkshire Heather Moors Need Protection

The glens of Scotland and the Moors of Yorkshire were covered with purple flowering heather. This picture was taken above Dick Hudsons on Ilkley Moor. The route is part of the Dales Way Bradford Link and the Leeds Link also traverses Ilkley moor to get to the start of the Dales Way proper. According to the Yorkshire Dales National Parks Authority ‘The dry heaths of the National Park are usually dominated by heather particularly on intensively managed grouse moors.’

There is an interesting and amusing History of Heather on Gardener’s tips

Types of Heather

  • Bell heather also known as Erica cinerea has dark pink or purple flowers and generally flowers first in late July.
  • Cross leaved heath has leaves arranged in crosses of four on its stems. It has pale pink flowers and can often be found in boggy areas.
  • Ling Calluna vulgaris is the most common type of heather found on the North York Moors. It has very tiny pink flowers and generally flowers in mid to late August

Uses of Heather.

  • The Moorland Association, whose members manage about 90% of England’s heather moorland host thousands of bee hives. Pollen from heather makes excellent honey and the scent is excellent.
  • Heather moorland is one of the rarest habitats in the world. Ilkley moor is crucial for ground nesting birds.
  • Red grouse eat young heather shoots but they like to shelter and build their nests in taller, older heather. Gamekeepers therefore have to make sure there are some patches of young heather and some patches of old heather on the moors if they want to have enough grouse to shoot.
  • Local people used to use heather to make a type of broom called a besom to sweep their cottage floors.
  • Heather is available in many varieties and they contribute to ornamental or specialist gardens.
  • White Heather is said to be lucky but count yourself lucky if you can walk through a purple flowering moorland Yorkshire landscape.

This photo shows two of the twelve Apostle Stones, 1260 feet above sea level, on Ilkley moor looking towards Yeadon and the airport. The planes were flying higher than the horseflies but not by all that much. There is a specialist web site for Stone Circle visitors here and a more comprehensive article by David Raven.  For comments about heather on the uplands 15,000 years ago look at The Moorland Association site

See Walks around Ilkley

That is not to say that the other tracts of moorland and heather in Yorkshire are not in great condition. I particularly like the area around Goathland.

Yorkshires top Twelve Birdwatching Sites
Midhope Moor and Langsett reservoir