Rother Valley Country Park

How to get there

  • Vehicular access into the park by car is via the A618 Mansfield Road between Wales Bar and Killamarsh. There are signposts to the park at a number of road junctions in the area. The main gate is open from 9am and closes at 5pm in the winter season and at 8pm in the summer. There is currently a year-round daily entry charge of £5 for vehicles.
  • The park can also be accessed on foot from a number of entry points with parking available outside the park at the north end of Rother Valley Way in Sothall, which gives access to the main lake or in Killamarsh which gives access to Nethermoor Lake (the fishing lake) and Meadowgate Lake (the nature reserve). Click here for location map
  • The park can be found on the Ordnance Survey Landranger Sheet 111 and the Explorer Sheet 278.
  • Public Transport. Buses from Sheffield Interchange stop at Swallownest from where there is a 12-minute walk into the park and in Killamarsh. Buses from Rotherham also stop in Killamarsh and at Wales Bar.


The park was opened in 1983 following two years of restoration work on former opencast coal workings The 300ha site consists of four lakes and a pond, surrounded by areas of maturing woodland planted in the 1980s, grazing pastures, scrubland, hedgerows and more formal grassland. There are numerous footpaths within the park and there is vehicular access to the reserve, the main water-sports lake and the northern lake.

View Rother Valley Country Park in a larger map


There are parking areas overlooking the reserve (Meadowgate Lake) and adjacent to the main water-sports and northern lakes. The Bedgreave Mill complex has a café and toilets and a sizeable children's play area nearby, useful for birders with young family members who may not be totally attracted by a day's birding in the park.

Likely Species

With over 230 species recorded in the park during the past two decades, Rother Valley Country Park has a fair claim to being the premier birding location in the SBSG recording area. A half-day's exploration of the different habitats can easily produce 50 to 60 species at most times of the year but it's the impressive list of locally and nationally scarce and rare birds which makes the park worth visiting on a regular basis.

The Meadowgate Lake Reserve is the prime location for seeing the greatest variety of species and generally the biggest numbers of birds. Winter wildfowl totals can be impressive with regular counts of over 200 Wigeon and Teal and slightly smaller numbers of Mallard, Tufted Duck and Pochard. Gadwall, Goldeneye and Goosander are usually present in significant numbers, though sadly Ruddy Duck no longer features as a common sight here. Scarce and rare wildfowl are more likely to be encountered in the reserve than elsewhere in the park with Pintail, Garganey, Mandarin, Scaup, Common Scoter, Red-breasted Merganser, Smew, Long-tailed Duck, Eider and Green-winged Teal recorded in recent years and the area's first American Wigeon arriving in 2008. More obvious are the resident squadrons of Canada and Greylag Geese; more welcome are the regular skeins of Pink-footed Geese that fly over the park between October and February.

Around 30 species of wader have been recorded on or over the Reserve during the last two decades, though most passage birds are short-stayers and their occurrence is dependent very much on weather conditions, wind direction and water levels on the Reserve. Though several hundred Lapwings are often present in the winter months and a few Redshank and Snipe occur, the number and variety of waders recorded seems to have declined in recent years both in winter and during the breeding season. Nevertheless the Reserve is worth watching regularly between March and May and from July until October, the prime wader passage periods. Oystercatcher, Little-ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Curlew, Green Sandpiper and Common Sandpiper usually feature at some time, with between five and ten scarcer wader species recorded in most years, but the once regular Golden Plover flocks seem to have moved elsewhere.

The other lakes in the park offer less variety, partly because of greater disturbance from leisure activities, but all have produced good sightings in recent years, the main water sports lake being the best option. Goldeneye, Goosander and Great Crested Grebe numbers are often higher here than on the Reserve and the lake has a good record for attracting all three Divers and the rarer Grebes. Waders sometimes feed on the 'lawns', the lakeside area to the south of the main water sports centre. In spring in particular and in suitable weather conditions hundreds of hirundines and Swifts feed over the lake and it often hosts passage terns particularly in the autumn.

The hedgerows, patches of scrub and maturing plantations are worth exploring at most times of the year. Spring sees good numbers of a range of warblers breeding in the park. In early autumn returning migrants often favour the small plantations alongside the Rother and small numbers of Pipits, Wagtails, Skylarks and various finches fly over. From October onwards, parties of winter ThrushesLesser Redpoll and Siskin are regularly seen in significant numbers and roving tit flocks are worth checking. Firecrest and Lesser-spotted Woodpecker have both appeared in recent winters.

It's worth stressing that many of the rare and scarce birds recorded at Rother Valley are 'fly-throughs' or at best, very short-stayers. The list of these is considerable and a selection of sightings from the last few years includes Bean Goose, Leach's Petrel, Spoonbill, Great White Egret, Honey Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, Common Crane, Arctic Skua, Little Gull and Sabine's Gull, and increasing numbers of Little Egret, Red Kite, Osprey, Hobby and Peregrine. It follows that the prospect of encountering the unusual depends on a number of factors, among them, an early start, perseverance, favourable weather conditions at the right time of year, getting a good viewing position that overlooks either the Reserve or the main lake and, as in all things birding, a fair slice of luck!

Click here for recent records

Nearby sites

Include Pit-house West, Orgreave, Catcliffe Flash, Treeton Dyke, Pebley Pond and Harthill Reservoir.

Pete Brown