The route explores farmland to the north - birds tend to ignore boundaries - before returning via a path between the River Aire and Fairburn’s Main Bay. This summer the reserve has received much attention as the site of Yorkshire’s first breeding spoonbills. There are also breeding bitterns, black-necked grebes, kingfishers, common terns, and numerous cormorants. On the farmland paths look out for barn owls, sparrowhawks, red kites, common buzzards. The walk passes two hides named after former volunteers, and an observation point. The time given for the walk does not include stops for birdwatching, or for a detour to the west side of the reserve. Take binoculars!
1. Return to the car park entrance and cross the road with care to find an obvious path leading straight ahead. Soon it meets another tarmac road. Cross this to take a bridleway along a woodland fringe. Follow the path, marked on maps as Newfield Lane, across fields to Ledsham.
2. On the edge of the village the path joins Newfield Lane and swings left into a residential street. Go right to follow it to the main road. Turn right to follow Holyrood Lane round a bend to the end of the village.
3. Fork right on a signposted path running between fields. Ledsham Beck is joined on the right. Past woodland take the right fork when the path splits and slant up Lambkin Hill to join a good path leading directly into Fairburn village on Beckfield Lane.
4. Turn right at the main road, cross the road with care and take a signposted path on the left. On the other side of the field go right to cross a causeway. Half way across, Charlie’s hide is on the left. At a junction turn right and follow the path past Village Bay viewpoint to Bob Dickens hide, accessed by a short path forking right.
5. Return to the main path and turn right. Walk parallel to the River Aire for a time then follow the clear path to a junction. Turn left if you wish to explore the west side of the reserve, or continue downhill, passing a lake called Big Hole on the left. In front of metal gates at the bottom turn left and follow the signposted path back to the visitor centre.
Difficulty rating: 1 stars.
Distance: 4 1/2 miles
Time: 2 hours
Map: OS Explorer (1:25,000) 289, Leeds.
Parking: RSPB Fairburn. Postcode for satnav WF10 2BH. Grid ref SE451277.
Public transport: Join walk at Ledsham, which is on Wetherby-Wakefield bus route. For times visit www.wymetro.com or call 0113 245 7676.
Refreshments: RSPB Fairburn; Ledsham.
Toilets: RSPB Fairburn; for refreshment customers, Ledsham.