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Locations in SK58: Roche Abbey
Updated: 25 February, 2019


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Roche Abbey (SK5489)

Roche Abbey

How to get there

Location: 9 miles east of Rotherham off A634 on the Maltby to Oldcotes road, near the village of Stone.

Access: The entrance at SK544902 is signposted with a track to a car park by the abbey ruins (Note do not leave valuables in view-put them, in the boot). There is an English Heritage visitor centre with a charge for access to the abbey ruins (open Easter to end of October). Most species can be found around the ruins with Kings Wood one of the most interesting woodlands in Rotherham and is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest. It is also worth exploring the area north to the minor road and Nor Wood where there is an adjoining sewage works. The adjoining woods here are private with no public access so keep to the public footpaths. There is a good visible migration and raptor watch point. Park sensibly along Kings Wood Lane as the road leaves the edge of Kings Wood to descend to Stone at SK547895.


Falling within the sandbeck estate a numerous footpaths run through this medieval Cistercian site built in the 1100 and sacked by Henry VIII. The imposing ruins (still standing) lye in a richly wooded Limestone gorge with a Hooton Dike running through the heart of the site providing water for the abbey. The woodlands, lake and meadow offer a rich tapestry of wildlife as well as pleasant walk in attractive surroundings.

Habitat: This is probably the best site in Rotherham to see a variety of woodland species. The wooded valley sides include mature broadleaf trees, impressive Yews and a rich ground flora. There are Alders and Sallow Carr around Laughton Pond near the abbey. The Limestone flora in the woods are amongst the richest in the area and there is a rich variety of fungi, mosses, insects, spiders and snails.


All year: This was the first area in Rotherham to be colonised by Common Buzzard, where breeding first occurred in 1995. They can be seen over the woodlands around the abbey but the best place to look for them is from the watch point on Kings Wood Lane. In March large numbers can be seen displaying. The large number of mature woodlands in the area with Sandbeck Park to the northeast mean its an excellent area for raptors. In March 2010 produced a count of 22 Buzzard viewable from this watch point. The area is also very good for Sparrowhawk and Kestrel.

The woodlands contain common woodland birds as well as several specialist species. There are 6 species of Tit present, with Marsh Tit especially notable. Rotherham holds a good population of this species which has a disjointed distribution in Yorkshire. Confined to limestone areas in Rotherham, Roche Abbey is the best site to find this species. Care needs to be taken due to the presence of Willow Tit. Another specialist present is Hawfinch which is extremely secretive. Kings Wood holds a small population which are easier to find between February-April. A much declined species in recent years. All three woodpeckers occur, with Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, a rare presence now in the woods with most reports occurring in February and March. Other tree specialist present are Nuthatch and Treecreeper. Grey Wagtail is a resident breeder along the stream here. There are numerous Tawny Owl which can occasionally be heard during the day. Other resident species include Bullfinch, Goldcrest, Song Thrush and Jay. The fields around the area hold breeding Lapwing, Linnet, Skylark and Yellowhammer, with flocks building post breeding. There are also small numbers of Tree Sparrow.


The woodland holds migrant breeders, with Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler present. Woodcock can been seen roding over the area at dusk. Spotted Flycatcher and Cuckoo are now only occasional visitors while Wood Warbler and Pied Flycatcher have been recorded in the past. Post breeding large numbers of Swift feed over the area. Osprey pass through the area annually during the spring. Some of the wintering population of Teal remain and probably breed, but are very secretive.

Autumn The watchpoint on Kings Wood Lane is a good place to see Larks, Pipits, Wagtails, Starling, Redwing and Fieldfare migration, along with hirundines. Raptors are also a feature at this time with Hobby and Peregrine seen.


Laughton Pond attracts a small flock of Teal and Mallard during the winter along with the occasional Little Grebe, Water Rail, Snipe and Green Sandpiper. The Alders hold flocks of Siskin and Lesser Redpoll. The flocks of Chaffinch in the area often hold small numbers Brambling. The stream in the area also produces Kingfisher. Flocks of Pink-footed Geese also pass over the area. There have also been records of Whooper Swan.


During irruption years it's a good site for Crossbill. Red Kite is also now almost annual here. Raven is occasionally seen passing through the area. In 2000 good numbers of Honey Buzzard were recorded from 21st to 23rd September. Firecrest has also occurred passage migrants such as Pied Flycatcher and Wood Warbler can also be found in spring.

Produced (with amendments) by kind permission of Rotherham & District Ornithological Society (RDOS).

A group focused on recording the bird life of a single 10km square between Sheffield, Rotherham & Worksop

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