Location and access
Otley Road, LS16 9JX.
Breary Marsh is adjacent to Golden Acre Park in Bramhope. It can be reached from the Golden Acre Park car park just off the A660 Otley Road, or from the network of paths which enter the site from various points leading from Bramhope and Cookridge.
Habitat and wildlife
The reserve is the best and most diverse example of a wet valley alder wood and associated floodplain habitat known in West Yorkshire, which is why much of the site is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest. These habitats were once common along streams and river valleys in the county but they are now sadly localised and fragmented.
As the name of the reserve implies, it contains a number of “wet” habitats such as fen, alder and willow carr (another name for wet woodland) and wet meadow. These are mainly found on the northern side of the site, next to the car park. Here the ground is low-lying and the soils are waterlogged. However, as you walk into the site, the ground begins to rise slightly, and the soil becomes progressively drier. The wet woodland then gives way to a drier woodland habitat dominated by oak and birch with localised planted beech, hornbeam and sycamore dating back to the 19th century.
Drier ground conditions are reflected in the woodland flora as carpets of bluebell, wood anemone, wood sorrel and lesser celandine intermingle with ferns, and creeping soft grass replaces moisture-loving reeds, rushes and sedges, the most significant being the large mounds of the tussock sedge.
The triangular area of meadow adjacent to the Otley Road also grades from wetter ground on the northern side of the site, to become drier as the meadow runs parallel with the road. The wet meadow features plants such as meadowsweet, ragged robin and wild angelica whilst common spotted orchid, valerian, bird’s-foot trefoil and greater stitchwort can be found in the drier meadow.
The southern end of the reserve contains Paul’s Pond, a fish pond belonging to the Cookridge Hall estate. The pond was dug in the 1820s by Richard Wormald to provide fish and ice to the kitchens, but named after William Paul who bought the estate in 1890. The pond is popular with waterfowl, particularly in the winter and if you’re very lucky, kingfisher may also be seen.
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