While I was off with Covid, I spent a fair bit of time visiting little bits of abandoned greenery within Leicester. This was in an ambiguous period when I was testing positive daily, but just about well enough to leave the house and fed up of being stuck indoors. So I found this form of outdoor activity which guaranteed zero social interaction.

I went to explore Freemen’s Common Nature Reserve. The reserve is hidden between some warehouses, a recycling centre, and the railway line. There was no obvious entrance, although you can get in through hopping over a gate, and there’s a hole in the fence further up.

The main structure on the hill is a radio tower.

radio tower base

It seems to be a fly-tipping spot. I came across found a few old laptops, a dead bicycle, some plastic bags full of random junk.

To the left of that path there’s a slowly disintegrating banister and the remains of some stairs.

path with bannister

The stairs are a sign that this place hasn’t always been a fenced-off overgrown hill. Planning documents show that this hill was designated as a nature park in 1985 with provision of “paths, picnic sites, etc.” It was never sold off, as of 2017 the site was still owned by Leicester City Council. There should be a public park here for people to enjoy. What happened?

You can climb down to the railway line, where there’s possibly a path which would have lead up to Welford road.

university building

From this spot you get a view of the new Leicester University buildings that you’d normally only see from the train.


Despite the fact it hasn’t been maintained, there are some lovely spots, patches of flowers spread across the ground.


These photos were taken on Washi Z film, which was originally made for aerial surveys of vegetation. It’s supposed to be extra sensitive to shades of green. The shading definitely looks different to normal panchromatic film, but it’s not super noticeable. I didn’t use it with a red filter.

Thomas ‘Geowizard’ Davies recently tried walking across the Black Country without touching any roads, and the journey showed up how much overgrown vacant land there is within cities.1 There are a lot of places like this in Leicester!

Here’s another path leading down the edge of a different railway.

overgrown path

I spotted this group training with swords and shields early in the morning.


Nothing to do with exploring wildlife but I took the photo for a friend who is into a combination of fencing and historical re-enactment.
Also it’s not every day you see people in full medieval getup staging a swordfight in a park.

  1. Thanks to Matthieu for pointing this out.