Posts Tagged ‘Humberhead Peatlands LIFE+ Project’

The State of Nature & That’s LIFE+ ?

September 17, 2016

After a scorching hot day on Thursday, the forecasters got Friday’s weather right  -it  rained!  It didn’t really matter as the LIFE+ ‘Mid Project Event’ which was held in Crowle was indoors.


Linda McAvan MEP demonstrated a knowledge and understanding of the value to local people of our peatlands and recognised the local community campaign to secure their future.  Image courtesy of Peter Roworth ARPS.

There were a number of talks and presentations predominantly by those involved in the delivery of the project.  One quote which struck me as strange when you consider the reality of the landscape and vista out there on the moors included one which talked of “looking out onto open space”.  Perhaps I expect too much of people’s observational skills?  Then we were asked at the end to make comments through Facebook accounts to NE so that “staff would be motivated more”. The Vision described for the moors included the usual collection of sound bytes, that they were used as a long-term experimental site, a site which would deliver high level international research, public understanding, volunteer strategy, apprenticeships, more progress in restoring.  There was no mention of the wildlife value nor safeguarding or protecting the sensitive species, or sustainable exploitation in terms of the “asset”.  There seems to be a drive for use rather than an appreciation, an interval of calm where assessment of impact of all the engineering and scrub clearance can take place, a time to observe the change in fauna and flora which finds suitable habitat and takes up residence.  This type of considered monitoring offers a potential blueprint for other schemes, as it documents natural establishment following management.  As more visitors are encouraged, then impact of the increase needs to be assessed?  Already naturalists are beginning to question the origins of some species being recorded, are they natural occurrences or has there been more unregulated introductions and releases?  See Kirk & Melling (2011) Volume 8 of T&HM Papers for example.

The site visit was, in the main, a mini bus tour of Thorne Moors.  It was a shame about the rain because for some visitors it was clearly their first ‘moors experience’ and initial impressions often remain.


An attentive audience trying to get to grips with the complex issue of the engineered structures which should deliver favourable condition for the Natura 2000 site in terms of management of the site’s hydrology.  Image courtesy of Peter Roworth ARPS.

At least out on site the visitors did notice the ever increasing number of turbines which are slowly creating a ‘ring of steel’ around Thorne Moors.  The other very obvious landscape was the featureless monoculture of agri-industrial sized fields, factory farming on a scale where nature stands little chance?  We drove past fields either already sown with next years crop, or fields being prepared for drilling.  Gone are the days when stubble was left for birds to forage in, no longer the mixed finch flocks in their hundreds and occasionally their thousands.  No hedgerows laden with berries reading for the wintering thrushes.


Prairie farming to the north east of Thorne Moors, a landscape devoid of wildlife interest?  As soon as crops are harvested, fields are prepared for the next crop with no time for fields to lay fallow.  Heavy use of chemicals can impact upon the  micro organisms essential for a healthy soil structure and function.   This type of agri-industrialised landscape is heavily subsidised through the public purse.  Following ‘Brexit’ we have the opportunity, but it will also be a challenge to ensure that public funds deliver public benefit?  The State of Nature 2016 Report continues to chart the decline in wildlife.  The statistics make painful reading but to anyone involved in conservation, anyone observing how government continues to disregard the environment it is unlikely the findings will come as a surprise.



Join us for Bog birds, bugs & drainage matters?

March 6, 2016

A reminder to readers living with reasonable traveling distance of Thorne & Hatfield Moors, that we are holding our Annual Meeting on ‘All Fool’s Day’* which includes two excellent lectures which are open to the public and after which a site visit onto Thorne Moors via a historic landscape feature – one of the last remaining ‘Cables’

“Bog birds and bugs” is the title of a talk to be given by Lucy Ryan, a masters student at York University who is undertaking monitoring of the nightjar population on Thorne and Hatfield Moors. This three year study will look at the impact the management works undertaken by Natural England through their EU LIFE+ Project.

A second talk “Who started the drainage?  Iron Age & Roman Landscapes in the Humberhead Levels” is to be given by Dr Paul C Buckland, whose early work included investigation on the Bronze Age trackway on Thorne Moors.

Following on from these talks there is to be a site visit, weather permitting onto Thorne Moors to look at some of the recent management works undertaken to implement a Water Level Management Plan on the site as well as delivering scrub clearance through the LIFE+ Project.   That’s Life – Restoring the Humberhead Peatlands.  An interesting image to accompany a press release about peatlands?

The visit and the talks are open to the public and are an opportunity for local people to learn about the works currently underway on their moors. Please contact the for more details.

Given that it is 1 April, then there is every chance we will see and hear signs of spring.  Observations so far indicate an early season, with Chiffchaff recorded on 23 February and  up to 14 adders have been recorded on Thorne Moors on one day.

To help with the administrative aspects of the day, please book a place for the public lecture, lunch and site visit by contacting

Adder Hibernacula 03032016-1

Two female adders soaking up the sun.  Image: Martin Warne.

*All Fool’s Day: 1st April.

‘Moor’ rain needed if bogs are to be safeguarded?

August 31, 2015

According to a local weather site Doncaster Weather the local rainfall this year has been 257.2mm and the month’s 69.8mm with around 10mm falling today.  If the pattern is maintained then it looks like being a dry year, so not helpful in terms of the rewetting of Thorne & Hatfield Moors.  Perhaps we might see an increase in precipitation over the winter months?

Stunning stands of Calluna vulgaris, a plentiful end of season nectar source for bees as they prepare for winter.  Painted Lady were present on both Thorne & Hatfield Moors over the bank holiday weekend.  Image@ Martin Warne.

Stunning stands of Calluna vulgaris, a plentiful end of season nectar source for bees as they prepare for winter. Painted Lady were present on both Thorne & Hatfield Moors over the bank holiday weekend. Image@ Martin Warne.

There are two multi-million pound projects currently ‘restoring’ the sites.  Thorne Moors Water Level Management Plan, being implemented by Doncaster East Internal Drainage Board and the LIFE+ Project being delivered by Natural England.  One of the key outcomes of both projects is to safeguard the peat body in terms of its functioning as a carbon sink and its potential to continue sequestering carbon for future generations.  Both projects have the capacity to retain water on site rather than pump it off into the rivers and eventually out to the sea, similarly the rationale for the compartmentalisation across the sites was to facilitate easy movement of water to accommodate conservation management.  The WLMP clearly documents holding the water level at 10cm above the peat surface.  There are vast areas where this is clearly not the case, nor is the water even at the surface.

A recent visit to Hatfield Moors saw acres of desiccated sphagnum, and perhaps worse were the hundreds and more likely the thousands of seedling birch taking advantage of this situation.  Is this a consequence of the rainfall or is it because the management of the site has failed to address the associated risks of low rainfall and by ensuring that key areas are safeguarded?

150830 Des sphagnum hrk 721

Desiccated sphagnum mat being colonised by birch seedlings, also a presence of common cotton grass a species with a preference for wet conditions.

Desiccated sphagnum mat being colonised by birch seedlings, also a presence of common cotton grass a species with a preference for wet conditions.

The Neolithic trackway discovered in 2004 is perhaps a prime example of a lost opportunity, what still remains buried but will be lost if allowed to continuing drying out?  One might ponder a different outcome had it been found ‘down south’?

The ‘ghosts’ of a past practice now feature as sculptures across the barren peatscapes, others still resistent and thus more evidence that the mineral extraction in these areas was down to basal peat layers above the mineral.  Most of the economically viable peat had been taken from Thorne Moors and much of Hatfield Moors by the end of the 20th Century.

Reminders of a lost record now feature as natural sculptures amid a regenerating wetland.

Reminders of a lost record now feature as natural sculptures amid a regenerating wetland.


A pine's last stand?

A pine’s last stand?

Ten Acre Lake on Hatfield Moors, a post mineral extraction legacy was in its early years an excellent site for breeding waders including Common Sandpiper in 1996.  In July 1995 it was also host for about a week to a Long-tailed Duck.  It has since then become much more overgrown with dense birch and Crassula helmsii on the water magin.  This invasive species was first reported in the late 80s and is now widespread across the water bodies of Hatfield Moors.

Ten Acre Lake, Hatfield Moors.

Ten Acre Lake, Hatfield Moors.

Across on neighbouring Thorne Moors, nature’s annual cycle continued to unfold with this Drinker Moth below captured egg laying.  Drinker moth is common on both Thorne & Hatfield Moors and is often encountered as a larva as it crosses grassy tracks.  Drinker Moths lay their eggs on a variety of grasses including Cock’s-foot, Annual Meadow-grass, Couch-grass, Reed Canary-grass and Purple Moor-grass.

Euthrix potatoria 66.01 / 1640. Image: Martin Warne.

Euthrix potatoria 66.01 / 1640.
Image: Martin Warne.


BIRDING SITE GUIDE - Birding Site Guide

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Hatfield Moors Birding Blog

Bird and other wildlife information service for Hatfield Moors, South Yorkshire, UK © HMBSG 17/11/2010

Mark Avery

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

a new nature blog

I write about politics, nature + the environment. Some posts are serious, some not. These are my views, I don't do any promotional stuff and these views are not being expressed for anyone who employs me.

UK and Ireland Natural History Bloggers

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?