Lower Don Valley Farmers

The Lower Don sub-catchment falls within the area broadly to the north of Doncaster; it contains the River Don, River Went and Ea Beck.  Of these watercourses, the River Went and Ea Beck around Thorpe in Balne are high-priority water quality areas, due to phosphate and sediment pollution.

Falling primarily within the Humberhead Levels National Character Area (NCA), it is a low-lying, flat and large-scale landscape. It contains the internationally significant Thorne and Hatfield Moors, which are lowland raised peat bogs which used to be part of the ‘Great Yorkshire Fen’. It was once a wild and expansive wetland habitat with a rich cultural history, unrecognisably different to the drained landscape and enclosed field pattern system that we see now. Today, its agricultural soils range from highly productive Grade 1 and 2 soils near Goole, used mainly for arable cropping, to Grade 3 and 4 soils around Fishlake and Sykehouse, used as pasture land and mixed farming.

A pond in a former meaner of the River Went. The site owned and managed by the Burnet Heritage Trust

This transformation began in the 17th century when the Crown commissioned Dutch engineer Cornelius Vermuyden to reclaim the area’s ‘drowned lands’, and – not without local opposition – the River Don was straightened and re-routed. Water quantity is still a current issue today and Fishlake, Sykehouse and Snaith have suffered from recent severe flooding events.

Remnants of the ‘Great Yorkshire Fen’ remain and include the Great Ings near Fishlake – a local wetland bird hotspot.

Black-winged Stilts (an amber listed UK Bird of Conservation Concern) were recorded at Great Ings, Fishlake in 2022. Credit Ray Priestly.

We consider there to be an opportunity to form a new farmer cluster group to support farmers within the Lower Don catchment area to work together to improve the farmed environment and address water quality issues, including sediment and nutrient pollution. Please get in touch with Jenny Palmer, the Trust’s Agricultural Officer or email [email protected], if you’d like to express your interest in this potential project.

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