The Humberhead Peatlands National Nature Reserve (NNR) comprises of Thorne, Goole, and Crowle Moors, as well as Hatfield Moor and it represents the largest area of raised bog wilderness in lowland Britain at 2,887 hectares in size. The site is a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) for its habitat. It was designated a NNR in 1995 with a major extension in 2005.
Five thousand years ago most of the site had become woodland. The deep layer of peat which now covers the area is a result of the clearance of woodland by prehistoric man and enhanced by climate change leading to the gradual formation of boggy waterlogged conditions about 4,000 years ago.
The medieval peat winning industry was significant. Peat was also removed for animal litter in the 1880s, dug by hand and transported off site to processing works by a narrow gauge railway and by a horse drawn barge system on Thorne Moors. Extraction became mechanised in the 1960s by Fisons for horticultural purposes and latterly by Scotts UK with large efficient milling machines.
In 2001 an agreement between Scotts UK and Natural England’s predecessor, English Nature, ended large-scale peat production and extraction ceased in 2004 within the boundary of the SSSI.
Restoration of the site by English Nature and latterly Natural England (with the help from Scott’s experience of the site and their machinery) has included the creation of compartments with peat bunds so that water can be carefully controlled. This encourages the growth of peat-forming bog species, mainly comprising Sphagnum mosses and cotton grasses.
A wide range of habitats supports the 5,000 species of plants and animals that have been recorded on the Reserve of which more than 4000 are insects. There is a sizable population of adders on the Moors, best sighted at the start of the warmer Spring weather which tempts them out from their winter slumber. More than 200 bird species have been recorded and approximately 75 have bred. Winter visitors include whooper swans, pink-footed geese and short-eared owls. From March-July a very special summer visitor is the diminutive woodlark and oystercatcher, lapwing, ringed plover and great crested grebe can be spotted around the lakes.
The site is an internationally important breeding site for the nocturnal, insect-feeding nightjar and its presence was responsible for the area being declared as a Special Protection Area (SPA) under the European Birds Directive.
Leaflets are available on site at main access points, along with interpretation and maps of the extensive way-marked walks available for visitors. The nearest toilet facilities are in the main towns and villages.
There are a number of guided walks and events throughout the year and details can be found on this website and bookings should be made to the Humber to Pennines team on 0300 6000 060. There are opportunities to become an NNR volunteer and more details are available from this same number.
Location and access
Doncaster Borough has approx 1,237 ha of Open Access land, all of which lies within Natural England’s Thorne Moors, part of Humberhead Peatands NNR. Natural England also plan to (and have begun the process of) dedicate a further 2,328 ha of the NNR as Open Access Land.
Main towns near to the NNR are Doncaster and Scunthorpe. Hatfield Woodhouse on the A614, Thorne on the A18/M18/M180 and Crowle on the A161 serve the visitor access points. There are train stations at Thorne and Crowle call 01709 515151 for South Yorkshire transport. Bus services run to the villages, call 01302 734309 and 01652 657053 for the Tourist Information Centres covering the area.
Access to Hatfield Moor
There are two main car access points with parking at Ten Acre Lake and Boston Park both of which can be accessed off the A614 between Hatfield Woodhouse and Blaxton villages at the brown signs. Foot access is from Wroot village taking the finger post marking a bridleway and the brown sign at the western end of village and heading north across River Torne and continuing down grassy track to metal footbridge on Reserve boundary.
Facilities on Hatfield include wheelchair access, a viewing platform and mound, dipping platform and three bird hides.
Access to Thorne Moors
Park thoughtfully along Grange Road or at the Winning Post Centre (courtesy of Thorne and Moorends Council) in village of Moorends. Follow brown sign along disused road and take first left. Take the hardcore track which will bring you to a metal footbridge on Reserve boundary and near to site of the old Thorne Colliery. A cycle rack is available.
Foot access is down Jones’ Cable in Moorends village by leaving Marshland Road at brown sign going into Broadbent Gate Road. Turn left into Moor Lane and then right onto Jones’ Cable track and follow for a mile to Reserve boundary.
Crowle Moor is managed by the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust and access is from two points from the village of Crowle. Head north from Crowle market place on the A161. Turn left into Cross Street. Then turn right into North Street and second left into Low Cross Street . Turn right into Newbigg and at T junction, turn left or right for the two access points.
Thorne, Hatfield & Crowle are on the route of the 72km circular Peatlands Way which connects with the Trans Pennine Trail.