Landscape Character

Find out more about what makes the landscape of the Dearne so special.

The Area

The Dearne Valley is an excellent example of an ‘everyday’ formerly industrialised landscape which nevertheless contains rich cultural heritage, biodiversity, recreational use and has an important role as the daily surroundings for its resident population. It is in the eastern Pennine foothills of South Yorkshire, between the towns of Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster. The Valley follows the River Dearne and is a semi-rural landscape.

The DVLP area is defined by the valley through which the River Dearne flows. The Valley extends from Elsecar Heritage Centre in the west, skirts the southern boundary of Barnsley, before sweeping in a south-easterly direction to Conisbrough in the east. As a consequence, it encompasses the Rivers Dearne and Dove, historic buildings, mining villages, woodlands, grasslands and a string of wetland jewels, with the RSPB Old Moor and wetland nature reserves at its heart.

Further downstream, the waters join the River Don and Don Gorge near Sprotbrough and Conisbrough, featuring both the Conisbrough Viaduct and Conisbrough Castle. The latter is featured in Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe and casts a dramatic shadow over the area. Sprotbrough Viaduct, now part of the Sustrans Cycle Network, and formerly part of the LNER rail network, dramatically spans the Don Gorge and provides a spectacular southern gateway to the Dearne Valley.

The Landscape Character

A Landscape Character Assessment (LCA) was commissioned from Fiona Fyfe Associates and this was completed in February 2012. The key characteristics of the Dearne Valley identified within it can summarised as follows:

  • Widespread evidence of industrial activity including mine buildings, former spoil tips and iron and steel plants.
  • Complex mix of built-up areas, industrial land, dereliction and farmed open country.
  • Many areas affected by urban fringe pressures creating fragmented and downgraded landscapes.
  • Substantial areas of intact agricultural land in both arable and pastoral use.
  • Small, fragmented remains of pre-industrial landscape and semi-natural vegetation, including many areas of woodland, river valley habitats, subsidence flashes and other relict habitats.
  • Ever-present urban influences from major cities, smaller industrial towns and mining villages.
  • Widespread influence of transport routes including canal, road, and rail, with ribbon developments emphasising the urban influence in the landscape.
  • Rolling landforms with hills, escarpments and broad valleys.
  • Local variations in landscape character reflecting underlying geology.
  • Strong cultural identity arising from history of coal mining and other heavy industry.

The landscapes within these Landscape Character Areas are comprised of several Landscape Character Types (LCTs). LCTs can be regarded as the ‘building blocks’ of the landscape. Natural England defines them as:

Distinct types of landscape that are relatively homogenous in character. They are generic in nature in that they may occur…in different parts of the country, but wherever they occur they share broadly similar combinations of geology, topology, drainage patterns, vegetation and historical land use and settlement pattern. (CA and SNH, 2002, 2.8)

In local authority or similar assessments, the emphasis is on the identification of smaller scale, more fine-grained LCTs, which represent more local patterns of character and contribute strongly to a more local ‘sense of place’. (CA and SNH, 2002, 6.15)

This Dearne Valley Landscape Character Assessment has identified five LCTs in the Dearne Valley, namely:

  • Lowland Valley Floor
  • Open Coalfield Farmland
  • Wooded Coalfield Farmland
  • Designed Estate
  • Magnesian Limestone

Further details of each of these LCTs can be found through the links on this page.