Location and Context
The lowland valley floor landscape character type (LCT) covers the low-lying land alongside the rivers Dearne, Dove, Don, and their larger tributaries, plus the Elsecar branch of the Barnsley Canal. This LCT runs close to the historic settlements of Wombwell, Brampton, Darfield, Bolton-Upon-Dearne, Wath-upon-Dearne, Mexborough, Conisbrough and Swinton.
Sediment deposited by the rivers creates fertile soils and a flat topography which is prone to seasonal flooding.
- Rivers are generally slow and meandering, although the canals and engineered channels are straighter.
- Pools of open water occur in natural and artificially-created wetlands and washlands, and in canal basins and reservoirs. Wetland sites (often with a high biodiversity and recreational value) occur along the valleys like beads on a string.
- The natural vegetation is wetland and wet woodland, although drainage has allowed arable and pastoral agriculture on the valley floor.
- Very few historic settlements, although very recently large-scale industrial/ service units and residential development has occurred in the valley floor e.g. around Manvers.
- Place names e.g. ‘ings’ reflect historic land uses.
- Historic roads cross valleys rather than running along them. However, canals, railways and modern roads follow the valley floors.
- High recreational value of wetland nature reserves and trails along former railway lines.
- Historic features include Monk Bretton Priory, stone bridges, Worsbrough Mill, historic drainage patterns and field systems.
- Industrial heritage is generally associated with transport, including canals (and their associated locks and basins), mills, railway lines, former sidings, bridges and old stations. The brickworks at Parkhill are also within this LCT. ‘Flashes’ caused by mining subsidence also occur on the valley floors.
- Huge changes have occurred in recent years, resulting in significant built development, and wetland creation and restoration.
Historic Landscape Character
The South Yorkshire Historic Environment Characterisation shows a variety of historic landscape patterns within the Lowland Valley Floor. In summary, the LCT includes: Wetland Enclosure; Agglomerated Enclosure; Surveyed Enclosure; Private Parkland; Sub-rural Fringe; Extractive; Industrial; Post-industrial
Perceptual and Special Qualities
The different land uses within the Lowland Valley Floor LCT enable a varied experience as one passes along it. Despite its proximity to settlement and development, much of the Lowland Valley Floor LCT has a remarkable sense of peace and detachment. The numerous wetlands (many of them nature reserves) which are connected by the trails along former railway lines are like oases, and feel far removed from the towns which surround them. The shallow topography of the river valleys enable big skies and a sense of space to be experienced. In many parts of the Lowland Valley Floor LCT it is also possible to experience tranquillity and a refreshing sense of being close to nature and in contact with wildlife. Just to the north of the DVLP area is the working Lowland Valley Floor landscape associated with Royston Coking Works. The Lowland Valley Floor is a highly dynamic landscape, physically (in terms of the constantly changing fluvial processes and the ‘flashes’ caused by mining subsidence) but also in terms of its evolution and development.
Natural and Cultural Heritage Sites
- There are a variety of natural and cultural sites within the Lowland Valley Floor LCT, reflecting the area’s pre-industrial, industrial and post-industrial heritage. It has an important role in terms of recreation and the socio-economic improvement of the area. Sites with an existing or potential heritage value include:
- Connections to Barnsley Main Pit Head.
- Monk Bretton Priory (Scheduled Monument).
- Worsbrough Mill and Country Park.
- Parkhill Brickworks.
- Carlton Bleachworks.
- Historic stone bridges.
- Long distance trails along disused railway lines, including the Trans Pennine Trail and the Dearne Valley Trail, Barnsley Boundary Walk and Rotherham Boundary Walk; Occasional surviving railway buildings e.g. Wath Station.
- The flagship RSPB Reserve at Old Moor (incorporating RSPB offices, visitor centre, café, education centre and bike hire facility), plus further Nature Reserves at Barnsley Dearne Valley Park, Broomhill Flash, Old Denaby, Edderthorpe Ings, Carlton Marsh, Parkhill and a new reserve a
- Adwick Bridge currently under construction.
- Denaby Ings is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, designated for its mosaic of open water, reed, swamp and neutral grassland, which the Dearne Valley once contained in abundance. It is one of the most diverse wetlands in the County.
- Manvers Boat Club.
Forces for Change and Threats to the Landscape
- Past loss of wetland habitats and grazing marsh as a result of drainage for agriculture and subsequent industrial development.
- Past channelling and artificial control of watercourses, reducing the flood holding capacity of the area.
- Past creation of washlands for flood control, and mining subsidence creating shallow ‘flashes’.
Neglect/ loss of pre-industrial and early industrial heritage, for example canal features, watermills etc.
- A loss of local distinctiveness, resulting from redevelopment of former mining sites with large-scale commercial and residential building. These new developments have no sense of connection with the surroundings, history or cultural heritage of the Dearne Valley.
- Large-scale and visually intrusive industrial and commercial developments on the valley floors, particularly around Manvers.
- A loss of physical and cultural connection with the rivers, and fragmentation of the landscape by new transport routes.
- Vandalism, particularly at easily-accessible sites such as Monk Bretton Priory.
- Future potential impacts of climate change, including increased flood risk, and changes in plant and animal species.