Kilnhurst Ings

Monday 27th April 2015

Rotary ditcher at Kilnhurst Ings

We've been digging ditches at Kilnhurst Ings to make a fantastic new wetland habitat to be enjoyed by wildlife and people.

In that part of South Yorkshire where the Pennines merge into the flat lands of the east, you’ll find a pub called The Ship, sixty odd miles inland. It says a lot about the history of Kilnhurst, and how a canal was made alongside the River Don to make the passage, ultimately to the Humber, Hull and the North Sea, more manageable.

Fast forward a century or two and the heavy industry of South Yorkshire (or what’s left of it), has no use for canals, long superseded by rail and road. Kilnhurst Ings has taken on another role as a green space enjoyed by local residents and their dogs.

So the arrival of dumper trucks and skips, and the activity of dredging and sluicing, has disturbed the peace and caused some dismay locally. A specialist machine called a rotary ditcher came up especially from Oxford recently. It is the only one in the country.

It created wide and shallow pools known as foot drains and scrapes. Black headed gulls flocked to follow the dredger, and now birds such as meadow pipits and pied wagtails will be nesting, so work will resume in August.

The end result will provide a better quality nature reserve for visitors, with positive ecological management. New ditch networks will enhance grassland and wetland features; meadow seeds and aquatic plants will be planted, and intrusive species will be controlled. Additional sluices will control water flow, industrial archaeology features from Kilnhurst Forge will be protected, and annual grazing will resume from April to October.

This is all part of the Living Don, a 25 year strategic partnership programme (since 2009), managing the River Don catchment in South Yorkshire, creating a green network from the Peak District to the Lower Don Valley, taking in the floodplains of Sheffield and Rotherham, and reducing the risk of flooding in the urban centres by encouraging wetland habitats.

Once work is completed more wildlife will be encouraged into the area by the creation of new pools and marshes, providing more habitats for wildfowl, water voles and dragonflies. And the anglers and dog walkers can get back to their peace and quiet.