Humberhead Peatlands National Nature Reserve

About the Peatlands

It’s hard to visit the remarkable Humberhead Peatlands NNR in South Yorkshire without feeling you've discovered something a bit special.The boggy, lowland mire that makes up the;reserve is one of the country’s rarest and most threatened habitats. Covering 2878 hectares, the equivalent of roughly 3,000 football pitches. The reserve is made up of Thorne, Goole, Crowle Moors and Hatfield Moors – all remnants of wetland that occupied the floodplain of the Humberhead Levels thousands of years ago. 

The mixture of habitats, including peatland, marsh, woodland and gravel pits, means the area
is incredibly rich in wildlife. The reserve supports over 5,000 species of plants and animals, of
which more than 4,000 are insects – many of these are scooped up in the air by one of the
reserve’s star attractions; the mysterious, nocturnal and very rare nightjar.

Events and volunteering

The reserve is open every day, all year round. There are many guided walks, open days and
events throughout the year including many suitable for families. For more information, follow
/humberheadpeatlandsnnr, see local press, or contact the Reserve Manager/Community Support
Officer for the Humberhead Peatlands NNR, Unit 1a, Green Tree Warehousing, Tudworth Road,
Hatfield, Doncaster, DN7 6HD. 07766 420290.

We are always looking for new recruits and have a wide range of practical habitat management tasks and work days for individuals and groups. Also species surveying and event and wardening tasks on the NNR. If you’ve got some spare time then why not think about helping us maintain the Humberhead Peatlands? Weekdays, evenings or weekends.

Special species

Thorne and Hatfield Moors are full of special plants and animals. Look out for the pink flower
of bog-rosemary or wild cranberry in the best boggy areas. You can enjoy several types of
orchid on the reserve.

Seasonal spectacles

Every season has its highlights at Humberhead, but a visit in late summer is always rewarding. Walk
across the Moors and you’ll be rewarded with the purple haze of flowering ling, the constant buzz of
insects, clouds of iridescent dragonflies and damselflies and drifts of colourful butterflies.
Earlier, in May and June, there is a fantastic display of cotton grass – like white clouds drifting across
the Moors.

Bountiful birds

In winter and summer the peatlands are fantastic places for bird watching. Breeding birds like
stonechat, tree pipits and grasshopper warbler are joined by many others passing through.
Spring brings the bubbling call of the curlew, while from March to July the diminutive woodlark is a
special visitor. Oystercatcher, lapwing, ringed plover and great crested grebe can all be
spotted around the lakes during the summer, whilst winter visitors include whooper swans,
pinkfooted geese and short-eared owls.

The moors are also home to some of England’s magnificent birds of prey, including marsh and
hen harrier, peregrine falcon, hobby, sparrowhawk and merlin.


There is a good population of Britain’s only venomous snake, the adder (locally-known as
‘hetherds’) on the Moors. They’re best seen at the start of the warmer spring weather, which tempts them out from their winter slumber. If you’re very lucky, you may witness one of nature’s strangest sights, the adder dance, when two males rear up and twist and turn around each other in defence of their territories. Other reptiles include grass snake and common lizard.

The Nightjar

The peatlands are an internationally important breeding site for the nocturnal,
insect-feeding nightjar. Once known locally as the ‘gabble ratchet’, in imitation of its strange churring call, the nightjar lives on the reserve where it hunts down moths and other flying insects. It is a master of camouflage too, and almost invisible on the ground, especially when
roosting or nesting in dry bracken, hence another of its names, the fern owl.

You may also spot butterflies such as the
brimstone, small copper and speckled wood,
while the large heath is a speciality on Thorne
and Crowle Moors.

Peatland plants

The plant life of the moors and peat bogs is very special. Wetter parts of the site are
dominated by peat-forming sphagnum mosses, cottongrass, bog-rosemary and the sinister, but
beautiful, insect-eating round-leaved sundew. There are two types of heather: cross-leaved
heath and ling.

Walking the Moors

There are picnic areas, benches and viewing points throughout the reserve, most of which are shown on interpretation boards at key access points.

The Peatlands Way long distance footpath crosses both Moors. The Countryside Rights of Way Act
2000 (CROW) gives you the right to walk freely in designated areas of open space. A large
proportion of the Moors is covered by the Act but not all so see maps on site for more details.