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Sprotbrough Flash YWT South Yorkshire

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Ken Whitehead

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Site Details

Picturesque Sprotbrough Flash is one of the richest wildlife sites in South Yorkshire and is owned and managed by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. A mosaic of open water, wetland, woodland and limestone grassland, the site offers a year-round treat for wildlife enthusiasts. The impressive diversity of wildlife found at Sprotbrough Flash results from the range of habitats which have developed on the unusual magnesian limestone bedrock. The nature reserve is located in the Don Gorge, where the River Don cuts through the elevated limestone ridge to the west of Doncaster. Magnesian limestone formed in a shallow tropical sea in the Permian period, some 280 million years ago. Now this rare rock type is only found in a narrow band running approximately north-south from Durham to Nottinghamshire. Due to its value as a building material and its many industrial uses, magnesian limestone (dolomite) has been widely quarried in the local area. The site protects fragments of ancient woodland on the slopes of the gorge, while wildlife-rich grassland can be found on the limestone plateau and a restored quarry site at the north end of the nature reserve. The limestone woodland, protected within the nature reserve, is dominated by ash, wych elm and sycamore, with a varied shrub layer typical of this woodland type, with species such as hazel, spindle and guelder rose. There are some magnificent specimens of small-leaved lime and an avenue of mature yew, and the woodland immediately to the north west supports a nationally notable array of ancient woodland invertebrates. The wood is home to good populations of breeding woodland birds - all three species of woodpecker have been recorded here. Small areas of limestone grassland occur on the plateau at the top of the wooded slopes, supporting a dizzying variety of specialist limestone wildflowers and insects. Over recent years the areas of this valuable habitat has been significantly increased through scrub removal and its condition has been enhanced by the introduction of conservation grazing, using traditional breeds of sheep. Botanical highlights include good displays of Cowslip, Common Spotted and Pyramidal Orchids, with Common Twayblade, Bee Orchid, Carline Thistle, Quaking Grass and Autumn Gentian among many others. Brown Hares can be seen on the grassland and dashing across the adjacent arable fields, while Grass Snakes are also a common sight basking on the grassland in the morning sun. Bones found locally indicate that Woolly Mammoth and Woolly Rhinoceros lived in the Sprotbrough area during the last Ice Age. When this period ended, approximately 12,000 years ago, water from the melting ice-sheets forced its way through a fault in the elevated limestone ridge, creating the Don Gorge which dominates the local landscape today. Coal mining extended underneath the Don Gorge causing subsidence and then flooding. Visitors looking for a longer walk can climb up the side of the Don Gorge to reach ancient woodland and limestone grassland. Refreshments are available on the nature reserve's doorstep at The Boat Inn public house.

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