Publishing Note: This study is presented as an unedited version and may be altered and updated ad-hoc on this website, but Natural England are desirous at some future time to publish it. Should that happen the layout and maybe some content could alter. The poor photos were all incompetently taken by me. Mark Paine was the reluctant model on Hatfield for the purpose of scale. The other rough model on Thorne was me.    

© Bryan Wainwright, Natural England 2020.


The landscape of the Humberhead Levels was formed during the last interglacial periods and comprised all the flatlands formed from the moraine silts of the melting ice to the south of the Vale of York ice sheet and Lake Humber that followed. It extended from the south end of the Vale of York around Selby to the first higher ground to the west of Doncaster and down in a narrowing triangle to Nottingham in the south, with the banks of the River Trent forming the eastern limit. It would have been one great marsh and wetland, which drained into the Rivers Ouse and Humber, and would have been nearly totally inundated by brackish seawater on the highest tides. Only elevated ground could support trees to maturity and this is where the towns developed and some such as Thorne, and Hatfield (means heath field) got their names.

This was a very changeable landscape, after each glaciation the lay of the land and the courses of all the many rivers would alter. As well as following any huge tides. The last such changing of river courses happened in the Roman Period, when they deliberately flooded the area (see below) and they were probably also responsible for the Dutch River cutting and some other lesser water management. As the waters largely receded after the last glaciation the land took on a more permanent, if wet, state and the major depressions caused by the ice-sheets became shallow lakes or meres where the flow of water was minimal and on the outer edges. These depressions were ideal for peat forming sphagnum mosses to grow and lowland peat bogs formed. The two largest remnants are now Thorne and Hatfield Moors which eventually became The Humberhead Peatlands National Nature Reserve, other smaller parts remained too, such as Epworth Turbury. With changing wetter and drier periods trees came and went in this landscape and evidence of their former extent can be found preserved in the remaining peat.

The area teemed with wildlife and in warmer periods must have resembled the wetlands of today around the Mediterranean, and this was reflected in the birds and other species present. There are early records of Ruff breeding in 1586 (the first ornithological record for Thorne Moors) and even up to Victorian times duck decoys were thriving businesses and from the uncountable numbers 300 ducks could be caught in one session. Geese (of three species: Pink-footed mainly and Greylag and apparently Bean Geese) were said to be present in immense numbers (Casson 1829) or great flocks numbering 10,000 would resort to the moors to escape harrying of Humber punt gunners (Woodruffe-Peacock 1920/21). This rich landscape attracted the interests of man from the earliest times and increasingly man has left his mark on the landscape. The area may have remained largely a wild and lightly populated area, were it not for rapacious eyes of the establishment. Certainly, the inhabitants did not want change, but King James I was contemptuous of their independent nature and the almost impossible task of assessing their means and thus taxing them. By largely draining the land and putting it into known private property as arable or pasture, taxing would become routine, and this, with the help of the Dutch drainage engineer Vermuyden, is what happened. The much later land enclosure acts did much the same thing, taking the three-field strip system with many owners and the commons out of community use and into private ownership of the lords of the manor, who became immensely richer and so were not too adverse to pay more taxes.


In this study an attempt has been made to document the woody plants of the Humberhead Levels area both in an historical and present day context. An effort has been made to try and assess the number of species and provide an inventory of the largest (and probably oldest) and most notable trees on both moors. While none, except the one very largest English Oak and one Common Hawthorn are ancient or veteran trees there are non-the-less some large, attractive and interesting trees on the reserve which are well worth preserving, particularly from their stature and wildlife value and if cared for may well become veteran and ancient. Some idea of status and occurrence of each species is given, though undoubtedly new specimens will be found in new areas in the future. Because it is largely arbitrary what is a tree or shrub, other ‘shrubs’ or woody plants have been included but not exhaustively, but not with as much coverage and without measurements as this is not necessary. Yet other smaller woody plants have been omitted.

It is worth recording where these trees are so as to safeguard them into the future, when hopefully they will be measured again (grid coordinates of the more noteworthy are held by NE). In this study as usual, Thorne Moors refers to the larger of the contiguous moors the others contingents of which are Goole Moor, Crowle Moor, Snaith & Cowick Moor and Rawcliffe Moor. It also for this study as in previous studies refers to immediately adjacent areas which may have been bog in the past or were within the historic Hatfield Chase area. These areas harbour other species and may have some possible influence over varieties of woody plants that colonise. This includes all the former colliery area and former and present gardens of dwellings and the public footpath of Jones’ Cable and on Crowle a private adjacent conservation area owned by Mr Johnson. Hatfield Moors is a separate slightly smaller entity of the Humberhead Peatlands NNR about 2.5 miles south of Thorne. It has extensive adjacent semi-natural areas, but only the immediate bits are considered, such as the prison, and a few parts that are private. The most significant of these, is Lindholme Island which is a Buddhist retreat in the centre of the reserve. Of course the entire Hatfield Chase of old, which probably existed in some form since Norman times, covered a much greater area than the remaining two central peat bog areas that remain today, but the actual extent varied over time, until a more fixed measure was gained after the introduction of marker boundary stones and was then in fact 73,515 acres (29,750 hectares the largest chase in England), and maybe some old boundary trees remain in field hedgerows and woods outwith the present reserve. Certainly some of the largest trees are on former or extant County Constabulary Boundaries. Trying to define the former exact boundary by use of the still present preamble is not possible because most features are totally gone or have been altered. This applies to the aforementioned stone markers, marker trees (generally ancient oaks) watercourses such as rivers and gymes, which have been altered and houses or farm buildings long since gone, or even whole villages. But as part of this study an attempt will be made to give some historical context to woodlands in the area of the former Chase and their gradual demise to what is present and what little has been allowed to grow wild since.

History of Woodland at Thorne

The history of the vegetation of the area is fairly well known in broad terms due to pollen samples from the peat. This takes us back to 13,000 B.C. then up to the Victorian era, but the modern era is relatively unknown, from pollen, due to the removal of virtually all the upper layers of peat over most of the site. However, quite accurate maps appeared from this period on, and so do some written records, so all is not lost. In this study we are concerned with the period from just before historical times to present.

From the pollen evidence we can see there were major clearances at 1740 to 1130 B.C. and 1440-840 B.C. at Thorne for agriculture (Turner 1962). For Hatfield main clearances for agriculture were from 790 to 390 B.C. and 370 to 70 B.C. (Smith 1985). The areas cleared were very extensive and most primary forest and in fact most of England’s wildwood had been cleared to near its present extent from long before Roman times (Rackham 1986) and this applies in the immediate area (Buckland 1979). Subsequent to the Roman period the remaining mainly regrowth, woodland diminished by about 50% to near present. Due to the nature of the very wet land around the peat moors, old woodland was scarce around here at least since drier pre-Roman times and probably long before (Rackham 1986).

The indigenous Brigantines (Cimbri) tribes used native woodlands as a refuge to launch their attacks on the Romans, having no fixed dwellings, killing in total 50,000 Romans or allies in this area alone (Pryme 1701) (from Severus, Roman Emperor from 193, who visited Britain in 208 where he died in 211). The Romans used natural forces of fire and water throughout their empire to defeat their enemies and here was no exception. Taking advantage of a particularly hot dry summer and SW winds they decided to torch the woodland to flush and kill or enslave the tribes. It would seem they waited till summer when winds were invariably from the south-west. This reference to burning is further evidence that it was mainly a forest of Scots Pine as this is the only type of native forest that will burn standing (Rackham 1986, 2006). However there was far more dead brush wood generally in forests then and also heathland plants such as Gorse and Heather would burn and this would undoubtedly have helped the fire, also where the forest stood on peat it would obviously burn stronger. This fire devastated half the woodland around here and the Romans then set their subdued English tribes to chop most of the rest down. They also breached the banks of the River Trent and flooded the area for many miles to drive the remainder out. This flood was so extensive it covered all the Chase and land to the Trent, forever altering the courses of the rivers that ran through the Chase. A much wetter climate succeeded this period too and it seems forest did regrow but did not recolonise to the former extent and instead the mires increased.

In Roman times the area around Doncaster was described as a forest of mainly ‘fir and pitch trees’ (fir was a general name for any evergreen conifer tree, pitch means Scots Pine). Pitch was used for caulking boats to stop them leaking. Caesar was specific when he said that no fir-trees in his time grew in Britain. Speaking about these killed ancient trees Pryme (who was Thorne’s Reverend) cites a forest of pitch (Scots Pine) but also of “oaks, birch, beech, yew, thorn, willows, ash, &c.” (Pryme 1701). Pryme went on that the trees lay by their roots and “the tops were commonly in north-east”, and a “3d part of all being pitch trees.” Another interesting observation by Pryme “It was lately observed in digging the pit of a great decoy in these levels, that the roots of the firs always stood in the sand, and the oaks in the clay.”

Vermuyden said “These waters, as well as the boggs and morasses which they helped form, were accumulated by the destruction of the great forest by the Romans; that the trees which they left standing, after having set the brushwood on fire, being destitute of that support, as well as scorched and partially killed by the flames were easily overthrown by the strong wind; all which trees falling across the rivers which ran through this low country, soon dammed up the same, turned it into a great lake, and gave origen to the great turf moors that are here, by the gyrations and workings of the waters, the precipitation there form of terrestrial matter, the consumption of petrification of rotten boughs or branches, and vast increase in water moss, which wonderfully flourishes and grows upon such rotten ground, which even now since the drainage, and since that country is laid dry for miles round about – yet for all that are so turbid with water, and so soft and rotten, that they will scarce bear men to walk upon them.” (from Tomlinson 1882).

The majority of the extinctions (of insects mainly) from the local peat record are associated with ancient woodland habitat especially native pine forests. Many of the rare and nationally extinct beetle species also had a continental distribution and are not found in more oceanic western parts of Britain and NW Europe (Dinnin 1997).

After the Roman period and running up to the Norman period there was agricultural decline and forest grew back in swathes (Smith 1985) and from then on increased mainly due to 35% (some say 50%) of the British population being killed off by plague, so that the population went from 4 million to maybe 2 million. From then until the 16th Century, Leyland (Henry VIII antiquarian) informs us “The principal woods of the isle (Axholme) is at Bellegrave Park by Hepworth (Epworth). There is also a praty wood at Crulle (Crowle), a lordship a late longing to Selleby (Selby) monasterie”.

Dugdale said of the Commission appointed to look into the possible drainage of the Chase by King James I. “The Isle of Axholme and the bogs was considered to nourish beggars and idle persons.” And that the inhabitants abused their rights of common by taking the kings game, overgrazing, taking standing wood (as opposed to lying dead wood which commoners could take) and working land for crops which they had no right to (Tomlinson 1882).

Vermuyden drained Hatfield Chase (decree signed 1626 with King Charles I) in five years and it cost £55,825 for labour and materials and altogether £200,000 including compensation for land etc. George Stovin, who became Acting Commissioner of Sewers in Hatfield Chase collected all he could about the area and its drainage and intended, but never did, publish it. It is 458 pages long.

Up until enclosure the moorland scrub and woodland was cleared by landowners from their property into the moors, all land thus ‘improved’ could be claimed. The length of this strip was not set, only the width and this was set at a Dutch cable length (kabellengte) 232.3 yards (212.4 meters) which fits fairly well with spacing on the maps. This may possibly have been corrupted in English for instance in the name Jones’ (Johan’s?) Cable (kabel) later which is now subdivided.

The Inclosure Act of Hatfield Manor was in 1811 and enclosed 2,300 acres between the moors. Following this was the 1824 Ordnance Survey map, very little woodland is shown in the vicinity of the moors, except for the Western edge. This map just predates the next field Enclosure award for Hatfield, Thorne and Fishlake of 1825. Apart from that which is still extant, such as that around Bell’s Pond, was a particular interesting piece which sat on the W side of Thorne Waste Drain and immediately N of Elmhirst Pump. It was triangular in shape and the long side which abutted the drain was about 500m, with the shortest side to the south being about 200m this gives an approximate area of 9.5ha. The wood was in an area known as Tweenbridge and called Elmhirst Plantation but many locals called it Bluebell Wood as there were native Bluebells present. It seemed to have plenty of English Oak trees and this along with the Bluebells suggests it could have been at least in some parts on a quite ancient previous wood. Indeed many huge oaks were hauled up from the peat here (see later). It was totally destroyed in the 1950 or 1960s for agriculture, the only vestige being the area at the N end and E of the drain now known as Woodpecker Corner and at Elmhirst were some big oaks from that period or before and others survived as they were on the moor side of Thorne Waste Drain. Both native Hyacinthoides non-scripta and Spanish Bluebells Hyacinthoides hispanica are found here today. About 0.5 km into the field to the W were two very much smaller outlier bits of woodland of which I have no details. Heading further S along Thorne Waste Drain there was woodland in the area that is now Elmhirst Wood just N of Casson’s Garden. The largest piece of woodland marked though is from the present southernmost point of the moors mainly along the E side of Thorne Waste Drain with a bit on the W side also, known as Whitaker’s Plantation and extending to about 50ha. This woodland reached halfway to North Soak Drain which later was transformed into part of the Stainforth & Keadby Canal. Only the small western part of the wood now remains (though altered in shape by slight extension) and still goes by the same name.

Following the Enclosure Awards, most hedges in this planned countryside were planted, (Rackham 1986) and some woodland planting was undertaken as former open field, ridge and furrow systems and some common land was parcelled into private landholdings. The extent of the planned countryside in this area can be seen by the larger uniform oblong fields used for arable crops in the former Chase area as opposed to say Moss, Sykehouse and Fosterhouses area of small irregular shaped hedged fields of unplanned countryside. The latter unplanned countryside was mainly pasture land and therefore had hedges of old long before any enclosure. This land was not enclosed, either because the land was not good enough for more profitable arable land or because it flooded in winter (as much of it still does, for instance Went Ings) and so was only fit for grazing or hay meadows.

During the Twentieth Century however, nearly every hedge was grubbed out and woodland, previously planted mainly for game cover, much reduced. Even in the Twenty-first Century old hedgerows are still being ripped out, most notably in 2019 a hedgerow from Medge Hall NW to Pony Bridge. Very little woodland has actually been planted around the moors, though some farmers have proved the exception, some planting or extending existing wildlife or game cover to compensate a little for the removed hedgerows, for example at Top House Farm.

History of Woodland at Hatfield

Woodland at Hatfield has a slightly different history to Thorne, in that there are deposits of glacial sand and gravel, some of which were raised above the surrounding inundated mire. These sandy areas were where the larger majority of Scot’s Pine woodland grew along with huge areas of heath and gorse, fragments of which can be found throughout the area. In Roman and later times extensive areas had already been cleared either for pasture or crops and these areas are sometimes referred to in connection with battles such as at Austerfield (under the Roman Ostorius) and High Levels (the Battle of Hatfield Chase 12th October 633 in which the Northumbrian King Edwin and his eldest son were killed). Such places as Lindholme Island therefore managed to retain some exceptionally old trees, particularly English Oak in a parkland like setting and also some fine pines some of which may be related to pines from Roman times with others obviously planted and not of local origin or even of another species. Also present are some very old Alder coppice, which perhaps was much more extensive when this product was more important for firewood and fencing, it also made the best charcoal for gunpowder.

Uses of Wood from the Chase

Apart from the above mentioned coppiced Alder, there was also coppiced Hazel (or Filbert) both of which were most likely used to produce charcoal, firewood, and pale and fencing, but other older uses have been found. A Neolithic trackway was found W of Thorne on Nun Moors and Bronze Age trackway on Hatfield. The latter made of pine with a bit of birch.

Pryme tells us of recovered bog pines and oaks from the mire were often sold for timber, pine being the most common. “Firs of which there are more than any other some xxxvi long (36 yards).” Of oaks he said “Oaks have been found 20, 30, and 35 yards long, yet wanting many yards at the small end.” (Pryme 1701). Some of these were very large the largest noted being one found by Mr Edward Canby “found an oak tree within his moors, 40 yards (36.6 m) long, 4 yards (3.7 m) in diametrically thick at the great end, 3 yards (2.7 m) and a foot in the middle, and 2 yards (1.8 m) at the small end” (Pryme 1701) his land being in the Nun Moor and Tweenbridge area of the aforementioned Bluebell Wood. This equates to double the girth of the present largest living oaks at the thick end, so around 11 meters circumference! and the trunk length is also much shorter on these living trees. Uses of these bog oaks was often for building work but also one was used to make a huge coffin like chest which can still be seen in Hatfield Church today. Other uses for particularly bog pines was ships masts.

It was remarked that 2000 cart loads of tree trunks are removed from the bog each year (De la Pryme 1701). Stovin says “I have known an oak tree taken up that afforded a thousand pales five foot and a half long and from six to seven inches broad, for which I paid ten shillings a hundred, besides several loads of firewood.”

Present Woodland at Thorne

If we discount extensive scrubby birch which has invaded much of the site post peat winning and the scattered older birch and focus only on woodland not on pure peat, then there is not a great extent. A natural bog would have had a lagg margin where there would be an intergrade or ecotone from peat bog to mineral soil fen which would have been covered with carr woodland (woodland on a wetland) and open fen. This is almost totally absent today with only small areas of artificial fen which has developed on poorly human warped areas or where substrate has been excavated when ditch digging.

Will Pits

As mentioned this is one area of woodland that developed on poor warp land, any shallow peat having already been removed. This Will Pits, or Willow Pits as they were (not Will Pitts as given in some publications/maps; Shearburn & Pitts engineers who did some of the drains and warping around here were not involved) is the greatest area of woodland at Thorne and is located on the east side of Thorne Moors. There was a Will Pits pool on the bog but Will Pits wood dates from around the mid-19th Century warping period, though there may have been some willows there before this. Here marginal warpland was abandoned and left to overgrow. This woodland can therefore be dated to when Swinefleet Warping Drain was dug from 1821 to 1845 (the drain was extended a couple of times following the initial main cut) so around 200 years. The wood has a fairly diverse mix of trees for carr woodland which is often species poor due to usually poor soils and standing water, including in descending order of presence 5+ species of willows, Silver and Downy Birch, Alder, Hawthorn, English Oak, Holly, Elder, Rowan, Aspen, Alder Buckthorn and Yew. The odd bit of Rhododendron that had got hold here has been eliminated. The wood was much more extensive having been reduced by about a third in the 1980s by the peat company, with that area becoming Will Pits Scrape. The peat company also dug the fire water pits of the name, at least one of which is still a pond full of sticklebacks. The photo below is not a pond but the seasonal flooding of the wood over much of its area.

Pony Bridge Wood

The second largest area of mature woodland is situated in the SE corner, and though much of it is relatively young mature birch there are older sections. These older parts are like Will Pits, situated on poorly warped land that was not used for agriculture and includes some English or Pedunculate Oak and even some hybrids with Sessile Oak. Other species are 5+ willows, Rowan, Hawthorn and Elderberry. Infiltrating from the margins is rhododendron, but this has undergone large scale management clearance work from the adjacent areas and although it won’t be eliminated for many years it is however just stumps with some regrowth in most parts now.

Limberlost Wood

A very nice woodland of mature birch in the southernmost part of Thorne Moors on mainly drier higher ground peat with little species diversity, there being odd Rowan and Sweet Chestnut present along with Common Hawthorn.


Formerly Casson’s Gardens; is a peat area in the south of Thorne Moors where there was much rhododendron, now much reduced, but also extensive areas of birch, with a lot of mature examples. Variety is somewhat limited and apart from the aforementioned species there is little else apart from some willows.

Woodpecker Corner

Though small this is the most diverse patch of woodland on the moors, being situated on warpland, some species not expected on the acidic peat include Beech and Common Lime. Other species not found elsewhere or rare on the moors includes Horse Chestnut, Swedish Whitebeam and Norway Maple. The wood may be a remnant of the much more extensive ‘Bluebell Wood’ which was razed more than half a century ago and covered Elmhirst and other areas W of Thorne Waste Drain to the extent of 9.5ha and was largely native woodland predominately of English Oaks.

A survey with photographs (above) was undertaken by myself in 1991 (as a young English Nature volunteer) of this wood, and it may be noted there have been small changes, mainly due to a few large trees being lost to fire (generally from misguided camp fires). There is much young growth of several species.

Former Colliery Area

Some woodland exists in this area on poor warpland, and the underlying clay, which in places is not very far down, has been exposed by ditch and pond digging. Bell’s Wood is the main area here. It is largely Sycamore with some lovely young oak woodland and much hawthorn. None of the woodland is particularly old and indeed most did not survive during the miners’ strike 1984-85. The now mostly coppiced woodland has regrown strongly. It does include a lot of Wild Privet and quite a few nice Hazel or Filbert bushes and two Sweet Chestnuts formerly trees but now coppice (and at least one sapling). A Norway Maple avenue was planted along part of the former colliery road. There are several mature Norway Maples. The only elms, Wych Elm, are found here and number 16, but with some of the largest already dying from Dutch Elm Disease.

Black Poplar Populus nigra hybrids (Populus x canadensis type) with N American Eastern Cottonwood P. deltoids exist on the eastern margin of the Moorends Colliery Recreation Ground, which most conform to the old variant ‘Railway Poplar’. White Poplar are found around the Recreation Ground boundary. On other colliery land covered with spoil it is mostly birch and willow scrub but also with plenty of young oak. On the level colliery spoil there are quite a lot of Cultivated Apple trees (40+), which have regressed to unrecognisable strains. There is a medium Lombardy Poplar Populus nigra ‘Italica’ on the flat colliery spoil and several smaller ones elsewhere and some Scot’s Pine and there are a few Dogwood. There are quite a few small Swedish Whitebeam (maybe 20). Field Rose is scarce but Dog Rose is present here and around other margins. Broom is present in some areas, such as along the former colliery road, Gorse is very rare. In Bell’s Wood there are five mature False Acacia. Wall Cotoneaster and Buddleia are widespread. There are other species of Cotoneaster also. There are 3+ Cultivated Pear trees, with 2 rather old ones (with some saplings) in the Inkle Moor meadows hedges, and the other mature one is at the S end of the spoil on the flat area behind the former colliery compound.

Inkle Moor

This area is very interesting in that it retains the only vestige of old unwarped fenland in this area. The original covering of peat if any must have been removed long before any major drainage works. The reason this strip was spared from warping is that the owners would not pay the main drainage and warping contractor Makin Durham to participate in the land improvement program. The area has been dug for clay for the local brick kilns, and therefore as a consequence has some interesting small water bodies, most notably Inkle Moor Pond. This pond has retained a remarkable relic assemblage of fen invertebrates and is one of the most important water bodies in Yorkshire for water beetles (Hammond 2017). The trees, particularly the Grey Willow are severely encroaching on this pond. Other common species include English Oak, Ash, and some large unclipped Hawthorn hedges. In amongst the hedges are other interesting species such as two very large Crab Apples. Exotics include one mature Swedish Whitebeam, also the largest of the moors, laurels and hybrid poplars. Along the margins with the railway are some very straight trunk tall White Willows, that resemble Cricket Bat Willow variety; though whether they are or not I cannot say.

Jones’ Cable

This is a one mile strip of land belonging to Thorne Moorends Council its alternative name being Council Strip. It was for many years just a lane but eventually gained Public Footpath status, and is a main access point to the NNR at its SW edge via a colliery area link. It was originally 60m wide. Forty years or more ago it consisted of a raised bank, which formerly was used for council tipping of mainly ash and rubble. On both sides were two large ditches and both were lined with huge mature very species diverse hedgerows particularly at the eastern end towards the moors. It was much barer to the west and overrun will Rosebay Chamerion angustifolium where ash had been dumped and towards the houses were many garden escapes such as Japanese Rose. It was devastated on 9th and 10th November 1984 when a local farmer decided to rip out the outer two most mature hedges and put plastic drainage pipes in the two outermost ditches and fill them with soil and claim the land for agriculture and also at around the same time removed the hedgerow from the end of this path to Woodpecker Corner and the two brick bridges at the each end of this bit. The link to the north to the colliery area here was treated likewise. This theft quite rightly caused public outrage but following letters to the press, the council refused to take him to court but he was asked to plant some trees. About 200 tiny saplings of various species, some of which did not grow here before (Field Maple for example) were planted but were a sorry compensation for the mature oak, Ash and full sized Hawthorn hedges lost. The result is a public footpath which is now only 45 m wide at its widest W end and only 30 m at the moors end, where a huge Dogwood grows. Eventually, when Tweenbridge Windfarm was built it was extended to meet the moors at the colliery area again.


The deep pools here were dug into the deepest depths of peat to harvest the densest basal layers, which contained natural peat wax which is a dark waxy substance extracted from the peat using organic solvents. Useful products extracted by heating the peat in a kiln and condensing and distilling the gases include: methyl or wood alcohol, ammonia or ammonium sulphate, and acetic acid or acetate of lime, which are obtained by treating the tar water or lighter distillates; and illuminating oils, lubricating oils, paraffin wax, phenol (creosote oil and carbolic acid), and asphalt, which are obtained from the tar (Davis 1953). These products were particularly important during the war years when oil was difficult to import and the paraffin from here was used to run tractors on the farms. After the war, when oil became easily available again, it was no longer practical or economic to continue and the industry died. Many trees here were of practical use with much Sycamore coppice present, some of which was last cut during the miners’ strike and Cultivated Apple and mature hawthorn hedges around small meadows. The very deep peaty pools have mature birches and young oaks around. There is also plenty of willow on the margins and at the extreme south end of Longthorpe’s the largest single stem tree on the moors a huge White Willow stands.

North-Western Goole Moor

A spur of moorland juts N at the W side of Goole Moor, often referred to as Northern Goole Moor (some of which is privately owned). It is perhaps the only area of virtually unworked peat on Thorne Moors, but parts seem to have been cleared of vegetation ready for warping as it is not shown on earlier maps, and a warping drain was dug across its south part going E-W this being on the County Constabulary line where some seven huge oaks stand. Being higher ground, it perhaps couldn’t be warped and was left to nature and is now mainly a private area for pheasant shoots. Other species include willows, with a huge example of White Willow present, a fairly large stand of Aspen, birches, some Alder (including a huge coppice which has the largest girth of any tree on the moors) hawthorn and Elder.

Marginal Woodlands

Some remnants of wooded areas and of overgrown boundary features (perhaps along a warping drain or an isolated corner) hold a few nice trees. The most notable area is NE Goole Moor where some nice old hawthorns are left from the boundary. Also present are a few mature Aspen and some huge White Willows. On the actual peat moors there are only one or two Guelder Rose on the NW side but not far off, in less acidic farmland there is plenty. Gorse is scarce but present along Thorne Waste Drain between Woodpecker Corner and Elmhirst and also at the colliery area. Alder is scattered throughout all the edge of the moors, much being ancient former coppice.

Crowle Moor

Crowle Moor is owed by the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust and fortunately never suffer from open peat milling. Some private parcels of peat moor were still being extracted for peat even after the handover of Thorne Moors in 2005, but all have since been bought out and ceased. Crowle unlike Thorne has several houses with large gardens on its edge, with some exotic species planted there; for example Eucalyptus, laurels and co. whilst there are some exotics many have a lot of native vegetation such as birch, willow and pine. There is also a conservation grazing area with some Gorse which has been planted with standard native trees. Across Crowle Moor the species to be found are: Leylandii and other exotic evergreens, Scots Pine, White Willow, Grey Willow, Goat Willow, Golden Weeping Willow, (probably other willows too), Aspen, Silver Birch, Downy Birch, Common Alder, Beech, English oak, Cultivated Apple, other fruit trees in gardens, Rowan, Common Hawthorn, Gorse, Blackthorn, Japanese Cherry, laurel, Sycamore, Holly, Rhododendron, Dog Rose, Eucalyptus, Ash, Elder, Wild Privet, Garden Privet.

Introduced Non-Native Species of Trees and Shrubs on Thorne Moors

Some species have already been mentioned. The most widespread of introduced woody stemmed plants is Rhododendron Rhododendron ponticum and varieties thereof. This originated from two main sources and areas, namely the ‘gardens’ of Makin Durham on the W side and William Casson on the SW side. These gardens specialized in the propagation of ericaceous garden plants for sale to the public. Of course on abandonment of the gardens the rhododendron ran riot over the peat moors covering around 200 hectares, before large scale clearance and control. Casson grew all manner of plants and his gardens were a place for rich locals to come and spend a day. Fire was always a constant hazard and Casson placed notices up which read.

Ye who come here to laugh and talk,

To smoke a pipe, or crack a joke,

I’d have you know it is my desire,

You do not set this place on fire.

Botanist also came, particularly to see Rannoch Rush Scheuchzeria palustris which was an extreme rarity even then, located at a bog pool a little way onto the moors on Casson’s land.

Sheep’s Laurel Kalamia angustifolia is found in the S part of the moors towards Limberlost. There are about four Cherry Laurel Prunus laurocerasus bushes on the NW side of Goole Moor, none very big at present.

Present Woodland at Hatfield

Surrounding Hatfield is a more diverse landscape than found around Thorne Moors. This is mostly the result of natural land features such as old and existing river courses. Besides these linear features with often accompanying meadows there are the extensive deposits of sand and gravel which have been worked for a long time leaving a legacy of old quarry workings which have mostly turned into ponds and been developed for fishing, water sport, holiday chalets or nature conservation. Further variation is found with the small rises left by drifted deposits of glacial material, particularly Lindholme Island. The former airfield and prison area and gardens also contribute variety.

Lindholme Island

This was not surveyed by Ian McDonald for his Flora by Foot (2005-2006) as it is held privately. Some of it is SSSI however. This site (48.5 ha) therefore yielded some new species; all non-native however. A surrounding woodland comprises mainly Silver Birch with some Rhododendron. Most of the notable trees are near the buildings, except for the largest English Oaks. Also near the buildings are some planted non-native species, most of which are not found elsewhere on the reserve. Native species include Yew, Scot’s Pine, Beech and Common Lime. The largest oaks however are the trees which most draw attention with their impressive size. Non-natives include Monkey Puzzle, Leylandii, European Larch, Sitka Spruce, Corsican Pine, Cultivated Pear, Cultivated Apple, Cultivated Cherry, Portugal Laurel, Sycamore and False Acacia.

Sandy Lane

This appears to be a very old route (now private in long stretches) with extensive birch woodland along it, and a few big ones, but with also many mature trees of a few other species, which have either simply grown along the route or been planted. The track seems to follow the soil boundary here where it goes from the peat bog to the more sandy soils, which no doubt influences the range of species which may grow. As well as the Silver Birch, there are many mature Sycamore, but none of any particular large size. Similar can be said for the English Oaks of which there are less. The Scot’s Pine here are few, large, quite straight and spaced and may well have been planted. Odd Rhododendrons can be found too. Just off of Sandy Lane to the south less than 100m and on the boundary of the NNR and farmland, stands a truly impressive sized Wild Cherry, with several tree sized suckers.

Badger Corner

This area has quite a few hectares of woodland around it, some of the very nice young birch and oak woodland adjoining from the farmland is private but no doubt increases its usefulness for wildlife. Actually on the reserve it is nearly all dense youngish birch stands but there has been quite extensive thinning to benefit wildlife by NE.

Ten Acre Lake

The 10 hectare lake (more than one lake merged making the current lake much larger than the name) is surrounded on all sides by mature birch woodland, in places quite dense. Where this abuts private land, such as the airfield or farmland boundaries it seems to be older and have more diversity of species. Again this is no doubt aided by the transition from pure peat substrate to sand and gravel soils. Here can be found some nice but not remarkably sized oaks for example and some Rowan as well as 10 Wild Cherry, derived from suckers. There is also Scots Pine, Aspen, Alder, Holly and Rhododendron.

Stainforth Moor

This is an interesting area due to the marginal private houses and gardens with their specimen native trees and exotics. This private area has not been explored.

Marginal Woodland at Hatfield

Around much of the perimeter of Hatfield Moors there is extensive birch woodland, often dense and young and generally on drier ground. This can extend over the boundary into private moor or farmland as at Hatfield Peat Works, Belton Moor, Sandy Lane, Roe Carr and New Porters or the prison area. There is also extensive woodland, with much oak along Roe Carr and North Idle Drain. Different species may be found in these non-peat areas such as the Lombardy Poplars at Canberra Farm or Wild Cherry near the prison.

Introduced Non-Native Species of Trees and Shrubs on Hatfield Moors

The most widespread of introduced woody stemmed plants is again Rhododendron Rhododendron ponticum and varieties thereof. At Lindholme Island near the buildings are some planted non-native species (some already mentioned), most of which are not found elsewhere on the reserve. Species include Monkey Puzzle, European Larch, Sitka Spruce, Portugal Laurel and False Acacia. Further to the south of the Island is a stand of mature Corsican Pines.


The survey was started in autumn 2019, with the hope that bracken and other vegetation would have died back enough to actually reach some of the more off-the-beaten-track trees. Also it was hoped the ground would be drier at this time, though this proved to be far from true, as it turned out. Work was supposed to continue into spring 2020 when trees were in leaf for more identification work and photos, but Covid-19 struck.

All species which could be considered trees or tree like shrubs are covered, some minor woody plants are not. The divide line is a bit arbitrary, as for instance with species such as Dog Rose. Trees get the most attention.

The main focus of the survey is obviously the NNR but also adjacent SSSI. Immediately adjacent areas are also covered and this covers the same area as the earliest study, and is relevant due to the amount of species which have spread from adjacent areas onto the NNR, particularly for example rhododendron. Peripheral parts include all the former colliery area which has sections that are SSSI but also large areas that are not. Also gardens or grounds or farmland which stood or stand on actual peat moor are included as are major access paths. In the earliest vegetation study Thorne Moors, Birds and Man (1986) notable trees were mentioned at cottages on the edge of the moors, of which all trace has gone. The survey work was then done by the authors and Brian Eversham. More details of this appear in the following species accounts with the abbreviation TMB&M. Some interesting trees can still be found in these non-SSSI parts.

Tree measurements were done using string at 175 cm height wrapped around trunk. This was measured lower if the main trunk forked. Some people prefer to measure at 150 cm height but I used the former so it was easier to keep the string level by eye as it was passed around the trunk. The diameter was simply calculated by dividing by π. Obviously, only larger specimens were measured, and any species that could be termed a shrub was not measured, with the exception of the largest coppice stools. A metal pole was used in photographs for scale, marked at 1 m to the outer edge of white tape. A band further up was at 150 cm (red and white tape) and girth measured above this.


In the previous study by McDonald 2009, McDonald and Wall 2014 only the reserve proper was covered and other areas, even if partly SSSI were excluded such as Lindholme Island and much of the former colliery area. This present summary of results, which excludes species in gardens (but which are mentioned in the species list below) found in all 65 species identified, of which 42 are native and 23 are non-native. 56 occurred on Thorne Moors (3 peripherally) with 39 native species and 52 on Hatfield Moors (2 peripherally) with 32 native species.

Species entirely new for the reserve or SSSI since the 2014 survey numbered 13, four of which are native: European Larch, Sitka Spruce, Corsican Pine, Common Pear, Swedish Whitebeam, Tree Cotoneaster, Himalayan Cotoneaster, Wych Elm, Wild Cherry, Portugal Laurel, Cherry Laurel, Norway Maple and Dogwood. A total of 9 were new for Thorne Moors reserve and colliery area, three are native: White Poplar, Common Pear, Swedish Whitebeam, Tree Cotoneaster, Himalayan Cotoneaster, Broom, Cherry Laurel, Norway Maple and Dogwood. For Hatfield Moors reserve and Lindholme Island 13 species were new and three are native: European Larch, Sitka Spruce, Corsican Pine, Lombardy Poplar, Common Pear, Cultivated Apple, Tree Cotoneaster, Wild Cherry, Portugal Laurel, False Acacia, Common Lime, and Wild Privet? New areas (for Natural England) for known species on both moors were also found. Other studies of Lindholme Island have been conducted which identified these tree species but I have not been able to obtain a copy of that report.

During the course of the survey the following species, below, were recorded and largest specimens measured. A species not recorded was English Elm Ulmus procera which used to grow at Elmhirst and Belton for instance (Stovin 1882) and no doubt in other parts of the Chase and Isle of Axholme.

Species Recorded with Notes and Largest Examples

Monkey Puzzle Araucaria araucana

Thorne Moors: None now but apparently one used to be at Elmhirst Cottage.

Hatfield Moors: There are 3 on Lindholme Island near the buildings the largest being girth 226 cm diameter 72 cm.

European Larch Larix decidua

Thorne Moors: None.

Hatfield Moors: There are 2 mature ones on Lindholme Island near the buildings of no large size. A new species.

Sitka Spruce Picea sitchensis

Thorne Moors: None.

Hatfield Moors: There is a short belt of 5 on Lindholme Island near the buildings of no great size. A new species.

Norway Spruce Picea abies

Thorne Moors: Mentioned in TMB&M as occurring in gardens and smallholdings on the Crowle side. It/they may well still be present, but I cannot say.

Hatfield Moors: None.

Scots Pine Pinus sylvestris

Thorne Moors: There are few mature specimens on Thorne Moors specifically but a fair few on Crowle Moor. The apparent largest is on private land just south of the council car park and so not measured, the next largest I could find seemed a little smaller was girth 171 cm diameter 54 cm. Seedling pines are to be found but uncommon.

Hatfield Moors: Widely self-seeding in large numbers and many are planted and probably not of local provenance, however some smaller isolated trees are thought to be from local origin, particularly some on southern part of Lindholme Island. The largest on Lindholme, which may or may not be of local provenance, being girth 202 cm diameter 64 cm. Others particularly along Sandy Lane are of similar or possibly slightly larger size (only one, seemingly the largest was measured on this lane and was diameter 63 cm).

Corsican Pine Pinus nigra

Thorne Moors: None.

Hatfield Moors: There are 8 mature ones in a stand on south end of Lindholme Island. The largest one is girth 243 cm diameter 77 cm which exceeds any Scots Pine. A new species.

Leylandii x Cupressocyparis leylandii

Thorne Moors: Found in marginal gardens on Crowle Moor east edge and former colliery area.

Hatfield Moors: A long row of large examples are found just off the reserve along the former airfield, and many in the Canberra Farm and prison land.

Yew Taxus baccata

Thorne Moors: A scarce tree on Thorne Moors with only 2 mature trees known (as with other species others exist in gardens on Crowle Moor). Both these mature Yews are located right in the middle of NW Will Pits, they are not very large. They are not too far from each other but only one is easy to locate. The second one used to have an old pair of wooden ladders propped against it suggesting it was harvested for Christmas decorations. Virtually impossible to reach without waders as the slight rises they sit on (the area was dug previously) are virtual islands. There are 3 small ones at Bell’s Pond (third photo) and 2 more saplings on the colliery spoil mounds.

Hatfield Moors: A scarce tree on Hatfield also, the best example being at Lindholme Island girth 265 cm diameter 84 cm. Also Triangle Wood.

Wych Elm Ulmus glabra

Thorne Moors: Mentioned in TMB&M as present in a small plantation at Elmhirst Cottage. A mature tree is present still along the public footpath about 100m from Grange Road, girth 162 cm diameter 52 cm. There are at least 15 others, all smaller than this (3 to 5 m) in the colliery area, five together on the S side of the colliery spoil mound near the angle of the track and footpath and 7 fairly close together near the ditch at its most southern point (now bulldozed for new ditch December 2020). There is one at Bell’s Pond and another which is the smallest in the former colliery compound area. At least three of these are already dyeing and another is dead presumably from Dutch Elm Disease. There are at least four standards planted in the plantation nature area on Crowle Moor.

Hatfield Moors: None.

English Elm Ulmus procera

Thorne Moors: Recorded in TMB&M as present in a small plantation at Elmhirst Cottage, which became derelict in late 1950s (it was occupied until at least 1956. (Pers. comms. Martin Limbert). Also used to grow at Belton for instance (Stovin 1882) and no doubt in other parts of the Chase and Isle of Axholme.

Hatfield Moors: None.


On Thorne Moors where both parents occur, hybrids occur. Other oaks may have varying degrees of hybridization.

English Oak Quercus rober

Thorne Moors: Common, the largest example was girth 370 cm diameter 118 cm on N edge of NW Goole Moor (Northern Goole Moor). The largest bog oak ever found here, it is noted above, was three times this diameter (370 cm) and so around 11 meters circumference! Other honourable mentions in the same area are girth 332 cm diameter 106 cm and girth 322 cm diameter 102.5 cm with a few other large ones also. The second largest overall however is found at Elmhirst and is girth 341 cm diameter 109 cm. Woodpecker Corner had some big examples too, with the largest being girth 290 cm diameter 92 cm. The largest one on Crowle Moor was at the north end, where there are a few other mature ones, girth 265 cm diameter 84 cm.

Hatfield Moors: Several large trees on Lindholme Island, with 2 being especially huge. The largest, on the east side of buildings behind the orchard on the ditch side, was girth 638 cm diameter 203 cm. This had extensive thick burrs and so the girth would not be admissable for formal records. The second largest (with Peter Skidmore’s plaque on) was girth 448 cm diameter 143 cm. There was a third oak over 400 cm girth near the buildings.

Sessile Oak Quercus petraea

Thorne Moors: This or hybrids only found at Pony Bridge Wood.

Hatfield Moors: None.

Turkey Oak Quercus cerris

Thorne Moors: None.

Hatfield Moors: One on Poor Piece.

Sweet Chestnut Castanea sativa

Thorne Moors: Scarce with a very few, now coppiced mature examples at Bell’s Wood (two coppiced, one sapling) and Limberlost Wood. One mature one (not coppiced) Durham's Garden. As with other trees in this easily accessible area these trees were cut during the miners’ strike and have since formed coppice stools. Planted trees are in the Crowle Moor planted area.

Hatfield Moors: One at Poor Piece.

Beech Fagus sylvatica

Thorne Moors: Scarce with a very few mature examples at Woodpecker Corner the largest being girth 267 cm diameter 85 cm. There are also two medium small trees on the south eastern side of the colliery mounds.

Hatfield Moors: The largest on Lindholme Island girth 295 cm diameter 94 cm.

Silver Birch Betula pendula

Thorne Moors: Abundant throughout. The largest example (dead) was girth 296 cm diameter 94 cm in NW Will Pits. On Crowle Moor there are some large examples on the NE edge, a double stemmed one measure below the split (at 75 cm height) was girth 212 cm diameter 67 cm, and the largest single stem girth 162 cm diameter 52 cm. One at Wooddpecker Corner was girth 200 cm and diameter 64 cm.

Hatfield Moors: Abundant throughout. The largest example was girth 260 cm diameter 83 cm on Lindholme Island. Other large specimens, not approaching the former, are found on Sandy Lane and entrance road to Ten Acre Lake.

Downy Birch Betula pubescens

Thorne Moors: Quite common.

Hatfield Moors: Not too common.

Common Alder Alnus glutinosa

Thorne Moors: A few good mature stands. The main ones being The Alders on the West side about three-quarters way north. The largest example (all large ones were multi-stemmed), was measured below the splitting of the stems (as much as could be judged) and had a girth 353 cm diameter 112 cm. Another large but single stem tree at Woodpecker Corner measured girth 297 cm diameter 95 cm. There was also a monstrous coppice with a girth of 880 cm and diameter 280 cm (measured at 1m height) at NW Goole Moor (Northern Goole Moor), which is the biggest girth tree on either moors. Other coppice is found just south of Creyke’s gate, the largest here being girth 230 cm and diameter 73 cm.

Hatfield Moors: A single large coppice on Lindholme Island girth 463 cm diameter 147 cm. There are a few other examples on Hatfield.

Grey Alder Alnus incana

Thorne Moors: None.

Hatfield Moors: One Canberra Farm area.

Hazel Corylus avellana

Thorne Moors: Difficult to tell from Filbert, many do not produce nuts being too shaded. Odd ones scattered about, with at least three in Woodpecker Corner. Planted ones either this or Filbert on Jones’ Cable. About three small specimens in Woodpecker Corner and at least one colliery road.

Hatfield Moors: Probably this species at Boston Park.

Filbert Corylus maxima

Thorne Moors: Difficult to tell from Hazel, many do not produce nuts being too shaded. Found in TMB&M study in certain formerly cultivated areas, mainly Bell’s Wood, Durham’s Garden and Elmhirst.

Hatfield Moors: There are several coppice stools of no great size on Lindholme Island, either this or Hazel.

Large-leaved Lime Tilia platyphyllos

Thorne Moors: Two mature planted examples along Jones’ Cable.

Hatfield Moors: None.

Common Lime Tilia x europaea

Thorne Moors: Few mature examples all located at Woodpecker Corner where the largest was girth 433 cm diameter 138 cm, which was read taking care to exclude as much shrubby low stem growth as possible.

Hatfield Moors: Uncommon the largest being on Lindholme Island girth 324 cm diameter 103 cm. A new species.

White Poplar Populus alba

Thorne Moors: Around the colliery area many have been planted and are mature trees. A new species.

Hatfield Moors: Present at Porters Drain and behind prison.

Aspen Populus tremula

Thorne Moors: A few small stands, and one larger stand on NW and NE edge part. The largest example was girth 210 cm diameter 67 cm on NW Goole Moor (Northern Goole Moor). There is a group of them at Bell’s and other scattered ones. Other small stands are to be found on the northern area of Crowle Moor. There are several on the northern edge at the east side, and a few of these differ. 

Hatfield Moors: A few examples in the south end.

Black Poplar Populus nigra

Thorne Moors: Mentioned in TMB&M as occurring in around Elmhirst Cottage. It/they have gone along with the cottage. However, it seems this/they were actually probably ‘railway poplar’ hybrids like the rest (pers comms. Martin Limbert). It is quite probable they occurred naturally in the days of the Chase, but all living memory has gone of when the last ones went.

Natural England have re-introduced this species from cuttings I had taken from Blacktoft Sands RSPB, planted on 3rd December 2020, with 5 that I planted and 2 others donated to Top House Farm.

Hatfield Moors: None.

Cultivated Black Poplar (Lombardy) Populus nigra ‘Italica’

Thorne Moors: One on the flat area of colliery spoil, not yet large but already seems to be the tallest trees here and several small ones on the spoil mounds. And at Northern Goole Moor.

Hatfield Moors: At Canberra Farm many, and often overhanging into reserve. Also one on the reserve there by the lake. A new species.

Black Poplar hybrid Populus x canadensis

Thorne Moors: Only a few on the former colliery ground, which best fit the description of the early crosses (with the N. American Eastern Cottonwood P. deltoides) as being ‘Railway Poplars’ or ‘Regenerata’. The largest is girth 340 cm diameter 108 cm. Several Jones’ Cable.

In a 1928 photograph of the Miners’ Welfare Recreation Ground, it is still just a grass field having only been inaugurated the previous year. This means that these poplars cannot have been planted there more than 92 years, and if they were standard size trees when planted, then are likely about 100 years old (Bothamley, no date).

Hatfield Moors: Two on Poor Piece track to Badger Corner.


There are quite a lot of hybrids, and many I could not tell the mix, they have been assigned to what they most resembled. In the Hatfield 2005-2006 study, no attempt was made to distinguish willows to species.

Crack Willow Salix fragilis

Thorne Moors: This species has hybrids with White Willows the hybrid combination is Salix x rubens according to the TMB&M study, particularly in Will Pits. Some pure ones were noted but today to what degree, whether all or just some are hybrids I cannot say. Will Pits larger willows look like typical Crack. Others are scattered throughout the study area. Young ones are noted for example in the colliery area and Will Pits. There were some other very impressive examples worthy of an honourable mention viz: Girth 542 cm diameter 172 cm at NW Goole Moor (Northern Goole Moor). Girth 475 cm diameter 151 cm at Will Pits SW of barrier from ‘T’ junction and another large one just behind it. Girth 448 cm diameter 143 cm at Will Pits drain junction. Girth 422 cm diameter 134 cm at NW Will Pits. Girth 365 cm diameter 116 cm at Pony Bridge Wood. 

Hatfield Moors: None.

White Willow Salix alba

Thorne Moors: Away from Will Pits many of the biggest willows on the moors are this species or hybrid with Crack Willow. The most impressive are listed here. The largest example was a seemingly pure White girth 670 cm diameter 213 cm at S end Longthorpe’s. The largest non-coppice tree on either moors.  Girth 335 cm diameter 107 cm at N edge about a third of way across from E.

There are trees along the railway, particularly near the colliery road bridge which are White Willow varieties. They are very straight and have upswept straight branches and may perhaps be Cricket Bat Willows S. a. caerulea or some hybrid of that.

Hatfield Moors: On Hatfield none reach the huge size of some of the Thorne specimens, this is perhaps a reflection of the drier nature of the areas where they grow on Hatfield.

Osier Salix viminalis

Thorne Moors: Common on Thorne.

Hatfield Moors:

Goat Willow Salix caprea

Thorne Moors: Fairly common. The largest single stem example was girth 304 cm diameter 97 cm at Crowle Moor by Bailey Bridge.

Hatfield Moors: Fairly common.

Grey Willow Salix cinerea

Thorne Moors: Very common, the commonest willow, the largest single stem example was girth 175 cm diameter 56 cm at Will Pits along the road to NE shed. Honourable mention was girth 160 cm diameter 51 cm on N edge of NE Goole Moor.

Hatfield Moors: Scarce.

Golden Weeping Willow Salix x sepulcralis ‘Chrysocoma’

Thorne Moors: One in a garden on the east edge of Crowle Moor.

Hatfield Moors: In gardens.

Eared Willow Salix aurita

Thorne Moors: Rare Goole Moor.

Hatfield Moors: None.

Creeping Willow Salix repens

Thorne Moors: Rare, central and SW.

Hatfield Moors:

Rhododendron Rhododendron ponticum

Thorne Moors: Formerly widespread and reaching huge size, around 200 ha cleared during the 3 year EU LIFE project started 2015.

Hatfield Moors: Formerly in two main areas but never covering as much as at Thorne, much cleared during the EU LIFE project.

Bog Rosemary Andromeda polifolia

Thorne Moors: Uncommon.

Hatfield Moors: Rare in south.

Heather Calluna vulgaris

Thorne Moors: Very common.

Hatfield Moors: Common and slowly colonising bare areas.

Cross-leaved Heath Erica tetralix

Thorne Moors: Common.

Hatfield Moors: Common.

Blackcurrant Ribes nigrum

Thorne Moors: several patches particularly in areas of former residence.

Hatfield Moors: Scarce.

Gooseberry Ribes uva-crispa

Thorne Moors: Abundant in some areas such as Bell’s.

Hatfield Moors:

Raspberry Rubus idaeus

Thorne Moors: Quite a few patches particularly in areas of former residence.

Hatfield Moors:

Dewberry Rubus caesius

Thorne Moors: Uncommon centrally.

Hatfield Moors: None.

Bramble Rubus fruticosus

Thorne Moors: Abundant with several varieties (McDonald 2014).

Hatfield Moors: Abundant with several varieties (McDonald 2009).

Field Rose Rosa arvensis

Thorne Moors: Uncommon, south and west edge.

Hatfield Moors: None.

Japanese Rose Rosa rugosa

Thorne Moors: There is one plant in the former colliery area and several found at the W end of Jones’ Cable.

Hatfield Moors: None.

Dog Rose Rosa canina

Thorne Moors: Common particularly on margins.

Hatfield Moors: Common particularly on margins.

Blackthorn Prunus spinosa

Thorne Moors: Uncommon in certain marginal areas but much commoner in former colliery area.

Hatfield Moors: Uncommon at Boston Park.

Bullace P. domestica insititia

Thorne Moors: Mentioned in TMB&M as in the colliery area. A type of plum was found on the W side of the colliery spoil mounds (about 20 stems around a larger stem) and others in Inkle Meadows hedges (comprising around 10 smaller stems, tallest 9m). These shrubs did not have thorns and their fruit was not so bitter as Blackthorn, and was slightly larger. The fruits were 3 cm diameter, and in colour like a purple plum and fairly sweet. The stone was oval, slightly flattened, ridged on two sides and almost smooth. In all it most resembled Bullace.

Hatfield Moors: None.

Wild Cherry Prunus avium

Thorne Moors: None.

Hatfield Moors: Few actually and most are only small trees. There is an exception however, along Sandy Lane on the boundary where it turns S is a very large example girth 233 cm diameter 74 cm. This is at the very largest extent this species reaches and indeed the main tree is showing signs of decline; there are however several small tree sized suckers. Other small specimens (maybe 10) are found along Moor Dike Road and Ten Acre Lake and Lindholme Bank Road. A new species.

Bird Cherry Prunus padus

Thorne Moors: On Crowle Moor in the planted conservation area, there are several standard trees. There is a small 3m high one halfway between the colliery road bend and the public footpath, on the inner limestone path.

Hatfield Moors: None.

Portugal Laurel Prunus lusitanica

Thorne Moors: None.

Hatfield Moors: One near the buildings on Lindholme Island. A new species.

Cherry Laurel Prunus laurocerasus

Thorne Moors: Several mature ones colliery area and four small ones on Northern Goole Moor. A new species.

Hatfield Moors: None.

False Acacia Robinia pseudo

Thorne Moors: There are five mature examples of this in Bell’s Wood, at least one nearly dead.

Hatfield Moors: There are 12 of no large size on Lindholme Island near the buildings. A new species.

Common Pear Pyrus communis

Thorne Moors: There are only two groups comprised of seven to 10 stems both in the same southern hedgerow SSSI Inkle Meadow hedgerow. Only one here is of any size girth 165 cm diameter 53 cm (at 1 m) and a lone one on the flat colliery spoil mound behind the former colliery compound and one Jones’ Cable of good large size. A new species.

Hatfield Moors: At Lindholme Island there is one girth 140 cm diameter 45 cm. A new species.

Crab Apple Malus sylvestris

Thorne Moors: There are two old large examples at Inkle Moor Girth 242 cm diameter 77 cm which has an almost double stem and at Inkle Meadows a single stem Girth 175 cm diameter 56 cm. This latter one is set back from the path and nearly totally surrounded by Blackthorn and is not at all easy to see. It is straight behind the largest Swedish Whitebeam.

Hatfield Moors: Rare at Boston Park.

Cultivated Apple Malus domestica

Thorne Moors: Scarce, more around the colliery area where there at least 50 mature trees displaying a wide range of throwback sports. The largest a huge one at Crowle Moor in grazing area, North Tram, was girth 250 cm diameter 80 cm (at 1m height). One dead, girth 184 cm diameter 59 cm just into meadow at Paraffin field gate.

Hatfield Moors: Present on Lindholme Island. A new species.

Rowan Sorbus aucuparia

Thorne Moors: Uncommon on Thorne; largest, dead was at Pony Bridge Wood girth 79 cm diameter 25 cm. Scarce elsewhere such as Paraffin. Quite a few on Crowle Moor.

Hatfield Moors: Uncommon on Hatfield.

Common Whitebeam Sorbus aria

A mature tree at the start of N arm of Jones’ Cable at the main road, in the former school grounds and overhanging the path.

Swedish Whitebeam Sorbus intermedia

Thorne Moors: At Woodpecker Corner, two small ones of no real size. A new species (SH). This was followed by the realisation that all the saplings in the former colliery area were Swedish too (maybe 20). Also there is a much larger fully mature tree on Inkle Moor girth 157 cm diameter 50 cm (measured below the fork in the trunk).

Hatfield Moors: None.

Wall Cotoneaster Cotoneaster horizontalis

Thorne Moors: Not uncommon in the colliery area.

Hatfield Moors: Rare centrally.

Blistered Cotoneaster Cotoneaster rehderi

Thorne Moors: Two in the colliery area on bridge over railway. A new species.

Hatfield Moors: None.

Tree Cotoneaster Cotoneaster simonsii (or Himalayan Cotoneaster Cotoneaster frigidus)

Thorne Moors: One Inkle Moor below the bridge over railway and several along the colliery road which best fit this species but could be another similar one. A new species.

Hatfield Moors: One 3m tall plant behind Prison. A new species.

Pyracantha Pyracantha coccinea

There is one in the colliery area along the road between the solar plant and the field.

Common Hawthorn Crataegus monogyna

Thorne Moors: Widespread and common. Measured at 75 cm height before branches split girth 294 cm diameter 93.5 cm at Paraffin near field gate.

Hatfield Moors: Fairly widespread and fairly common.

Gorse Ulex europaeus

Thorne Moors: Rare only a few on S edge and colliery area.

Hatfield Moors: Fairly common on sand areas.

Broom Cytisus scoparius

Thorne Moors: A few stands in the colliery area also Elmhirst area. A new species.

Hatfield Moors: Rare in few places western and southern edge.

Eucalyptus spp.

Thorne Moors: One in a garden on the east edge of Crowle Moor.

Hatfield Moors: None.

Dogwood Cornus sanguinea

Thorne Moors: An impressive sized stand with about 20 stems and 5 m tall at the very end corner of Jones’ Cable N side, the thickest stem about 40 cm diameter. There are two more bushes on the link path from Jones’ Cable to the entrance gate for the moors (now bulldozed to redo ditch at base of colliery spoil mounds). Another 6+ are on the south side of the colliery spoil mounds and flat colliery area, others planted in Inkle Flatts. A new species.

Hatfield Moors: None.

Holly Ilex aquifolium

Thorne Moors: Not uncommon on Thorne for example in Will Pits but few of any size. Also in the colliery area, Woodpecker Corner, Will Pits Scrape and Crowle Moor.

Hatfield Moors: Scarce in a couple of areas.

Alder Buckthorn Frangula alnus

Thorne Moors: Quite rare here in Will Pits for example, but many saplings in the north of Will Pits.

Hatfield Moors: Not quite as rare here to locally common on southern margins.

Horse-Chestnut Aesculus hippocastanum

Thorne Moors: Very few, there are three mature examples at Woodpecker Corner the largest being girth 200 cm diameter 64 cm. One sapling in the colliery area and another Jones’ Cable.

Hatfield Moors: None.

Field Maple Acer campestre

Thorne Moors: Many planted along Jones’ Cable.

Hatfield Moors: Several on mid-western edge.

Sycamore Acer pseudoplatanus

Thorne Moors: With 4 stems girth 525 cm diameter 167 cm at Alders. At Woodpecker Corner the largest was girth 282 cm diameter 90 cm.

Hatfield Moors: A large example, at the N end of the row of oaks on Lindholme Island was girth 393 cm diameter 125 cm a second pollard near the buildings was just over 300 cm girth. Fairly uncommon otherwise.

Norway Maple Acer platanoides

Thorne Moors: Found commonly in the colliery area, Jones’ Cable and Woodpecker Corner, and probably elsewhere. There is a planted avenue at the solar installation in the colliery area. A new species.

Hatfield Moors: None.

Buddleia Buddleja davidii

Thorne Moors: Present on E side Goole Moor and former colliery area.

Hatfield Moors: Present at Boston Park and Packard’s for example.

Wild Privet Ligustrum vulgare

Thorne Moors: Present in large areas around Bell’s Wood and Pond with a bit in along the colliery road.

Hatfield Moors: One plant southern edge. A new species.

Garden Privet Ligustrum ovalifolium

Thorne Moors: Found around Paraffin area and formerly at Elmhirst.

Hatfield Moors: Not found but present at Boston Park according to 2005-2006 survey.

Ash Fraxinus excelsior

Thorne Moors: Quite common on the edges, particularly at Inkle Moor near the railway, but nearly all the largest by railway are not on SSSI land. One exception on Inkle Meadows is a coppice girth 625 cm and diameter 199 cm (at about 50cm from ground). The largest standard I found was at Woodpecker Corner girth 162 cm diameter 52 cm.

Hatfield Moors: Rare for example at Boston Park.

Elder Sambucus nigra

Thorne Moors: Common with some large examples, largest example near NE shed girth 139 diameter 44 cm.

Hatfield Moors: Common, a large example at Ten Acre Lake was girth 135cm diameter 43 cm.

Guelder Rose Viburnum opulus

Thorne Moors: One plant on the NW edge and three in the colliery area and a very few others Jones’ Cable.

Hatfield Moors: None.


Thorne Moors: In colliery area.

Hatfield Moors: None.


This study has found a good range of species present, with nearly two-thirds native and while a good number are non-native (even if some have been long-established and are good for wildlife; such as Sycamore) they are mostly present only in small numbers. The obvious exception is Rhododendron. Disregarding contiguous gardens a great deal of the non-natives are found outside the reserve or SSSI, with the exception being the colliery area, parts of which are SSSI with a few non-natives the rest that is not SSSI with considerably more non-natives, especially Cultivated Apple, Wall Cotoneaster and Buddleia for example.

Although virtually none of the woodland and trees are of any great age, except for odd trees on Lindholme Island, there are non-the-less some aesthetically very nice specimens which it would be good to preserve and hopefully this study highlights most of these. The NE management plan encourages the management in these areas with more mature woodland to enhance it, and some work along those lines has already been done by Natural England at for example Will Pits, Pony Bridge Wood and by private concerns elsewhere such as Lindholme Island.

Woodland of differing age is important, with even scrub being useful to some species such as Willow Tit. Management to control the amount of birch scrub on either moor is ongoing but is problematic just because of the sheer size of the reserve and its difficult terrain. Preserving the valuable relatively small areas of wet carr woodland for example at Will Pits is definitely desirable for Natural England. Tree planting by NE includes the aforementioned Black Poplars on Thorne and Oak acorns on Hatfield. Crack Willow cuttings have been taken.


Thanks to colleges and others; Tim Kohler (SRM, NE HP NNR), Steve Hiner (RM, NE HP NNR), Janet Canning (RM, NE HP NNR), Neil Pike (TL, NE Y&NL). Mark Paine, Ian McDonald, Martin Limbert. Paulette and others at the Buddhist retreat.


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From page 194.

Turner, J. 1962. The Tilia decline: an anthropogenic interpretation. New Phytologist 61: 328-341.

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Van de Noort, R. and Fenwick, H. 1997. Introduction to the archaeological survey. In R. Van de Noort and S. Ellis. Eds. Wetland Heritage of the Humberhead Levels. Hull, University of Hull, English Heritage. Pp 219-228.