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Humberhead Peatlands - Thorne & Hatfield Moors


Thorne, Goole and Crowle Moors, together with Hatfield Moors, are the remnants of a formerly more extensive area of wetland which occupied the flood plain of the Humberhead Levels several thousand years ago.

They form the largest complex of lowland raised bog in Britain covering an area of 3318 hectares (8201 acres). A large area of the abandoned peat workings is managed as a National Reserve by Natural England and includes parts of Crowle Moor, owned and managed by The Lincolnshire Trust for nature conservation.


Peat has been taken from the Moors for hundreds of years, initially by local people as fuel for fires, but by the mid 19th Century, extensively for horse and cattle litter. One of the companies operating on Thorne Moors at this time, the Dutch Moss Litter Company, transported peat by horse-drawn barges along a network of canals to a mill near Moorends. The chequerboard appearance of cuttings and baulks can still be seen.

Peat cutting on Thorne and Hatfield Moors has now ceased and work is being carried out to restore the old workings.


The abandoned peat cuttings, where sufficiently wet, have reverted back to the bog. This ideal habitat provides a unique opportunity to see a range of special plants including common cottongrass, Sphagnum mosses, cranberry, bog-rosemary and round-leaved sundew.
Picture © Natural England
Cross leaved heath and hare's-tail cottongrass grow in damp areas but the much drier peat baulks support bracken, heather and birch. areas of fen characterised by marsh cinquefoil, common reed and willow also occur.

Once used by horses and later by small trains pulling peat-laden wagons, the old tramways are built of lime-rich ballast and clinker; here southern marsh orchid, twayblade, greater yellow rattle and bird's-foot trefoil can be found.
The varied habitat of the Moors also supports a huge number of different invertebrates, with over 3000 recorded species, of which some are nationally rare. The area is a stronghold for the large heath butterfly, whose caterpillars feed on the cottongrass.

Breeding birds include common teal, common snipe, whinchat and tree pipit. The rufous nightingale breeds in small numbers at its most northerly stronghold in Britain, whilst the size of the European nightjar population is of international importance. Wintering birds include hen harrier, merlin and short-eared owl.

Reptiles such as adder, grass snake and common lizard are present. Roe deer, fox, brown hare and water vole are some of the mammals which occur here.


Before drainage and peat extraction took place, the Moors formed a raised bog.
Picture © Natural England

The aim of conservation management for the site is to retain suitable conditions for the development of raised bog and its vegetation. To maintain a high water table, drainage channels from the old peat cuttings have been blocked with peat dams. Water is also pumped into some recently worked out cuttings. On Crowle Moor, extensive areas have been cleared of invasive birch scrub and are now grazed by the Trust's flock of Hebridean sheep.

Visiting Thorne Moors

If travelling by car, park at the eastern end of Grange Road, Moorends. Walk along the road leading towards the site of the old Thorne Pit, and take the first left turning. Follow this road crossing the main access road to the Pit site.
Picture © Natural England
Continue along the trackway towards the Moors. This becomes a path which crosses a metal footbridge and passes a National Nature Reserve sign. From here, there are two waymarked walks. However, it is necessary to return to the footbridge as this remains the only point of access.

The town of Thorne is well served by rail having two stations, north and south. Moorends is served by bus from various stops in Thorne.

Thorne and Moorends have the usual facilities such as shops, cafes, pubs and toilets.

Crowle Moors

Crowle Moor is reached from an unclassified road running north-west from Crowle village. There are two parts to the reserve, each having a parking area and a waymarked walk. Public access is restricted to these walks. The large village of Crowle had limited refreshment and toilet facilities. It is served by rail and bus links. For further information click « here »

Hatfield Moors

There is lots to see on Hatfield Moors. Car parking is available at Boston Park just off the A614 and at Ten Acre Lake south of Hatfield Woodhouse village.

Photographs 'provided' by IRH
Theres lots more to see on the Moors so why not walk along the Peatlands Way?

Humberhead Peatlands events

For information on 2012 events see Naturalengland website
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