Heritage Walks: Don Gorge – A Landscape Reclaimed by Nature

The Don Valley Way has several heritage walks. In this series of blogs we are going to explore the walks and the fantastic features that can be seen along them.

This walk around one of the Don Gorge takes one of the most historic and naturally diverse areas of the Don Catchment. The walk is 4.5 miles/ 7 Km long and will take roughly an hour and a half to complete. This walk dose have a very steep section and can be quite muddy in the winter.

Conisbrough Viaduct

The walk starts at the Boat Inn in Sprotbrough where you walk towards Sprotbrough Bridge and use it to cross both the cannel and River. The bridge was originally constructed in the mid 19th century with the central span being replaced in 1897 by Newton Chambers, an industrial company based in Sheffield.  The company was founded in 1789 by George Newton and Thomas Chambers. They mainly constructed solid mental frames for infrastructure such as bridges. Their most notable work was creating the metal work on the internationally famous Tower Bridge in London.

You will start to walk upstream along the river where you will come to Sprotbrough Weir which was originally built to provide water power for a fulling mill where cloth was made and situated next to the Fishpass. It later became a flint mill which would have supplied material for the pottery industry upstream in Swinton. Weirs like this across the Don Catchment led to the disappearance of Atlantic Salmon and other migratory fish in the catchment. After the removal of Conisbrough lock upstream the height of the weir was raised to allow boats to travel up this navigable section of the Don. This would have made it impossible for fish to ascend the weir unless there was a flood. After an absence of about 150 years organisations are now aiding the recovery of fish in the Don by creating fishpasses on the weirs across the catchment. At Sprotbrough Weir there is both a fish and eel pass. This allows both fish and eels to bypass the weir and continue their journey to their spawning grounds upstream in Sheffield. Recently there have been several reports of Salmon in the River Don near their spawning grounds in Sheffield. To read more about the return of the Salmon click here.

Sprotbrough Fish Pass

As you continue traveling upstream you can see the faces of the magnesium limestone cliffs on the left hand side. The limestone in the Don Gorge forms part of a seam that runs from Teeside to Nottinghamshire. Limestone from the gorge was used in many local buildings, including Conisbrough Castle and Brodsworth Hall. In the Don Gorge, evidence has been found of prehistoric dwellings. In the 19th century labourers digging footings for the railway found what they thought were Woolley Mammoth and Rhinoceros bones, with evidence of them being gnawed by Hyena, which dated them between 60,000-25,000 years old. Flint tools from the mid to late Mesolithic period have also been found in the area. This suggests there were temporary camps ahead of more formal domestic settlements throughout the Iron Age and Roman periods. The magnesium Limestone formed in a shallow sea, 260 Million years ago, at a time when the British Isles were in the Tropics, and were a part of a giant super continent that stretched from North Pole to the South Pole known today as Pangaea.

One of the magnesium limestone faces that can be seen on this walk

The Don Gorge is designated as a site of Special Scientific Interest for its areas of ancient woodland, wetlands and areas of open water, which are all important areas for insects and birds. As you approach Conisbrough Viaduct you will pass through Nearcliffe Woods. The woods has several species of tree such as Whitch Elm, Ash, Sycamore, Field Maple, Silver Birch, Yew, Pedunculated Oak, Crab Apple, Wild Cherry and small leaved Lime trees.

Once you have crossed the viaduct you will return to the start by walking upstream along the North bank of the River Don. On your left you will see Sprotbrough Flash Nature reserve. In 1924 mining subsidence caused this area of land to collapse. This caused the area to flood which allowed wildlife to reclaim this land. The reserve opened in 1984 as a joint venture between Doncaster Council and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. Short paths on the left lead to several hides where you can watch the wildlife on the reserve. In recent years a bitten has been regularly seen on the flash (however none of our staff members are yet to see it).

To learn more about the history of the area including the long abandoned village Levitt Hagg you’ll have to get out and do the walk.

Click here for the Don Valley Way website.

Click here for the Don Gorge Walk page.

Click here for the Don Valley Way app on Android devices.

Click here for the Don Valley Way app on IOS and devices.