Barnsley Biodiversity Trust: Barnsley Biodiversity Action Plan. Last Updated November 2016

Running water: rivers and streams support a special range of wildlife: not only fish species such as Bullhead, Eel and Brown Trout but also other wildlife such as Water Vole and Otter. Fish passes will help Salmon come back to Barnsley. Native crayfish may however be lost as non-native species take over.

Our river catchments: The Don arises on Barnsley moors in the west; the Dearne runs into the borough through Bretton Lake in the north. The watershed dividing the Don and Dearne catchments follows the line of the A629 to the east of Penistone. All streams east of this line flow first into the Dove or directly into the Dearne.

Human influence. Rivers and streams have often been modified by human activity: dams, weirs and culverts, artificial channels, embanking and flood defences. Some wildlife utilise these manmade features, others, such as fish unable to get to spawning grounds, have suffered.

Local Wildlife Sites. The only LWS designated because of its running water habitat is Dakin brook; however many LWS have rivers or streams running associated with them:

Legal protection.

The Water Framework Directive (WFD) sets standards and targets to protect, improve and promote the sustainable use of water through a system of integrated water management.

Landowners with land adjoining a water course have responsibilities set out in Environment Agency guidance.

Living on the Edge’

Water courses are also protected by inclusion in designated sites.

Certain species are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

What has been achieved

Extensive works on River Dearne at Broomhill to create deeper pools, gravel bars and bank side improvements. (EA)

Flood plains reconnected to Dearne at Houghton washlands by lowering flood bank to allow flooding. (EA)

Artificial otter holts built at Old Moor and elsewhere on the Dearne.

Fish passes: Adwick; Bolton-on-Dearne, Old Moor on Dearne. (DCRT) Weir removed at Darfield.

Fish passes: Wharncliffe weir on Don and Langsett weir on Little Don (YW);

Excessive nutrients reduced in water courses feeding Scout Dyke reservoir. Farmers, FWAG, Leeds Univ. YW, EA.

Habitat creation / restoration for Water Voles at  Sandybridge Dyke. (YWT)

Meanders created in Sandybridge Dyke, weir altered, reed bed restored. YW, EA,

Links for further information:

Don Catchment Rivers Trust

Freshwater Habitats Trust

Freshwater invertebrates - Buglife

Our key objectives for biodiversity and river habitat:

Areas will need to be targeted for habitat enhancement - an important example is the restoration of riparian vegetation on bare sections of river bank - with more substantial programmes on key river valleys such as in the lower Dearne valley and near Wilthorpe Marsh.

Targets and priority actions

Features needed in river and stream habitat for species:

Species associated with rivers and streams include aquatic species occurring in the water course itself (for example fish, invertebrates), and terrestrial species on the exposed sediments and on river/stream banks using the water for feeding.

River banks and exposed sediments such as shingle beds, mud and sand bars are important for a range of invertebrates, as well as certain mammals and birds for example Water Vole and Sand Martin.

Marginal and bank-side vegetation has an integral role in supporting wildlife in rivers and streams. It provides overhead cover, shelter, shaded conditions, and invertebrate food for aquatic species including for example fish like Brown Trout. It also helps maintain the structure of the banks and reduces erosion and acts as a habitat in its own right and as a wildlife corridor.

Swiftly-flowing upland, nutrient-poor streams and rivers, support a wide range of mosses and liverworts and relatively few species of higher plants. The invertebrate fauna is dominated by stoneflies, mayflies and caddisflies while fish such as Brown Trout will often be present as will birds like Common Sandpiper and Dipper.

In contrast, lowland rivers which are more nutrient-rich have coarse fish such as Chub, Dace and Roach. Aquatic higher plants are infrequent but lower plants, invertebrates, fish including Bullheads and birds including Goosander and Kingfisher are of importance.

Some migratory fish species such as Salmon and Eel need river systems that are unobstructed and contain varied habitat niches, such as backwaters, gravel beds, riffles and pools for spawning.

As expected, aquatic species require good water quality, unobstructed courses, and exposed sediments. They also need abundant food whether from plant material or invertebrate or other prey.

Some species require coarse woody debris to provide shelter and food and suitable conditions for larval development, spawning etc. A lack of links with other habitats limits the possible range of species.

Certain pollution sensitive aquatic insects, often living on the bottom of the stream, serve as indicators of good water quality, affected by nutrient enrichment, siltation and toxic pollution. They include mayfly and stonefly nymphs, and caddisfly larvae.

Factors causing loss or decline of priority habitat

Status — The quality of rivers and streams

Over past years, the quality of both the rivers Don and Dearne have improved due to legislation and work by the Environment Agency.

Currently assessment by the Environment Agency reports the ecological quality of the majority of streams and rivers in Barnsley as as moderate and in one case - Brough Green brook (with its tributary streams) feeding into Worsbrough reservoir - good.

The significant issues include the impact of water company discharges, run off from brown field land and agricultural land and physical modifications. Environment Agency information

One water course (Carlton Dike) has been identified as having previously bad ecological quality and work has been taking place to bring it to moderate quality. River Dove is assessed as poor.

Good practice

Rivers, streams and running water are best sustained for wildlife by:


The Environment Agency has regulatory powers and responsibilities to maintain and improve main rivers, as well as a general duty to promote biodiversity

Landowners with land adjoining a water course have responsibilities set out in Environment Agency guidance.

Living on the Edge’ Environment Agency.

Such landowners including private estates, environmental charities, farmers and individuals, as well as Barnsley Council, Yorkshire Water and the Environment Agency, can also seek the best results from their water courses and surroundings for wildlife.

A number of organisations including land fill bodies may offer grants for habitat improvement along water courses.

Barnsley council as a planning authority can ensure in relevant cases that the biodiversity value of water courses and their surroundings are maintained and enhanced. It can require EIAs and set conditions in planning approvals.

Voluntary groups and volunteers can help with conservation work of water courses and their surroundings.

Local groups and volunteers can also help provide  information about the condition of our water courses and collect records of the wildlife seen there.

Rivers and streams benefit from legislation and protection by the Environment Agency but more can be done to make them the best habitat for wildlife.

We do not have enough records on the wildlife of running water and bank sides - we are interested in hearing about what you know.

Comments welcome
Email address not public.

Priority habitat details

Running water is a local priority habitat. ‘Rivers and streams’ is a national broad habitat category; ‘running water’ is identified in Phase 1 habitat surveys.

National river priority habitat in Barnsley includes:

River headwaters:

Headwaters to Don & Little Don.

Active shingle rivers:

Cawthorne Dyke and Don from Scout Dyke to Little Don.

Rivers with key species.

With a priority species strongly dependent on habitat quality: Cawthorne Dike (Dakin Brook) with White-clawed Crayfish and Southern Iron Blue Fly recorded.

With six priority species less dependent on habitat quality: Dearne with Eel, Brown Trout, Bullhead, Water Vole, Otter, Soprano Pipistrelle bat and Reed Bunting (breeding near rivers). Salmon would also count.

A number of rivers or streams in Barnsley have one to four priority species recorded.

The running water local priority habitat includes water courses that support priority species, good populations of other key species or provide rich sites for invertebrates or plants.

However all rivers and streams in Barnsley have possible value for wildlife and should be viewed as potential local priority habitat

[LWS running water selection criteria found later on this page]

Mammals supported by rivers and stream habitat include Otter, Water Vole, Water Shrew.

Bats such as Daubenton, Noctule, and Soprano Pipistrelle feed over the water surface.

Birds. Running water habitat supports a range of birds feeding on flies and other invertebrates, and fish. It is particularly notable for: Dipper, Kingfisher, Sand Martin, Reed bunting, Grey wagtail, Common Sandpiper and Goosander.

Reptiles and amphibians. Running water habitat supports Grass Snake and,where slowly moving, amphibians

Fish: Brown Trout, Bullhead, Eel. Brown Trout and Grayling are found in the upper reaches with Eel, Chub, Barbel, Perch, Dace, Roach and Pike found in the lower reaches of rivers. Minnow and Stickleback are also found.

Invertebrates: Mayfly, stonefly, caddisfly, dragonfly, damselfly including Banded Demoiselle and the nationally rare Southern iron blue fly - Nigrobaetis niger

White-clawed Crayfish is a priority invertebrate species threatened nationally and locally by the invasive introduced Signal Crayfish.

LWS selection criteria for running water courses include:

Barnsley area rivers+detail of streams+ attrib.jpg

Contains OS data © Crown copyright and database right (2016)

For a larger image showing smaller water courses click the image above.

LWS along River Don

01 Western Moors

50 Wogden Foot

15 Black Moor Common

61 Romtickle Bridge

40 Forge +Tin Mill Rocher

41 Wharncliffe Chase ...

... Scout Dike

3 Broadstone Reservoir

4 Ingbirchworth Reservoir

5 Royd Moor Reservoir

6 Scout Dyke Reservoir

LWS along River Dearne

48 Bretton Park

25 Canal at Wilthorpe

54 Old Mill Lane...

26 Cliffe Wood (DVCP)

31 Sunny Bank, Storrs wd

35 Edderthorpe Ings

38 Old Moor & Wath Ings

39 Bolton-on-Dearne...

... ...

... Cawthorne Dike

11 Gunthwaite dam

17 Daking Brook

... Silkstone Beck

16 Silkstone Fall wood

... Knoll Dike

46 Elsecar Reservoir

... Cudworth Dike

60 Rabbit Ings

27 Carlton Marsh

LWS along River Dove

24 Worsbrough reservoir

51 Barrow Colliery

57 Swaithe Flood Meadows

55 Parkhill nature reserve

36 Broomhill Flash

... Rockley Dike

23 Rockley Wood

... Dodworth Dike

21 Falthwaite & Lowe wd for more information.

Species supported by rivers and streams:

Many invertebrates, fish, mammals and birds are associated with running water in Barnsley, including national priority species.