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Rother & Doe Lea

Carr Vale, Guy Badham Carr Vale, Guy Badham

The Rother and Doe Lea Living Landscape focuses on two river valleys and the varied habitats that surround them.

Located in north east Derbyshire, the Rother and Doe Lea Living Landscape covers 5435 hectares, including the Trust's Carr Vale, Avenue Washlands and North Wingfield reserves. These river valleys bear the marks of widespread industrial activity during the last 150 years and are perhaps defined by the extent of post-industrial, or 'brownfield', land that today still covers large parts of it.

The Rother and Doe Lea are parts of the River Don catchment. These rivers have undergone periods of very poor water quality due to chemical pollution, nutrient enrichment from fertiliser and sewage and siltation. The rivers have also been straightened and lined with concrete in places, reducing the varity of habitats they offer.

A great variety of birds can be found in these river valleys - farmland birds such as yellowhammers, linnets and skylarks, wetland birds such as marsh tits, reed buntings and snipe, and woodland birds such as lesser redpoll, spotted flycatcher and cuckoos.

The River Rother

The Rother rises around Pilsley, Tupton and Noth Wingfield, only a few miles from where the Doe Lea rises. It follows a northerly course and quickly reaches the Trust's North Wingfield Nature Reserve, a small area of riparian habitat with scrub, woodland and rough grassland. Around a mile north the river enters The Avenue Washlands Nature Reserves, where a diversity of marshes, ponds and woods support aquatic invertebrates, marsh orchids, great crested newts and a whole host of birds. Further north the river passes through damp hay meadows, marshes and reclaimed brownfield land, often alive with insects and plants. North of Staveley, the river is joined by the Doe Lea.

The Doe Lea River

The Doe Lea rises south and west of Hardwick Park Estate where it initially falls though stunning ancient woodlands; some tributaries have been modified and dammed to form ponds at Hardwick Park, Stckely and Stainsby. Some of these ponds once supported a suite of rare aquatic plants, but silt and pollution have taken their toll and today the plant life has been reduced, though not enirely lost. These ponds, and others within this Living Landscape, are an excellent habitat for grass snakes, which can disperse through the connecting newtork of ditches and streams and avoid becoming too isolated. The river flows north and then west, to Carr Vale - an area of marsh, reedbed and open water important for species such as lapwing and little ringed plover. As it winds its way north, the river passes through more reedbeds, wetlands, brownfields and grassland, home to species such as orchids, common toads and UK BAP moth species including blood vein, forester and August thorn.

Working for a Living Landscape

Signs of recovery have been seen since the 1990s but there is still work to be done. Water qualiry is an ongoing issue and it's good news that the Don catchment has been included as a pilot area for an Environment Agency project. We also need to ensure that the biodiversity value of brownfield land is reconised and fully taken into account by developers, Local Authorities and local communities. Local Wildlife Sites in poor condition will be targeted for management advice and ssistance and work will continue on our reserves (such as feeding stations). Opportunities to create new habitats such as wetlands and meadows will be sought to help develop a newtork of  'stepping stone' sites.

The National Trust's Doe Lea Project aims to address some of the water quality issues within the Doe Lea catchment by encouraging and assiting landowners to amek changes to land management that reduce soil erosion and nutried run-off.