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Wild and free in the South Yorkshire village of Sprotbrough

PUBLISHED: 13:57 10 August 2011 | UPDATED: 19:50 20 February 2013

Wild and free in the South Yorkshire village of Sprotbrough

Wild and free in the South Yorkshire village of Sprotbrough

A South Yorkshire village offers an unexpected escape from the hustle and bustle of the city as Esther Leach reports Photographs by Elizabeth Savage

Hidden gem is a phrase freely used to describe villages in Yorkshire but on this occasion its more than justified. Sprotbrough is an unlikely haven just off the A1M, one of the countrys busiest roads and three miles to the north west of Doncaster.

Peaceful, shaded streets are lined with smart homes and the neat village centre still has its post office and corner shop.

There is village sprawl that reaches over the motorway bridge which could divide the community but Sprotbrough is pretty much united. Everyone mixes, says Janet Malkin. She was strolling with two-year-old Lily Henfield along the bank of the canal by-passing Sprotbrough Falls, a weir on the River Don which runs through the village. Its a friendly place with everything we need, schools, post office and shops and a library. The waterway and the Trans Pennine Trail which follows its course at this point, attracts residents and visitors alike.

Margaret and Bill Beardsley, sit together on a canal bank bench, happily watching the world go by. They live in nearby Balby. We often come here, says Margaret. We live just a mile away. Its a peaceful place where we like to stroll. It can be very busy at weekends especially with walkers and its nice to chat with them. Bill adds: We like to watch the narrow boats. Its very good for taking photographs.

And its not just a place enjoyed by older people or young families. College student Daniel Bennett, 19, rests his bicycle against a canal bank bench, and sits for a while to soak up the sunshine. He likes to ride his bicycle on the trail as do other cyclists who, helmeted heads down, swish by. I like coming down here, says Daniel. Its great to ride your bike here. People like the Boat Inn, just behind here, he adds turning around to look at a handsome building.

The River Don travels on through the Don Gorge, with its steep limestone cliffs carved out over thousands of years by receding ice floes of the last Ice Age. It is officially designated as a site of special scientific interest. Rare plants thrive here and it is a safe breeding area for birds.

Liz Reeve, secretary of the Don Gorge Community Group, says their aim is to protect the natural environment. It is so easy to let places become overtaken by modernity; we want this place to remain special.

It was community concern about the future of the gorge that led to the creation of the Don Gorge Strategic Partnership which brings together the different groups and individuals involved in the site including the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and Doncaster Museums Service, Natural England and the Environment Agency. A management plan drawn up in 2006 is now under review and a condensed five year action plan will be produced by the autumn this year. For more information contact Liz by email at lizreeve@dongorgecommunitygroup.com

The group also supports the Don Gorge Volunteers who regularly meet to work on site creating benches, repairing footpaths, hedge-laying, litter picking and identifying plants. New members are always welcome and should get in touch with the volunteer co-ordinator and countryside ranger Dennis Roe on 07717701296.

Information boards on the canal bank reveal interesting facts and urge visitors to explore the Sprotbrough Flash, a shining expanse of water created by subsidence from coal mining which is managed by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. Here there is refuge for more wildlife and a place of discovery for nature lovers. There are more than 100 species of birds recorded every year with 65 breeding species including great crested grebe, gadwall, reed warbler, and green and great spotted woodpecker.

Larger mammals include deer, fox and hare. There are six species of bat and molluscs, fungi, mosses and lichens in plenty. The once polluted River Don now hosts coarse fishing matches.

Getting there: Sprotbrough is close to Jct 36 A1M and there are regular bus services between Doncaster and Sprotbrough

Where to park: Park with consideration on the street in the village and by the canal and River Don

What to do: Take the Millennium Walk devised by Sprotbrough and Cusworth Parish Council to commemorate the year 2000. It starts at Cusworth and heads to Sprotbrough using the Trans-Pennine Trail and local footpaths returning back to the grounds of Cusworth Hall.

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