Tuesday, 13 December 2011




This is the proposed new site on the island for the fish pass and small hydro scheme, along with the housing required for the electrical control unit.  This area is quite narrow and is currently used as a picnic area. 

We have been made aware that the Canal and River Trust (ex British Waterways) and the Small Hydro Company, which are in partnership, have agreed that siting this scheme on the south side of Sprotborough Falls is not now viable and so they intend to build it on the  north side, ie on the island. 

This has come as a complete shock to those of us who have been involved in the planning so far and we wish as many people who might have a view to consider the implications of this and contact us.  We had always had concerns regarding the siting of the housing required for the electrical control unit, etc, but were waiting for the planning application before considering objections.  However, although plans have still not been published, there seem to be many disadvantages to this proposal as follows:

·      This is considered to be an area of outstanding natural beauty and the island is a Site of Special Interest (SSI).   We believe that anything which might undermine the fragility of the island should only be undertaken after stringent assessment and consideration of all the possibilities.

·      Lower Sprotborough has been one of  Doncaster’s most attractive beauty spots for hundreds of years, one could even say the jewel in Doncaster’s crown, and as such should not be marred by large building/s which are out of character with the area..

·      Potential environmental damage to trees and habitat.

·      Access of all plant and machinery would be via Sprotbrough village, down Boat Lane and over the canal bridge for a period of approximately six months.  This would involve plant crossing the high pressure gas main supply to the village.

·      Disruption of traffic flows over the river during construction and also during cable-laying activity following construction, with the likely use of traffic lights for weeks or months at a time.

·      Potential weakening of the canal bridge.  This is protected at present due to the weight restrictions already in place on the river bridge.

·      The wall at each side of the gateway access onto the island would be in jeopardy due to the present width of the gateway and the anticipated size of plant and machinery.

·      Water flow rates are greater on the island side.  Would this defeat the object of enabling fish to ‘climb’ the ladder?

·      Weakening of the canal embankment due to heavy plant driving on and off and destruction of the surrounding area during construction. 

·      The possibility of increased flooding.   The island has been so landscaped that, when in full spate, the water will flow from the canal to the river over the island.   If it should flood during construction, there could be a danger that parts of the island would be eroded and washed away, particularly as the proposed site is on a narrow section of the island.  Could such damage actually split the island in two making access to the end of the island impossible?

·      Because of the fragility of the island, it seems possible that this erosion could be increased, not only during construction, but in the longer term as soil disturbance might have unforeseen consequences in future. 

·      If there is any change to the way in which rising waters are allowed to flow over the island - or, indeed, if debris in the filter beds causes backing up of flood waters, it is possible that The Boat Inn and the cottages at Lower Sprotborough could be more endangered than is the case at present.  As we know, the 2007 inundation resulted in flooding of them by more than a metre of water. 

·      One would expect that a geological survey has been carried out by the Small Hydro Company to ascertain the possibility of this risk.  If so, the results should be published.  If not, why not?

·      The installation of two buildings, one approx 12' square and 8' high - and even higher if it has to be raised up to take account of flooding.  Even with environmentally-friendly cladding, the size and height of these would destroy the natural beauty of the area.

·      Access to any viewing area (which was part of the original scheme) would only be available from the gate between the two bridges, which would be dangerous for pedestrians as there is no footpath on western side of the road.

·      The possible loss of use of the island for picnickers and anglers during construction and into the future.

·       Potential for loss of moorings for narrow boat users during construction and into the future.

·       Negative visual impact of debris being held back on filter grids required to protect plant.

·       Impact on environment and local residents from construction noise and activity.

·       Noise from generator equipment, etc, has been an issue on some sites where hydro-electric has been installed.  This will need to be taken into consideration because of its proximity to residents and the possible impact on visitors to the area who currently come because of the peace and tranquility the area offers.

·      The desecration of this beautiful area would be a tragedy and any organisation or profit-making company which claims to improve the environment by destroying it should be prevented from doing so.

Just over the fence is Sprotborough Weir.


Liz Reeve
Don Gorge Community Group
Email: lizreeve@dongorgecommunitygroup.com

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Conservation Volunteers' Christmas Dinner

Staff and conservation volunteers from the Don Gorge, Cusworth Park and Conisbrough Mill Piece groups met today for their annual Christmas get-together.

Held for the second year running at The Cadeby Inn, a good time was had by all.

Many thanks to Richard Aldridge for organising the event again.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Follow-up to the Well Project

Following information published about the Well Project, it was discovered that relatives of the two women shown on the plaque, ie Mabel Watson and Gladys Batty, are still in the area.  Geoff Watson and his son Richard still live in Sprotbrough, as do Wendy Flores-Martinez and her daughter, Milly, pictured below, making them the  grand-daughter and  great grand-daughter of Gladys Batty.  Cynthie (also pictured) lives at Warmsworth and is the daughter of Gladys and sister to Wendy's mother. 

'SIGHTINGS'   -   Why not check out this  page for pictures of the Jay photographed today.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

"My Sprotborough"

Lower Sprotborough

Playing tag in the lane, a tin bath in front of the fire,  rambling through the woods; walking up the hill to chapel three times on Sunday and my granddad shouting ‘hallelujah’; Miss Goodman’s village shop and characters with names like Mr Spink, Mr Sharp and Mrs Meek; a bucket toilet in the back yard, helping on the farm; the smell of washing drying round the fire, dough rising on the hearth; grass verges and few footpaths, old houses, the river, the canal and ice skating on the lake; sledging down Hill 60, ice crystals on the window panes, wet gloves and hot aches; shelling peas and harvest festivals; cats and kittens being born – and sometimes drowned; the little school in the village and a friend hiding tough meat under cabbage so that she would be allowed to leave it; the last horse-drawn barge and lads diving from the bridge on hot days; my mum and Mrs Lockwood cleaning the chapel and my dad taking us to the races; people picking blackberries or carrying armfuls of bluebells down the wood, just to throw them away when they wilted; catching the bus to Richmond Hill School and mourning the death of King George in 1952 before moving into the new school next door; chickens and collecting eggs; old bikes and pram trolleys; chilblains and scorched legs caught by huddling too close to the fire whilst trying to avoid the draughts; passersby asking for a drink of water; tying people’s door knobs together on Mischievous Night, and bonfire night with rockets and Catherine Wheels, and jumping jacks chasing us down the lane; politicians sending cars to collect last-minute voters; and listening to the radio, a life-long pleasure that meant so much to everyone in the 40s and 50s: Listen with Mother, Children’s Hour and Journey into Space, Chapel in the Valley and Morning Service, Mrs Dale’s Diary and The Archers, Round the Horn and the Navy Lark as we ate our Sunday dinner, and the excitement of winning the Ashes from Australia in 1953 for the first time in 19 years

My childhood home

These random thoughts course through my mind as I think of ‘My Sprotborough’.  For the first ten years and ten months of my life, the images of Lower Sprotborough that these thoughts provoke were my reality: enjoyed and accepted unquestioningly by the child I then was.  I thought what they represented would go on and on and that I would continue to be part of it all.  To me it was idyllic and I wanted it to last for ever. 

But on the 21st December 1954, my dad set off for Wales to see his brother on his BSA Bantam, never to be seen again.   The funeral was on Christmas Eve and what should have been a celebration turned into a wake.    The picture of my mother washing the hearth in floods of tears, as I stand by not knowing what to do or say, is the one that will stick in my mind for ever. 

I just about scraped through the 11+ and became a Percy Piglet, transferring to the Grammar School the following September, feeling quite grown-up as I travelled to Sprotbrough Road end and then caught the Woodlands bus to Adwick – no special buses for the few of us who attended Percy Jackson’s at that time, though a pass was provided.

By the time my five years there had passed, it was 1960 and Sprotbrough had changed even more.  Anything ‘old’ became expendable and ‘new’ became enviable.  Sprotbrough was becoming a desirable place to live and that meant more houses were needed.  During the next decade, in fields where we had played and held Summer Fayres, housing estates sprang up, older properties in the village were pulled down, and, with the railway line now obsolete, bridges were demolished and the cut filled in.  A new road and footpath was driven through The Park and the celandines and primroses that had so beautifully dressed the verges in Spring were gradually forgotten.   Sprotbrough acquired a manicured air, more suitable for the increasing number of vehicles and safer for pedestrians.   Even the name of the village changed when, for some reason unknown to me, and to my intense displeasure, the Council decided to take the heart out of it by removing the middle ‘o’.

They say disappointment always accompanies the return to a well-remembered place, but although I had married, had a family and moved away, I had never truly left.  It was still home, as my mother continued to live at Lower Sprotborough.  We had seen the transformation being made and, whilst being nostalgic for some of the losses, being the new generation, we recognised the benefits too.    We resolved to return and hoped we might carry any disappointment lightly.

We have now been back for almost nine years and, despite the flood of 2007, have not been disappointed.  We enjoy the benefits of modern life just as much as anyone else – who would still want a bucket toilet in the back yard for instance?  Or no central heating?  And how we would complain if the roads were always full of pot-holes and there was nowhere safe to walk? 

Fortunately, I have the best of both worlds, as little has changed at Lower Sprotborough where I live once again.  I rejoice that the lane, pot-holes and all, is still tarmac free and that nature is allowed more or less free rein.  The Flash, that was simply ‘the lake’ to us, still attracts interesting birds - and ‘twitchers’ to see them, the river bank and the woodlands still produce lovely wild flowers, and it is still possible to walk where no vehicles can impinge on one’s senses.   Sadly, there is no sound of children’s voices playing outside in the lane these days, but the bluebells are growing in greater numbers again and orchids flourish in the meadow.   The bars on the wall that we used to swing on at the end of the lane are sadly no more and badly parked cars mar the verges, but the fight is on to retain the natural beauty of the area.  As an old, new resident, I am committed to preventing the worst excesses that modernisation can throw at us and protecting what I can of the things that I loved so much as a child.  My Sprotborough is still ‘My Sprotborough’, but I hope that children who live here today and in the future might still be able to claim that description for themselves, having experienced something of the adventure that is still available to them in the countryside so near to their homes. 

My mum, Alice Watson, and her second husband Norman sitting on the wall at the end of the lane at Lower Sprotborough, showing the bars, our gymnasium, on which we swung and learned acrobatics. 

During the 1980s, Sprotbrough Lock was enlarged, Conisbrough lock was removed and the height of Sprotborough weir was raised to accommodate it.  These bars, which stretched the length of the wall, were removed and never replaced when the height of the wall was also raised.  Another reminder of childhood lost.


©  E Reeve
6 .11.11

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Sunday Afternoon on The Flash

All in a flap!

                                                                         Not only the birds can catch fish!                             Sleeping it off!

Friday, 4 November 2011

Autumn Colour

St Mary's Church, Sprotbrough, from The Flash

Conservation Volunteers

The Conservation Volunteers will be heldge-laying on 15th and 29th November and 13th December 2011. They meet at 10 am the Lock House on the island at Lower Sprotborough (access between the bridges), where there is plenty of parking, so if you fancy having a go, now is your chance. Please come prepared with strong shoes, warm/water-proof clothing and a packed lunch. All tools are provided

Three stages of hedge-laying.


The hedge as it is today - ready for a trim?

The volunteers have now had quite a bit of experience of this so there will be plenty to show you the ropes.

Age and gender are no bar either, as ladies are made very welcome and the picture below shows three 80+ year olds who still have lots to offer.

Chas Prouten, Bernard Pearson and Dennis Jones with Cllrs Cynthia Ransome
and Mark Thompson (Chair of the Don Gorge Strategic Partnership)

Monday, 31 October 2011

Vandalism and Theft in the Don Gorge

Like most places these days, the Don Gorge is not without episodes of vandalism, but not only vandalism as theft has recently become part of the scene.  In the past, the bird hides have suffered from arson and even when new ones were built, they continued to suffer damage with the seating and shelving being destroyed and graffiti covering the walls.

A couple of years ago, the limestone meadow within the Sprotborough Plantation was fenced by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust to enable sheep to graze, thereby encouraging wild flowers to grow more profusely and kissing gates were installed to allow continued public access to this area.  However, a few months ago, several sheep were found wandering in the woodland and the kissing gates were then found to be missing.  Five-bar gates have since been stolen, along with water tanks provided for the sheep. 

This is not the result of children being mischievious, as the gates are far too heavy and would need strong men to move and carry them to a vehicle.  Perhaps they have been stolen to order.  Whatever the reason, it is hard to understand the mentality of anyone who can purposely steal from the community.

If anyone has any information which might lead to the conviction of those responsible, we would be very pleased to receive it.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Lower Sprotborough Recognised at Last

It might not seem much to you, and I must admit it's not what I thought we were getting, but I suppose we have to be grateful that for the first time ever a sign has been erected to show where the residents of  Lower Sprotborough (sorry Sprotbrough) actually live. 

After years of delivering services on a regular basis, the postman, the dustman and the recyclers have no trouble finding us, but to order something on the internet and ask for it to be delivered was to find that it had been returned to depot saying they couldn't find us.  Now they have no excuse - unless someone parks their car in front of it, of course. 

I had hoped for something a little grander, more in keeping with an area of outstanding natural beauty, but apparently that's not possible as the sign would have been too big.  And, as it's a private road, we weren't really entitled to one anyway!

So, a big thank you to DMBC for providing a sign which should, in theory anyway, solve all our delivery problems.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Car Parking in the Gorge

One of the major problems of the Don Gorge relates to car parking.  On weekends, it can reach epic proportions, which are even worse when a nice weekend coincides with a fishing match.  We love having visitors and would like to welcome everyone to this beautiful area, but sometimes it's just not possible.  The present car park is very small and can be full from 8 am to 5 pm, leaving the casual visitor with nowhere to park.  The result is that some owners park their vehicles in an unsafe manner without consideration for walkers or the environment. 

Over the past few weeks, there have been occasions when things have got totally out of hand as the following photos show:

Can it be considered safe when the icecream van has to park half way across the road just before the blind bend or when pedestrians have to walk down the middle of the road because cars are parked on the pavement just round the same blind bend. 

Is it right that the verge of the woodland on Nursery Lane should be cut down so that cars can jump the kerb to park on it? 

It is fair to cyclists, pushchair and wheelchairs users that cars should block the entry way near the landing stage so that they are unable to reach the Trans-Pennine Way and the bird hides? 

The Don Gorge Community Group and the Don Gorge Strategic Partnership are currently investigating other, more appropriate areas for parking.  It may mean a little further to walk, but isn't that what people come to do on an afternoon out in the Gorge?    

We hope if we get permission to use these other sites, that people will use them and see the benefits to the environment of doing so.

In the meantime, please be considerate to the needs of other users.

The Well at Lower Sprotborough


Our Conservation Volunteers have continued to meet on a fortnightly basis doing all kinds of things to make the area more attractive, but towards the end of last year they began a new project.  On the lane leading to Sprotbrough Flash and the woodland, there was a well with a pump which was used by the residents of Lower Sprotbrough until the 1920s.  Since then, the site had become overgrown.  It had been uncovered and investigated at various times over the years, but gradually it had become covered over once more.  The volunteers decided to take it on as a project and so set about clearing it out again with the intention of sealing the well, which was beautifully lined with bricks, and building a cairn.  Unfortunately, having started, the winter’s snow and ice put a stop to it until the spring, but eventually on 19th April a time capsule was sealed inside and the topping out ceremony was performed.   The cairn was topped with a stainless steel engraving of the photograph of it featured in Peter Tuffrey’s book “Sprotborough, Cadeby, Cusworth and Levitt Hagg”.  By July, planters had been made and filled with flowers to bring the project to an end.

With the aim of honouring the volunteers’ commitment to the project and perhaps to gain a little publicity, we
 decided to enter it into the Community section of the Doncaster in Bloom competition.  The award ceremony was held on the 12th October at the Mansion House and we attended with little hope of success as the judging took place only a few days after the flowers were planted and they really needed time to develop.  However, we enjoyed seeing all the other entries displayed on the screen and thought the photo of our cairn didn’t look totally out of place amongst them, so crossed our fingers and waited.

Imagine our delight then when we heard the Don Gorge Conservation Volunteers Well Project named as the outright winner.  Ken Green, one of the volunteers who had done a great deal towards the fulfilment of the project went forward to receive a certificate, vouchers for £20, an engraved trophy and a smaller one which we will keep after the larger one has been returned. 
It’s very satisfying for the volunteers to have their work recognised in this way as they work so hard throughout the year and we congratulate them on this very special achievement.

Why not come down and have a look at it.