Credit: © Natural England

About Us

Credit: © Natural England

Credit: © Natural England

Credit: © Tom Lowe

Credit: © Tom Lowe


History The Humberhead Peatlands, located in South Yorkshire, are part of the last remnants of a large wetland that occupied the floodplain of the Humberhead Levels thousands of years ago. The Humberhead Peatlands comprises Thorne, Hatfield, Goole, and Crowle Moors and are designated as National Nature Reserves. It represents the largest area of raised bog wilderness in lowland UK at 2,887 hectares in size. Threatened habitat Lowland raised bog is one of western Europe's rarest and most threatened habitats. Around 94% of this unique habitat has been destroyed or damaged in the UK. The Humberhead Peatlands is a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) for its habitat and an internationally important breeding site for the nocturnal, insect-feeding nightjar which was responsible for the area being declared as a Special Protection Area (SPA) under the European Birds Directive. The two main sites, Thorne and Hatfield Moors, were both exploited for peat over many centuries. During the 20th century the integrity of the bog and its unique biodiversity were severely threatened by mechanised peat extraction and associated drainage. These activities finally ended in 2004 and provided the opportunity to restore the UK's largest area of degraded lowland raised bog. The Project In 2014 Natural England was successful in securing funding from the European Union's LIFE+ programme to help the restoration of the Humberhead Peatlands. This was matched with a small contribution from Natural England and 1.9 million from the Environment Agency, channelled through Doncaster East Internal Drainage Board, who are delivering complimentary works on Thorne Moors known as the Thorne Water Level Management Plan. The project called, That's LIFE - Restoring the Humberhead Peatlands (LIFE13NAT/UK/000451) was launched in July 2014 and will continue to at least June 2018. The LIFE+ Project will extend the area of peatbog habitat under active restoration and will help provide a long-term future for the rare plants, birds and insects that have evolved to live on this unique wetland habitat. The funding will be used to ensure that the peat across the 2,887 hectares of the area is wet enough so that wildlife, including birds such as the nightjar and hobby, and specialist plants including cotton grasses, bog mosses and wild cranberries, can thrive. The project will also research and monitor the bog's unique bird and insect populations which will help inform similar restoration projects elsewhere. The completion of the Project will leave a lasting legacy for UK's largest lowland raised bogs.

Restoring the Peatlands The aim of this project is to reverse the damage caused by commercial peat extraction and bring the site back into favourable condition by controlling the water levels at a suitable depth to help the growth of peat-forming vegetation, such as cotton grasses and Sphagnum mosses. A number of actions will be carried out over the life of the Project. These include:

  • Establish a stable water table with +/-20cm of ground level across the sites. Increase nightjar population by 15% from current population of 80-88 territorial males
  • Monitor bog recovery via:
  • Water-level data-logger recording;
  • Recording the re-establishment of peat-forming vegetation;
  • Monitoring the effects the bog restoration on the breeding nightjar;
  • Assess bog restoration on key invertebrate assemblages.
  • Increase awareness amongst local communities, visitors and key scientific audiences.

Cumbria BogLIFE Project

In 2014 the EU LIFE+ Programme also awarded Natural England a match funded grant to restore degraded raised bog habitat in Cumbria. Our sister project, Cumbria Bog Life+ Project, is focused on three lowland raised bog sites; Bolton Fell Moss to the north-east of Carlisle, Roudsea Woods and Mosses (NNR) in south Cumbria and Wedholme Flow (NNR) - one of four raised bogs within the South Solway Mosses. The project will directly restore 507 hectares of degraded raised bog and as these are part of wider areas of bog, this will result in improvements to 2,807 hectares of the Natura 2000 network in Cumbria. The Project Managers and staff from both the LIFE+ Projects in Cumbria and the Humberhead Peatlands are working closely together, sharing best practice and guidance on degraded raised bog habitat. Find out about the best practice techniques being used by both projects by reading the BogLife Newsletter.

Contribution from the EU

The LIFE+ Programme is the European Union's funding instrument for the environment. Funding is awarded to projects that demonstrate best practice and innovation demonstration, contributing to the objectives of Natura 2000.

Credit: © Natural England

Credit: © David Rogan

Credit: © Tom Lowe

Credit: © Tom Lowe


Partners The successful delivery of the LIFE+ Project is dependent on its partners.


Natural England

The government's adviser for the natural environment in England, helping to protect England's nature and landscapes for people to enjoy and for the services they provide. Represented on the LIFE+ Project Steering Group by Neil Pike, Chair and Tim Kohler.

Visit Natural England website

Doncaster East Internal Drainage Board

The Doncaster East Internal Drainage Board's purpose is to protect people and their property against river and surface water flooding through water level management within low lying areas predominately from the east of Doncaster towards the River Idle and River Torne which discharge into the River Trent. Represented on the LIFE+ Project Steering Group by Sue Wilkinson and Martin Oldknow.

Visit Doncaster East Internal Drainage Board website

Thorne & Hatfield Moors Conservation Forum

The Thorne and Hatfield Moors Conservation Forum was formed in 1989. The Forum acts as an umbrella for a wide range of like-minded organisations. Provides a place for debate, and the gathering and disseminating of information. In recent years, it has been forced to take on a campaigning role however, this aspect of its work has always been underpinned by sound safe science, and research, survey and monitoring remain key activities. The Forum is administered by an Executive Committee. Represented on the LIFE+ Project Steering Group by Helen R Kirk, Vice Chair.

Visit Thorne & Hatfield Moors Conservation Forum website

Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust

Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust is a voluntary charitable organisation which cares for Lincolnshire's wildlife and countryside. It is one of 47 similar Wildlife Trusts covering the UK which are affiliated to the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts. Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust is one of the oldest of these county trusts, having been founded in 1948. The Trust covers the whole of the historic county of Lincolnshire - from the Humber to the Wash. Represented on the LIFE+ Project Steering Group by Matt Cox.

Visit Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust website

North Lincolnshire Council

Our vision is for North Lincolnshire to be an area with aspiring people and inspiring places. We strive to deliver excellent outcomes for the people and places of North Lincolnshire. Represented on the LIFE+ Project Steering Group by Tim Allen.

Visit North Lincolnshire Council website

Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council

Providing services & information about Doncaster Council & the wider borough for locals, tourists and the business community. Represented on the LIFE+ Project Steering Group by Melissa Masserella.

Visit Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council website



The LIFE+ project team

David Hargreaves

Project Manager

Dr Richard Smith

Monitoring Officer (former)

Amanda Lane

Project Administrator (former)

Mark Outhwaite

Assistant Project Manager (former)

Ed Brightman

Assistant Project Manager (former)

Helen Laycock

Project Administrator







Credit: © Natural England

Project Leaflet

Download as PDF: Restoring the Humberhead Peatlands Project leaflet.