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Thorpe Marsh Nature Reserve

Enjoy a peaceful walk around Thorpe Marsh Nature Reserve with pastures lined with hedgerows, ponds, lakes and small woodlands. With such varied habitats supporting a wide range of plants and animals you are guaranteed to see or hear something of interest.


On the east bank of the River Don floodplain, Thorpe Marsh Nature Reserve is a mixture of semi-improved and unimproved grassland, small patches of woodland and open water.

It was never intensively farmed due to the surrounding railway lines and Ea Beck, as well as as being purchased by the Central Electricity Generating Board in the 1960s for tipping fly ash. This has meant that a great mix of plant species have flourished. Reedholme and Cockshaw Fields have centuries-old ridge-and-furrow corrugations with plants not now commonly seen in pastures - species such as adder's tongue fern, pepper saxifrage, devil's bit scabious, great burnet and common figwort. Voles, mice and shrews thrive here and so do the owls that feed on them, including long-eared owls in winter.


Top Tip:


Make sure you make a trip during summer to see around 20 species of butterfly and 15 species of damsel and dragonflies.


The disused railway embankments, open in parts and wooded in others, give excellent views over the site and support many plants such as red and white campions, lady's bedstraw and broad-leaved helleborine and many insects and breeding birds. Hedgerows of varying ages provide food, cover and highways for insects, birds, mammals and grass snakes. Small patches of woodland and scrub with oak, ash, hawthorn, blackthorn, willow, birch, and, in the wetter areas, alder, give many feeding and nesting opportunities for great spotted woodpeckers, long-tailed and willow tits, treecreepers and tawny owls, among others.

Thorpe Mere is the largest of the water bodies. Grey heron, geese and ducks are regulars but waders like oystercatcher, green sandpiper and redshank are often seen here. In winter wigeon and goosander are regulars. At the Mere Scrape little grebe, moorhen, coot and mallard usually breed and water rail are shy visitors too. Applehurst Pond is also worth watching with good views of water birds.


Thorpe Marsh Supporter Group Annual Report

The Thorpe Marsh Supporter Group have released their annual report for 2012, and includes all species recorded on the nature reserve. Here are some of the highlights.

Discover Yorkshire’s Wildlife

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Discover Yorkshire’s Wildlife book, which has detailed information on all of Yorkshire Wildlife and Sheffield Wildlife Trust’s reserves, is available to buy now from our online shop.


Public Transport

The nearest bus service is the Doncaster to Barnby Dun service alighting adjacent to the to the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation at Madam Lane walking back over the canal lift bridge along Forstead Lane. This is about a mile long walk to Marsh Lane plus the half hour walk mentioned in the article.



The nature reserve entrance is at the Norwood Gate on Fordstead Lane, near the Norwood pumping station. Visitors may approach via Arksey or Barnby Dun. The public bridleway to the south of the ash-tip leads to the nature reserve and its permissive footpaths.


Want to see more of Thorpe Marsh before your visit? Have a look below.

Thorpe Marsh Nature Reserve photos in our Flickr group

Nearby nature reserves

Hopyard Haymeadow Nature Reserve
5 miles - Yorkshire Wildlife Trust
Potteric Carr Nature Reserve
5 miles - Yorkshire Wildlife Trust
Fen Carr Nature Reserve
6 miles - Yorkshire Wildlife Trust

Nature reserve map

Reserve information

Fordstead Lane
South Yorkshire
Map reference
SE 594 088
Great for...
a family day out
Get directions
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Public transport
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Opening Times
Open at all times
77.00 hectares
Public and permissive footpaths. Contact the Trust for disabled access information.
Walking information
Public and permissive footpaths. Please keep all dogs on leads and on the bridle path only.
Limited car parking on Marsh Lane.
Dogs must be on lead
Grazing animals
Cattle graze some areas of the reserve
Reserve manager
Yorkshire Wildlife Trust
Tel: 01904 659570