The Humberhead Levels Partnership

Rolling plains of unique wetland landscape, in an area long managed by the local farming community - the Humberhead Levels are a rich breeding ground for UK wildlife. Twelve organisations have now come together and are working with united vision, coordinating the environmental work necessary to keep the Humberhead Levels special

The Humberhead Levels Partnership

The Humberhead Levels Partnership is a cooperative effort aiming to create an internationally renowned, unique network of wetlands in a predominantly agricultural landscape, whilst supporting thriving communities and wildlife. One of its key aims is to work with local businesses, landowners, communities and other organisations to achieve sustainable land management practices.

What is the Humberhead Levels?

  • A huge flat plain spanning over 2,000 square kilometres, occupying the area of the former pro-glacial Lake Humber
  • It straddles the borders of Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire where rivers draining one fifth of England meet the Humber Estuary
  • The area stretches north from Retford in North Nottinghamshire to beyond Selby in North Yorkshire, and from Doncaster in South Yorkshire, east to Scunthorpe in Lincolnshire.
  • The land here is mostly less than 10m above sea level, and in some areas lies below sea level, too
  • It comprises large expanses of arable farming, rivers, dykes and a mosaic of wetlands
  • An amazing landscape, rich in wildlife and human heritage - offering significant potential to deliver wider ecosystem services including food and fuel production, flood attenuation and biodiversity
  • A fantastic example of the Wildlife Trusts' collaborative work with dynamic partner organisations to restore a Living Landscape

Twelve organisations working together

Map of the Humberhead Levels


To make a difference across such a huge area, a partnership of 12 organisations (including three Wildlife Trusts, the RSPB, three Councils, three Drainage Boards and two Government Agencies) have developed a shared vision and are working closely together to tackle the environmental problems of the area.

Whether the issue is flooding, or insufficient water for irrigation or the drying out of internationally important wildlife sites, the solutions lie in fitting these differing needs together to benefit all.  It's like a big wet jigsaw puzzle and we’ve lost the box with the picture!

See how far the Humberhead Levels extend
- click on the map

Working in partnership we are achieving more...Project officer Tom Hayek surveying - photo credit Tom Hayek

Between 2009 and 2011, work funded by Natural England created or restored over 140 hectares of new wetland habitats, created 57 new ponds and improved 27 km of rivers and drains for wildlife.

Much of the work we have undertaken was in conjunction with Natural England’s environmental stewardship schemes (especially Higher Level Stewardship, HLS), with a strong focus on advising and assisting landowners. Typically this related to land which is often difficult to drain or which floods frequently, and which may be suitable for restoration into wet meadows, ponds and reedbeds; or could be farmland next to rivers and existing wetlands such as Hatfield Moors or Potteric Carr.

New Nature Improvement Area

Humberhead Levels Nature Improvement Area mapA new phase of work is just beginning.

Nature Improvement Areas were a flagship policy contained in last year’s Natural Environment White Paper ‘The Natural Choice’ which set out  aims to improve the quality of the natural environment across England, halt the decline in habitats and species, and strengthen the connection between people and nature.  It committed Government to supporting the natural environment to function more effectively through joined-up action at local and national levels to create an ecological network which is resilient to changing pressures.


The Humberhead Levels is one of twelve Nature Improvement Areas in England, announced on the 27th February 2012.  At least 1427 hectares of wetland habitat will be restored through a £1.7 million action programme with £580,000 received through DEFRAs NIA funding scheme

A large pdf version of this map is available to download at the bottom of the page

Wonderful Wildlife!

The Humberhead Levels is a great place to visit for an extraordinary range of wildlife. The great mires, birch woodlands and reedbeds of the area support species like the nightjar, adder, bittern, water vole, marsh harrier, otter, nightingale, large heath butterfly and amazing unique tiny creatures such as the Thorne pin-palp beetle, the bog hog beetle, the hairy canary fly and the scarce vapourer moth!

Black tailed godwit - photo credit Rob StonemanLittle grebe - photo credit Jo MeaysOtter snacking - photo credit Wildstock

Great places to visit on the Levels


To discuss the work of the partnership and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust's strategic development of this Living Landscape please contact Kevin Bayes via email.


FilenameFile size
The Humberhead Levels Nature Improvement Area map.pdf4.19 MB