National Character Area 39

Humberhead Levels - Key Characteristics

  • A low-lying, predominantly flat landscape, with large, regular and geometric arable fields without hedges but divided by ditches and dykes, many of which form important habitats and key corridors for species movement.

  • Much of the land is at or below mean high-water mark and maintained by drainage, with fertile soils giving rise to one of the most productive areas for root crops and cereals.

  • Variations in underlying deposits create differences within the overall flat farmed landscape, including lowland raised mires and lowland heathland, many of which are of international ecological and historical importance.

  • Sandy deposits give rise to lowland heath, which in places supports remnant birch and oak woodlands, with some conifer plantations.

  • Heavier soils around Fishlake and Sykehouse result in a smaller scale pastoral landscape, with small, thickly hedged fields, ditches and ponds, and a network of small lanes.

  • Important historic landscapes include the Isle of Axholme, with evidence of mediaeval open fields, the warps (land enriched by regular silting) near Goole and cables (long thin strip fields) around Thorne.

  • Widespread evidence of drainage history, in particular the extensive drainage from the 17th century, revealed through canalised rivers, dykes, old river courses, canals, bridges and pumping stations.

  • Views to distant horizons are often long and unbroken, with big expansive skies, and vertical elements like water towers, power stations and wind turbines are very prominent.

  • Floodplains, washlands and traditionally grazed alluvial flood meadows (or ings) associated with the major rivers and canals that cross the Levels give rise to important wetland habitats, supporting large numbers of wetland birds and wildfowl, especially over winter.

  • The waterlogged soils hold internationally important archaeological and paleo-archaeological deposits.

  • Despite settlements, motorways and main roads, there is still a sense of remoteness to be experienced on the Levels, in particular on Thorne and Hatfield Moors and along the Lower Derwent Valley.