Broomhill Flash

Wombwell, Barnsley

Broomhill Flash is a remarkable place. Located in a former industrial area dominated by coal mines and colliery villages, it forms one of a ‘string of pearls’ of lakes, ponds and marshes along the valley of the River Dearne in Yorkshire.

Found between Barnsley and Doncaster, these are of significant regional importance for wildlife, especially birds.

The origins of Broomhill Flash

The word ‘flash’ describes a shallow lake, usually formed through the flooding of land, which has collapsed due to underground coal mining. In its present form, Broomhill Flash was created around 100 years ago, and is an excellent example of this within the region’s mining heritage.

A haven for bird life

The lake and surrounding pasture is especially good for birds, being home to many different species which have long disappeared from much of the countryside.

Garganey – a drake at nearby Old Moor (copyright Peter Garrity)

In spring, the place is alive with the display and song of wading birds such as northern lapwing, redshank and snipe, while the lake hosts a wealth of wildfowl such as shoveler, tufted duck, little grebe and black-headed gulls.

At migration times in spring and autumn, the Flash provides rich conditions for feeding for birds en-route between the Arctic and Africa, and many rare and scarce species have been seen such as pectoral sandpiper, osprey, glossy ibis and whiskered tern.

A wealth of wildlife

The scarce water-plants hairlike pondweed and water crowfoot grow in abundance, and other interesting plants such as great burnet, lady’s smock, quaking grass and wild privet grow on the reserve.

There are brown hares in the pastures, and in summer, dragonflies and damselflies such as brown hawkers and black-tailed skimmers. Eels and ten-spined sticklebacks have been found in the shallows.

Broad-bodied chaser at Broomhill Flash nature reserve
Broad-bodied Chaser Libellula depressa (Jeff Lunn)

Many of the special plants and animals at Broomhill Flash rely on water. Some bird species favour shallow flooded grassland, which provides an abundance of insects to feed their young, especially as the water recedes. While in winter, higher water levels favour the ducks, swans and geese.

The aim of water management is to capture all the autumn and winter rainfall to ensure an abundance of shallow flooded grassland in early spring. This is followed by a gradual drawdown of levels to normal summer conditions and lower levels in autumn, providing muddy fringes for migrating birds. Management is carried out by traditional cattle grazing. This helps to keep the grass in good condition, and also creates the tussocky conditions for nesting birds.