Idle and Torne

The Idle and Torne catchment spans ~1200km2 (Idle 879km2 and Torne 328km2) crossing the counties of Nottinghamshire, North Lincolnshire and South Yorkshire.

The catchment is predominantly arable, though requires substantial drainage in the northern areas due to the land being at or below sea level.

Near Markham Moor, the Rivers Maun, Meden and Poulter meet to form the River Idle, which is joined downstream by the River Ryton near Bawtry. At Bawtry, the River Idle turns eastwards to its confluence with the River Trent at West Stockwith. From the sources of the major tributaries to confluence, it collectively flows through Mansfield, Worksop, Retford, Maltby and Bawtry. The river Idle originally drained into the Don at Hatfield Chase but was diverted south to its current path in order to drain Hatfield Chase for creation of agricultural land.

The River Torne rises near Tickhill and flows northeastward, through the heavily drained area of the Isle of Axholme to its confluence with the River Trent at Keadby passing through south Doncaster. The Torne is a distinctively engineered river system. It has been extensively modified, straightened and deepened for drainage to enhance agriculture and flood prevention. This has often been at the expense of wildlife, with limited habitat available for aquatic and marginal flora.

The Idle and Torne catchment consists of two main operational catchments, the River Idle (including 31 classified waterbodies) and the Isle of Axholme (incorporating 12 water bodies including the River Torne). The Idle and Torne flow through vast areas of high-grade, drained agricultural land, historic urban areas, various archaeological and historic industrial sites, including former coal mines, sand and gravel quarry pits, some of which have now been given SSSI status and into the tidal reaches of the river Trent. Whilst access is controlled via sluice gates at West Stockwith and Keadby, the navigational journey of the Idle and Torne river networks is in part undertaken by the European Eel and potentially salmon and brown trout, though improved access is required so they can reach the upper waters.

The Idle and Torne’s, drainage and engineering legacy means we need to find ways to future-proof the catchment against a more volatile water cycle, impacted by our changing climate. As the landscape has been built for drainage, it is more vulnerable to drought and flood-the land will not hold, store or slow the water, communities downstream are left vulnerable. Equally, with limited good quality habitat lying below sea level incoming coastal waters are an increasing concern.

Places such as Isle of Axholme have water conflicts written in their history books. Today, we need to think about how we want to build for peace tomorrow – nature-based solutions and restorative work need to be at the heart of such strategies.

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