Welcome to friends of Ecological Owlthorpe Nature Trail Summer

Welcome to our on-line Visitor's Guide to Friends of Ecological Owlthorpe


Our project was named Ecological Owlthorpe by Sheffield University students, studying Landscape and Architecture. The meaning of the word Ecological is defined in the Cambridge Dictionary – relating to ecology or the environment: The destruction of the rainforest is an ecological disaster. The destruction of the trees In Ecological Owlthorpe is also an ecological disaster. Please help save Ecological Owlthorpe: https://chng.it/6vXHqcGG4S

Working with nature: Sheffield campaign calls for protection of upstream environments

Michael Meredith describes the thought process behind the ‘Ecological Owlthorpe’ project, which starts from the position only by co-operating with nature that we can safely live with nature.

Natur Trail

Nature Trail Summer

Ironically, it was a previously constructed flood defence in Sheffield that contributed to the problem. Sheffield is a city with a history of damage to property and also loss of life caused by flooding, for example in 2007, when the River Don flooded the Don Valley area of the city, and a 14-year-old boy was swept away in the River Sheaf. To prevent further disasters, a concrete barrier was erected which did save the east of Sheffield from the 2019 winter floods, but instead caused floodwater to be channeled downstream towards Fishlake. 

Ecological Owlthorpe: an environmental approach

In contrast to solutions of this kind, Ecological Owlthorpe promotes the preservation and conservation of upstream environments, an approach which is finding some favour in government circles. In an interview with Sophie Ridge in February 2020, The Secratery of state for the Emnvironmenr explained that the government’s approach to UK flood prevention would consist of an extra £4bn spending on flood defences but also in Yorkshire the creation and support of upstream nature-based solutions. In addition, as reported in a government press release on 23 January 2020, the Environment Agency, the Forestry Commission and Natural England have jointly committed to “nature-based solutions to tackle the climate emergency” to which Ecological Owlthorpe has the potential to make an excellent contribution. https://youtu.be/bbYXEDczL-U

Climate change studies, and indeed the experience of people around the world, suggest that extreme weather events such as heavy rainfall and flooding are increasing in frequency, making the question of how best to mitigate the potentially devastating effects of these on people’s lives an urgent one. Many attempts to provide solutions have taken the approach of fighting against nature but this can end up making matters worse. The ‘Ecological Owlthorpe’ project described here takes its place at a different starting point: that it is only by co-operating with nature that we can safely live with nature.

Birley Wood Golf Cause

Birley Woods golf course Image: Michael Meredith

Birley Woods golf course stands approximately 650ft above sea level. Sixty years ago, before the golf course was created, this was an area of mostly farmland and woodland, where children used to play and catch newts in the headwaters of the Ochre Dyke, a stream then lined by flourishing trees. The stream passes through Birley Moor at an elevated position of around 650 feet above sea level. As a result of heavy rain towards the end of 2019, and the deforestation that had taken place to make way for the golf course and the Owlthorpe housing estates, the otherwise harmless stream was turned into a downward-rushing torrent. This caused downstream rivers to flood, overwhelming Beighton and Fishlake.


In our campaign to preserve the Owlthorpe oasis, we have been grateful for the involvement of Sheffield University students studying landscape and architecture under the guidance of Dr Nicola Dempsey. Her students took an in-depth look at the proposal to build in Owlthorpe by reviewing the local objections. They also studied the interpretation boards that show the extent of environmental work carried out in 2012 under the guidance of Natural England.


As an alternative to this scheme, and if government pronouncements about preference being given to brownfield sites are serious, housing developments could be built on the disused aerodrome at Norton, which is brownfield land by definition and boasts many derelict buildings in need of redevelopment.

Nicola's students came to the conclusion that the oasis should remain intact, and nicknamed the project Ecological Owlthorpe.


On television, we watched the desperate plight of the Fishlake victims as the emergency services worked to evacuate them. And, as we have seen so often in recent years, when survivors are able to return to their homes after a flood, what they are met with is a scene of complete devastation. Many find it hard to claim compensation, and insurance premiums rise relentlessly, as insurance companies are overwhelmed with claims.

The ‘rural oasis’, as it has been termed, of Owlthorpe, which sits between Mosborough and Hackenthorpe, includes the award-winning Owlthorpe Heritage and Nature Trail, the Moorhole Lane Trail and other environmental and educational improvements which spread from Moor Valley down to Moss Way. Constructed with the help of some 795 local schoolchildren, the oasis was opened on 16 March 2012 by local MP Clive Betts. This is the area we wish to preserve as an upstream nature-based solution to protect the environment.

The interpretation boards on our website show details of the extent of the work carried out under the management of Natural England under their higher level stewardship scheme, for example the creation of a wild orchard.

Detailed invertebrate surveys carried out show the diversity of species living in Owlthorpe, and the natural ecology of the area. Some of the identified invertebrate species are dependent on the rare vegetation growing in Ecological Owlthorpe. These in turn are vital to the continued support of the area’s birds, and thus perpetuate the habitat naturally found in the area. During this past summer, it has been a pleasure to watch swifts darting after insects and buzzards hovering as they hunted for prey. The year 2020 has particularly highlighted the crucial need for green spaces such as this to be protected, for our own health and wellbeing and that of future generations.


Under the freedom of information act I have recived maps and payment structures from Rural Payments Agency Regarding Higher Level Stuardship Agreements between Sheffield City Council and Natural England from 2012 to 2022. The map below shows Owlthorpe Grassland & Grazing Project, and the impotrant areas of Maintance of Hedgerows, Ditches, Grassland and Wetlands that are of very high environmental Value.

Click here to see a map showing what is at stake:

A further improvement to Ecological Owlthorpe’s capacity to control downstream flooding would be the planting of more trees. It is very much to be hoped that Sheffield local planning authority (LPA) will tap into the national tree strategy and that this will lead to the planting of trees upstream on all of Sheffield’s rivers.

Competing demands on Owlthorpe

We all want to live in an environmentally friendly world free from pollution, floods, disease, famine and war. Politicians from all political parties claim to want the same and have signed up to ecological and climate emergency policies. For the sake of Ecological Owlthorpe and all other such fundamentally important environmental initiatives, let’s see if we can hold them to it.


Deforestation of trees on site E is not the way to prevent downstream flooding.

Published 2nd February 2023 Natural England unveils new Green Infrastructure Fraimework.

"Natural England's commitment is that the public should be able to access green space or water,such as woodlands, wetlands, parks and rivers, within a 15-minute walk from their home."

Taking action

As we say on our website, public opinion is a very strong tool. It is by working together that we can change hearts and minds and curb the over-development of vital green spaces, especially when mature and valuable trees are threatened with the axe. Numbers are important: politicians take notice when they feel a sufficient threat to their re-election.

A big thank you to Louise Houghton for hosting our editorial in Yorkshire Bylines.

History of our endeavours to save Ecological Owlthorpe

Dated: 2st February 2020. Michael Meredith 22 Royston Avenue Sheffield S20 6SG (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Fri 21 Feb 2020. Flooding

Dated: 26th May 2020. Call in request to George Eustace MP Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: https://www.ecological-owlthorpe.org/Email26thMay2020GeorgeEustace.pdf

Dated: 2nd June 2020. Review of Planning and Highways Committee Meeting. Video evidence is available if required.

Dated: 2020. Built our web-site to support our endives to protect Ecological Owlthorpe as an upstream nature-based solution to prevent downstream flooding. https://www.ecological-owlthorpe.org/

Date: Inquiry Held on 12-15, 19, and 21 January 2021 Site visit made on 20 January 2021 by O S Woodwards BA(Hons.) MA MRTPI an Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State. Video evidence is available if required.
Date: January 2021. Copy of my reports to the inquiry by Inspector O S Woodwards.

Evidence: Regarding Secretary of State Environment.

Evidence: Regarding Planning Inspectorate.

Evidence: Regarding Parliamentary Ombudsman.

Evidence: Regarding Secretary of State Housing.

Evidence: Regarding Natural England.

Evidence: Regarding the Environment Agency.

Evidence: Regarding Coal Authority.

Evidence: Regarding Cola Mining in Owlthorpe.

Evidence: Regarding the Forestry Commission.

Evidence: Regarding Sheffield & Rotherham WildLife Trust.

Evidence: Regarding Sheffield (LPA).

Evidence: Regarding Sheffield South East LAC.

Evidence: Regarding MP Clive Betts.

Evidence: Regarding ecological surveys.

Evidence: Regarding the Ochre Dyke.

Evidence: Facebook Posts.

Planning Objections to building on plot E Owlthorpe

Planning Objections to building on plot F Owlthorpe

Our project is now under threat from Sheffield City Council (LPA) who wish to build 150 new properties on (plot F) the Grassland & Grazing Project situated on Owlthorpe Heritage & Nature Trail, a major component of Ecological Owlthorpe.

We decided to take action and started a petition Please help our project by signing our petition to Sheffield City Council:  https://chng.it/6vXHqcGG4S   thank you to those who have signed. Please Shair with Friends and Family.

Thank you for your support

Michael Meredith



E-Mail: ecologicalowlthorpe@gmail.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/people/Ecological-Owlthorpe/100064743398782/



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