Barnsley Biodiversity Trust: Barnsley Biodiversity Action Plan. Last Updated November 2016

Standing water can be great for wildlife. Many standing water bodies remain from previous landscapes and water usage, including mill ponds and leats, farm ponds, subsidence flashes, the array of drainage dykes, and reservoirs feeding canals or supplying water. These constitute many of the richest areas for wildlife although some are in a poor state.

Ponds, ditches and stretches of old canal can be very rich in wildlife. Two thirds of all freshwater species are supported by standing water, including all our amphibians, dragonflies and many other aquatic insects and regionally scarce plants.

Standing open water also provides roosting and feeding areas for wildfowl like Mallard, Teal, Coot, Moorhen, Tufted Duck, Pochard and Goosander. In the winter, visitors from more northerly climes such as the Goldeneye and Wigeon may be found.

The standing water habitat in Barnsley ranges from the acidic moorland reservoirs such as Winscar, and lowland reservoirs like Worsbrough, to ponds, lakes and canals mainly in the Dearne valley, 240 ha in total.

Barnsley has eight lengths of canal, 12 notable ditches, 35 ponds and numerous springs. Garden and farm ponds must number in the hundreds. Then there are eight reservoirs.

The Dearne Valley series of wetlands, in particular, supports important assemblages of species - breeding, migrant and wintering birds, scarce plants and insects.

Features of priority habitat that support wildlife species

Species associated with standing water include aquatic species occurring in the water body itself (for example various fish and insect), and terrestrial species which utilise exposed sediments or use the standing water for foraging for food for example water vole, heron and various duck species.  

Standing water also supports species like bats that, although utilising standing water for foraging, are not necessarily reliant on them.

Standing water also supports wildlife species by providing the environment for breeding and for the early stages of development of some species for example: dragonfly, damselfly, amphibians …

Amphibians and mammals, like Common Toad and Water Vole, found in standing water are also reliant on other neighbouring habitats.

For standing water, high water quality, seasonal fluctuation and open, unshaded habitat are identified as being very important for many species, and, for ponds in particular, wet bare mud is of high importance for some species.

Factors causing loss or decline

Good practice

Ponds and standing water bodies are best sustained by:


50% of the UK’s ponds were lost in the 20th century; 80% of those remaining are in a poor state.

Legal protection

In Barnsley there are some small ponds and standing water given legal protection by being within areas designated as SPA or SSSIs - eg western moors

Other ponds, lakes, and other standing water, have some legal protection through being within areas designated as Local Nature Reserves for example Dearne Valley country park, ….

Other ponds, lakes,  stretches of canal, and indeed reservoirs in Barnsley are in areas designated as local wildlife sites and therefore there is a presumption against development or change of use when planning consent is required.

Specific wildlife species of ponds and standing water are given protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

Licences are required from Natural England for great crested newts, including for pond dipping where great crested newts are known to be present.

The Dearne Valley flood plains from Darton to Bolton on Dearne have a significant number of subsidence flashes, scrapes, residual water bodies and seasonally flooded areas. The largest numbers - and area covered - are around Old Moor, Broomhill Flash, Edderthorpe, Houghton, and now Adwick washlands.

Elsewhere,the largest concentration of ponds are found around areas...

Stretches of the Barnsley canal can still be found near Royston, Monk Bretton and Wilthorpe Marsh and the Dearne and Dove Canal near Wombwell, with two spurs near Worsbrough and Elsecar.

Links for further information:

Freshwater habitats trust

Identifying pond creatures

Pond creation tool kit

RSPB Ponds for wildlife


Landowners including private estates, trusts, reserves, farmers and individuals, as well as Barnsley Council, Yorkshire Water and the Environment Agency: seek the best results for wildlife by following best practice in managing ponds and standing water.

Also to take up opportunities to create standing water habitats, including where this can help sustainable drainage and flood prevention.

The Environment Agency has identified areas in which new wetland creation would reduce flood risk.

Environment Agency, RSPB, Barnsley Council and others are working to improve wetlands and provide more seasonal standing water in the Dearne valley, in NIA and flood defence work.

A number of organisations including land fill bodies may offer grants for habitat improvement involving standing water.

Environment Agency, Natural England, Barnsley council, RSPB: offer advice.

Barnsley council as planning authority: sets conditions in planning approvals to ensure in relevant cases that the biodiversity value of ponds and standing water is maintained and enhanced.  

Voluntary groups and volunteers: help with conservation work of water courses and their surroundings.

Local groups and volunteers: help provide  information about the condition of our ponds and standing water and collect records of the wildlife there.

Our key objectives for biodiversity in standing water must be to:

Targets and priority actions

Current activity

Ponds & water bodies <2ha

5 Royd Moor Reservoir

6 Scout Dyke Reservoir

7 Small Shaw and

11 Gunthwaite dam

12 Margery wood

15 Black Moor common

16 Silkstone Fall wood

17 Daking Brook

21 Falthwaite and Lowe wood

22 Stainborough Park

23 Rockley Wood

24 Worsbrough reservoir

25 Barnsley Canal (Wilthorpe)

27 Carlton Marsh

29 Wombwell Wood

30 Short Wood …

34 West Haigh Wood

36 Broomhill Flash

37 Gipsy Marsh

38 Old Moor & Wath Ings

39 Bolton-on-Dearne …

40 Forge Rocher …

41 Wharncliffe Chase …

42 West Wood

43 Sowell Pond

47 Hoyland Bank Wood

49 … Canal (Royston)

51 Barrow Colliery

55 Parkhill Nature Reserve

56 Potter Holes Plantation

60 Rabbit Ings

Canal stretches

25 Barnsley Canal (Wilthorpe)

49 Barnsley Canal (Royston)

Reservoirs >2ha

3 Broadstone Reservoir

4 Ingbirchworth Reservoir

5 Royd Moor Reservoir

6 Scout Dyke Reservoir

24 Worsbrough reservoir

46 Elsecar Reservoir

Lakes >2ha

26 Cliffe Wood

48 Bretton Park

Local Wildlife Sites

30 Local Wildlife Sites include ponds, two contain stretches of canal, six reservoirs and two artificial lakes.

Standing water

Priority habitat details

Standing water is a local priority habitat; we recognise that all standing water can be valuable habitat for wildlife.

Standing open water is a broad UK BAP habitat category and standing water is identified in Phase 1 habitat surveys..

It includes: lakes, reservoirs, ponds, flooded pits, subsistence flashes, water-filled ditches, and canals.

Pond, a UK BAP priority habitat and Section 41 habitat of principal importance, consists of

water bodies less than 2ha in size, including ditches and canals.

The Pond national priority habitat criteria are based on a water body< 2ha supporting

JNCC priority habitats

The criteria for other standing water national priority habitats are probably not met in Barnsley.

However all standing water that supports priority species - of high conservation importance, good populations of other key species or provides a rich site for wetland plants or invertebrates is a local priority habitat.

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Conservation and Protection

Local Wildlife Sites

The criteria for selection as a local wildlife site includes standing water that  

regularly supports any of the following:

Most LWSs are designated for their overall habitat rather than these criteria.

Species supported by standing water

Amphibians: Ponds and standing water support the amphibian species found in Barnsley: Common Toad, Common Frog, Smooth Newt, Palmate Newt, Great Crested Newt.

Fish. Some sites support fish including Eel. The presence of fish can however prohibit the presence of some other species.

Reptiles: Grass Snake is sometimes present in larger ponds in an appropriate wider habitat.

Invertebrates: Bottom-dwelling invertebrates such as snails, dragonflies, water beetles and many other aquatic insects are found in ponds.

Plants: Regionally scarce plants such as Autumnal Water Starwort, Frogbit, Whorled Water Milfoil, Hair-like Pondweed, the nationally scarce Sweet Flag and the well-known Marsh Marigold.

Mammals. Mammals such as Water Vole, Daubenton’s Bat and Soprano Pipistrelle are all heavily dependent on larger ponds and canals. Noctule Bat also feed over standing water.

Birds. Ponds and standing water provide foraging areas for breeding, migrating and overwintering birds, especially waders and waterfowl.

Map showing standing water in Barnsley to follow

Athersley memorial pond