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River Doe Lea

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Title: River Doe Lea  
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Subject: Coalite, River Bradford, River Hipper, River Drone, River Westend
Collection: Rivers of Derbyshire, Sites of Special Scientific Interest in Derbyshire
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River Doe Lea

Doe Lea
The river near Doe Lea
Origin Pilsley

River Rother

Basin countries England
Length 11 miles (18 km)
Source elevation 705 feet (215 m)
Mouth elevation 163 feet (50 m)

The River Doe Lea is a river which flows near Glapwell and Doe Lea in Derbyshire, England. The river eventually joins the River Rother near Renishaw. The river contained 1000 times the safe level of dioxins in 1991, according to a statement made by Dennis Skinner, (MP) in the House of Commons in 1992. The river flows through the former site of Coalite Chemicals near Bolsover, where coke, tar and industrial chemicals were manufactured until the plant closed in 2004.

The stream section is designated an SSSI for its geological interest.[1]


  • Hydrology 1
  • Route 2
  • Water quality 3
  • Points of interest 4
  • See also 5
  • Bibliography 6
    • References 6.1


The river flows in a generally south to north direction through a region where the underlying geology is predominantly Carboniferous coal measures. To the east of its catchment there is a band of Permian Magnesian Limestone, which forms an escarpment.[2] Magnesian Limestone is so called because it contains quantities of the mineral dolomite, which is rich in magnesium. The river and its tributary streams drain an area of about 26.2 square miles (68 km2). During its 11-mile (18 km) course, it descends from an altitude of 705 feet (215 m) to around 163 feet (50 m) at the point where it joins the River Rother.[3]

The stream section of the river is a designated geological Site of Special Scientific Interest; according to the SSSI citation, it "shows an internationally significant section through the Upper Coal Measures of the Carboniferous" and is "one of Britain's most important geological sites."[1]


The river rises as a series of springs near Tibshelf, and flows generally northwards, with the M1 motorway following its course a little to the west. Just before it reaches Hardwick Park, it is joined by another stream which rises at Hardstoft and flows eastwards under the motorway. Hardwick Park contains a grade I listed country house, built in the 1590s and now owned by the National Trust,[4] while the river feeds two lakes, the Great Pond and the Millers Pond. Two more streams, rising at Hardstoft Common and Common End combine near Stainsby Pond, and flow under the motorway to join the Doe Lea. The combined flow has powered Stainsby water mill since the thirteenth century. The present structure was restored in 1850, and worked commercially until 1952. It is now owned by the National Trust, and still operates to grind flour for sale to visitors.[5]

At the village of Doe Lea, the A617 road crosses as it approaches junction 29 on the motorway, as does a minor road to Palterton. A stream joins from the east, and another from Sutton Scarsdale joins from the west. The river passes under Doe Lea bridge, which carries another minor road, and then passes a series of lakes to the west of Bolsover.[6] The southern part of this area is known as the Carr Vale Nature Reserve, and is managed by the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust.[7] To the north of it is the Peter Fidler Reserve, managed by Derbyshire County Council, and named after Peter Fidler, who was born nearby at Mill Farm in 1769. He went on to explore North America for the Hudson's Bay Company, and became its chief surveyor in Canada.[8]

The river continues under bridges on the A632 and B6418 roads, next to which was the site of Coalite Chemicals until it closed in 2004, and an industrial railway runs parallel to it which crosses to the west bank before both pass under the motorway. The railway crosses twice more, between which a stream from Barlborough Common joins from the north east, and after which Pools Brook, which flows northwards from Arkwright Town and Duckmanton, joins. The A619 road crosses between Staveley and Mastin Moor, and just before its junction with the River Rother to the south of Renishaw, a former railway bridge carries the Trans Pennine Trail long distance footpath over the river.[6]

Water quality

In common with most of the rivers of the River Don catchment, and especially the River Rother, the Doe Lea was affected by the development of coal mining in the nineteenth century. Small villages developed rapidly to service the new collieries, often with little or no provision for sewage treatment. Consequently, sewage entered the river, together with minewater, which often contained large volumes of solids, which were deposited on the bed of the river and choked plant life. The minewater also contained heavy metals, arsenic, cyanides and phenols, all of which are toxic to fish. By the beginning of the twentieth century, the river was little more than a lifeless sewer.[9]

Despite the pollution of the lower river, the upper reaches retained a population of fish. Brown trout were present around Stainsby, and there were small numbers of coarse fish, which had originated in the lakes at Hardwick Hall. They could not exist further down river, because of the pollution. Part of the problem was caused by efforts to reduce air pollution, which resulted in the production of smokeless fuels. While this reduced smoke from domestic fires, the liquors which were removed from the coal were highly toxic and rich in ammonia.[10] The coking plant at Bolsover run by Coalite Chemicals was a significant producer of pollution, and the site was also producing chlorinated compounds by distilling the liquors resulting from the coking process, which added to the toxic mix. The effluent was treated by an activated sludge process, before discharge to the river.[11]

Efforts were made to improve the quality of the effluent in 1984 and in 1989.[12] The river was also affected by dioxins, and in February 1992, Dennis Skinner MP raised the issue in the House of Commons, because sampling by the National Rivers Authority revealed that dioxin levels were over 1000 times safe levels.[13] Two years later, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Pollution took control of the works, and in 1996 new storage lagoons were built, to contain surface drainage water in times of flood. These measures lead to a steady decrease in the biochemical oxygen demand in the river, and in the Rother.[12] Although the plant closed in 2004,[14] experience on the River Dearne and elsewhere would suggest that it may be many years before leaching of chemicals into the river finally ceases.[15]

Points of interest

See also


  • (This is available online at The Don Catchment Rivers Trust in 5 parts. Page numbers show the part number and the page number within the pdf file).


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ Lexartza-Artza, Lerner & Tkachenko 2009, p. 6
  3. ^ Lexartza-Artza, Lerner & Tkachenko 2009, p. 1
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b Ordnance Survey, 1:50,000 map
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ Firth 1997, Part 2:14-15
  10. ^ Firth 1997, Part 3:21
  11. ^ Firth 1997, Part 4:6-7
  12. ^ a b Firth 1997, Part 4:7
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ Firth 1997, Part 4:5
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