A Sense Of Place: #DoncasterIsGreat, but our current aesthetic is sadly lacking.

bentley community woodland 2
Recently Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council (DMBC) conducted a much needed place marketing strategy to try and improve the public perception of Doncaster (yes, I know, the Doncopolitan has being doing this for years, but that’s another story). I was very much looking forward to the re-branding of our wonderful town, but then I saw the following post on the Visit Doncaster website…

What disappointed, saddened and shocked me about the post was the following sentence…

“The town also benefits from being closely located to beautiful countryside, with the Peak District National park nearby”
WTF! The boundary of the Peak District National Park is a full 20 miles from Doncaster town and almost 15 miles from the borough border at Mexborough.

Before anyone thinks I’m being petty here I’d like to point out that the photos which accompany my own blog post were taken in Bentley (Bentley Community Woodland to be precise). I was there for a meeting with the Forestry Commission, so photography wasn’t at the forefront of my mind. But I managed to get these shots of ‘beautiful countryside’ well within the actual boundaries of the DMBC without really trying (hopefully I’ll be returning soon to do the job properly in the near future).

Other reclaimed mining sites throughout the borough offer equally as ‘beautiful countryside’ (to me these sites are perhaps more beautiful than our supposedly ‘natural’ National Parks – as vitally important as these parks are – because they provide a glimpse of how wonderful our post-industrial future could truly be). And this is before we even consider the stunning Dearne Valley (inspiration for Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe), the rare and mysterious Thorne & Hatfield Moors, the wider Humberhead Levels, Potteric Carr and the last remnants of the once great Barnsdale Forest; itself a remnant of the Wildwood and, according to  the oldest known ballads, the true home of Robin Hood.

I have travelled much of Doncaster on foot (it is rare to find a place in the UK where you can walk so far, through such diverse ecology and geography, and still easily avoid any major roads) and these are just few of the amazing sites which came to mind while writing this post. There are many, many more. If we were to include sites of historical interest as well as natural beauty then I would need a book, rather than just a blog, just to list them.

I make no secret of my love for this area, and I know I am not alone. I started the Doncopolitan with my good friend and collaborator, Rachel Horne, to prove that Doncaster was no ‘cultural desert’. I humbly believe that we have succeeded in that mission. We also have an idea in the pipeline which will showcase Doncaster’s unique heritage and history. And now I would very much like to create a platform for Doncaster’s natural history and visitor attractions too.

I want to create an online (and, if we can find the funding, print…) guide to Doncaster which encourages exploration and paints our region in a new light. This will be a multi-media journey through all the marvels and mysteries Doncaster has to offer. An ever-evolving map of one of England’s greatest hidden treasures. My working motto is:

If it can be made, it can be made beautiful.
 I want this new project to reflect that belief. So if you are a writer, photographer, videographer, walker, rambler, naturalist, geologist, historian or, like me, a plain old Donny lover and you’re interested in (quite literally…) putting Doncaster on the map, then please get in touch.

Most importantly if you are able to help sponsor the project, or you know of an individual or business who can, then please get in touch. Let’s work together to showcase Doncaster in all its beauty.

bentley community woodland
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