Heritage Walks: Don Gorge – A Landscape Reclaimed by Nature

The Don Valley Way has several heritage walks. In this series of blogs we are going to explore the walks and the fantastic features that can be seen along them.

This walk around one of the Don Gorge takes one of the most historic and naturally diverse areas of the Don Catchment. The walk is 4.5 miles/ 7 Km long and will take roughly an hour and a half to complete. This walk dose have a very steep section and can be quite muddy in the winter.

Conisbrough Viaduct

The walk starts at the Boat Inn in Sprotbrough where you walk towards Sprotbrough Bridge and use it to cross both the cannel and River. The bridge was originally constructed in the mid 19th century with the central span being replaced in 1897 by Newton Chambers, an industrial company based in Sheffield.  The company was founded in 1789 by George Newton and Thomas Chambers. They mainly constructed solid mental frames for infrastructure such as bridges. Their most notable work was creating the metal work on the internationally famous Tower Bridge in London.

You will start to walk upstream along the river where you will come to Sprotbrough Weir which was originally built to provide water power for a fulling mill where cloth was made and situated next to the Fishpass. It later became a flint mill which would have supplied material for the pottery industry upstream in Swinton. Weirs like this across the Don Catchment led to the disappearance of Atlantic Salmon and other migratory fish in the catchment. After the removal of Conisbrough lock upstream the height of the weir was raised to allow boats to travel up this navigable section of the Don. This would have made it impossible for fish to ascend the weir unless there was a flood. After an absence of about 150 years organisations are now aiding the recovery of fish in the Don by creating fishpasses on the weirs across the catchment. At Sprotbrough Weir there is both a fish and eel pass. This allows both fish and eels to bypass the weir and continue their journey to their spawning grounds upstream in Sheffield. Recently there have been several reports of Salmon in the River Don near their spawning grounds in Sheffield. To read more about the return of the Salmon click here.

Sprotbrough Fish Pass

As you continue traveling upstream you can see the faces of the magnesium limestone cliffs on the left hand side. The limestone in the Don Gorge forms part of a seam that runs from Teeside to Nottinghamshire. Limestone from the gorge was used in many local buildings, including Conisbrough Castle and Brodsworth Hall. In the Don Gorge, evidence has been found of prehistoric dwellings. In the 19th century labourers digging footings for the railway found what they thought were Woolley Mammoth and Rhinoceros bones, with evidence of them being gnawed by Hyena, which dated them between 60,000-25,000 years old. Flint tools from the mid to late Mesolithic period have also been found in the area. This suggests there were temporary camps ahead of more formal domestic settlements throughout the Iron Age and Roman periods. The magnesium Limestone formed in a shallow sea, 260 Million years ago, at a time when the British Isles were in the Tropics, and were a part of a giant super continent that stretched from North Pole to the South Pole known today as Pangaea.

One of the magnesium limestone faces that can be seen on this walk

The Don Gorge is designated as a site of Special Scientific Interest for its areas of ancient woodland, wetlands and areas of open water, which are all important areas for insects and birds. As you approach Conisbrough Viaduct you will pass through Nearcliffe Woods. The woods has several species of tree such as Whitch Elm, Ash, Sycamore, Field Maple, Silver Birch, Yew, Pedunculated Oak, Crab Apple, Wild Cherry and small leaved Lime trees.

Once you have crossed the viaduct you will return to the start by walking upstream along the North bank of the River Don. On your left you will see Sprotbrough Flash Nature reserve. In 1924 mining subsidence caused this area of land to collapse. This caused the area to flood which allowed wildlife to reclaim this land. The reserve opened in 1984 as a joint venture between Doncaster Council and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. Short paths on the left lead to several hides where you can watch the wildlife on the reserve. In recent years a bitten has been regularly seen on the flash (however none of our staff members are yet to see it).

To learn more about the history of the area including the long abandoned village Levitt Hagg you’ll have to get out and do the walk.

Click here for the Don Valley Way website.

Click here for the Don Gorge Walk page.

Click here for the Don Valley Way app on Android devices.

Click here for the Don Valley Way app on IOS and devices.

RIVERS ARE WINNERS AS GREEN RECOVERY FUND OFFERS SIGNIFICANT BOOST TO THE RIVERS TRUST MOVEMENT

The Rivers Trust Movement, comprised of more than 60 local Rivers Trusts, has had eight successful applications to the Green Recovery Fund. This unprecedented financial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Natural England, Forestry Commission, and the Environment Agency will help to improve river environments for people and wildlife across England.

The second round of awards in the fund, announced yesterday, represents a total of £40 million to be distributed to 90 projects across the country. It will support a range of nature conservation and recovery and nature-based solutions projects, which will contribute towards the Government’s wider 25 Year Environment Plan commitments.

Eight projects delivered by Trusts across England and the Welsh border region will use the funding to deliver a range of vital benefits, including restoring river biodiversity, bettering canoe access on a precious chalk steam, and a host of community health and wellbeing initiatives.

The successful Trusts from the Rivers Trust movement were:

  • Bristol Avon Rivers Trust
  • Don Catchment Rivers Trust
  • Mersey Rivers Trust
  • Norfolk Rivers Trust
  • Ribble Rivers Trust
  • River Waveney Trust
  • Welsh Dee Trust
  • Tees Rivers Trust

Further details about these initiatives is provided below.

Mark Lloyd, CEO of The Rivers Trust, said: “As The Rivers Trust movement, our great strength is an ability to deliver real river improvements at scale. This funding is invaluable in helping our incredible local Trusts to do exactly that, and I can’t wait to see the results.”

Bristol Avon Rivers Trust Simon Hunter, Chief Executive Officer said: “The Green Recovery Challenge Fund will enable us to deliver suite of nature-based solutions in the Chew Valley, including planting of riverside trees and raising awareness of the actions local communities can take to improve the health of our local rivers. This project will deliver towards the wider River Chew Reconnected plan that aspires to create a healthy and resilient river and catchment; where nature thrives and which communities can access and enjoy, both now and in the future.”

David Diggens, CEO of Norfolk Rivers Trust, said: “Together with our partners, we’re more than delighted to receive this magnificent grant which will enable us to deliver an ambitious and significant landscape-scale restoration project to enhance these two river catchment areas in North Norfolk as part of the Green Recovery. This funding comes at a crucial time when our water environments have been overwhelmed by a number of threats including pollution, development, climate change and biodiversity loss.”

Martha Meek, River Waveney Trust Development Manager, said: “This is fantastic news for the River Waveney Trust. We are a small organisation and this will make a huge difference to what we can achieve. We are delighted to have received funding for a project that has multiple benefits to many river users, as well as our local environment. Our thanks go to the Green Recovery Challenge Fund for choosing our project and we very much look forward to recruiting our third member of staff.”

Rachel Walker, Operations Director at Don Catchment Rivers Trust, added: “We are so pleased the fund chose to invest in our Trust. We focused on community wellbeing throughout the pandemic, and now we are thrilled to be able to offer new jobs and opportunities in the Rivers Trust and expand our work for the benefit of the people living in the Don Catchment.” 

Don Catchment Rivers Trust’s Green Recovery Fund scheme will see the Trust working at the top and bottom of the catchment. On the river Rother the fund will pay for phase II of the Trust’s ‘Slow the Flow to the Calow’ Natural Flood Management project at Grassmoor Country Park near Chesterfield. This will include community engagement in citizen science, and provide a Kick Start post for a young conservationist. In the lower Don the Trust will expand its popular volunteering scheme and engage with landowners to implement a programme of community based NFM along streams leading to the Don. The project will provide an opportunity for a new project officer to lead on community engagement and volunteering.

Other Rivers Trust projects:

Bristol Avon Rivers Trust (BART) will receive £97,700 for its ‘River Chew Re-connected’ project, which will deliver two river habitat enhancement schemes. 500m of riparian enhancements will improve aquatic, marginal and terrestrial habitat. This includes the planting of approximately 2,000 riparian trees and shrubs, and the creation of several seasonal ponds across two sites to reduce surface water runoff from agricultural fields and increase floodplain habitat diversity. Alongside physical works on the ground, BART will deliver a community Sustainable Water Usage project that will engage local communities and schools to also take action to protect our rivers, delivered with a new part-time Community Engagement Officer.

Mersey Rivers Trust is delighted to announce that its ‘Bollin Biodiversity’ project is to receive £109,000. Working in partnership with the River Bollin Environmental Action and Conservation (BEACON) group, Cheshire East Council, Tatton Estates, National Trust and Natural England, the funding will help bring the biodiversity of the River Bollin back to health. It will also engage more people with their local river for health, wellbeing and recreation. Local volunteers will help reverse the decline of native plant species along the River Bollin, planting native trees and wildflowers to improve river valley habitats. We will also restore river reaches prone to erosion or siltation. The funding will create new reedbeds to tackle diffuse pollution and improve the condition of the internationally important Tatton Mere wetland site.

Norfolk Rivers Trust and the Norfolk Coast (AONB) Partnership will receive £885,400 for the ‘Norfolk’s Two Chalk Rivers – Restored, Revitalised, Resilient’ project to deliver 20km of river restoration on the Hun and Stiffkey – two chalk rivers of international importance. The project will implement a range of nature-based solutions to improve water quality, biodiversity and habitat connectivity with the added benefit of capturing carbon and mitigating the impacts of climate change. A comprehensive community plan has been created which includes a variety of training workshops including filmmaking, species identification surveys and riverfly monitoring. Along with many opportunities for volunteers, the project will provide 6 jobs and 4 kickstart placements for 16–24-year-olds.

Ribble Rivers Trust will use their funding as part of the Health & Environmental Action Lancashire partnership to build on their developing evidence base on health and wellbeing to to inspire communities, safeguard jobs, & connect people with nature through education, training, recreation & volunteering.

The River Waveney Trust’s ‘Canoe Access and Biodiversity’ project will improve 22.5 miles of public canoe and paddle access on the River Waveney, one of only 12 rivers in the UK with a public access arrangement. This will involve a long-term ‘River Wardens’ volunteer citizen science programme, which will survey the river for obstacles and restoration opportunities. Biodiversity will be enhanced along the river by restoring the channel and planting trees to create river corridors and buffers. Not only will this project fund one new full-time role at the River Waveney Trust, bringing the team of staff to three members, it will bring paddlers and conservation into partnership, empowering volunteers to take action for nature.

Welsh Dee Trust will use the funding for their ‘Dee Blue Recovery’ project.

Tees Rivers Trust will receive £1,088,100 for the ‘Fish for Tees’ project, a source to sea conservation project which will deliver better green connectivity between uplands and estuarine projects. It will create intertidal habitat and improve fish passage along the river.  It will increase at-risk habitat and species, complementing similar innovative projects in the region to build a resilient mosaic of sea grass meadows and native oyster reefs. It will also directly deliver new methods of carbon capture, reduced flood risk and functioning river estuarine and marine ecosystems.

Matt & Ava’s Birdbox Project

At the beginning of April, we put up 7 bird boxes in an area along the River Rother where we had been doing litter picks. It is known as the ‘Rother Rec’, AKA ‘Rother Washlands’, on Storforth Lane in Chesterfield. Some of the bird boxes our volunteers had built using kits and others we found scattered around on the site where we were working but after a bit of a spruce-up they were good to go!

Putting up a robin box on the banks of the River Rother

Ava, one of our volunteers mentioned we would be able to monitor them as she has a bird ringing licence. So, after a week we popped back to have a look inside and to our surprise 4 out of 7 of the boxes had evidence of nests already being built. Each week we visited the boxes noting how far along the nest building is and of what material it is made out of.

Great Tit eggs
Blue Tit eggs

Once the nests were completed, we had found a number of eggs had been laid.

Brooding Blue Tit

And after a bit of brooding from the prospective parents, their eggs hatched!

But unfortunately it was not all plain sailing for our project….

We visited the site one day to find that two of our occupied nest boxes had been vandalised and nests destroyed. It’s a sad part of nature conservation, particularly in urban areas. It’s hard to understand why this happens but I think as we connect more with local communities with the nature that’s on their doorstep we can hopefully change people’s behaviour and relationship with the natural world.

We also had a blue tit nest fail after finding an abandoned nest with multiple dead chicks. It was a common theme amongst many blue tit nests across the country this year due to a cold, wet May as mentioned on Springwatch. Read more about this here.

But it was not all bad news!

Our pair of great tits successfully raised three chicks that managed to fledge but not before we were able to ring them.

All the information collected will go to the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) to help contribute to giving a better understanding of bird nesting behaviour and general bird ecology.

We will continue to monitor these boxes in future years and will make bird box building a regular part of our volunteer days from now on. Ava and I have also discussed future plans to build a number of dipper/wagtail boxes along the Hipper/Rother.

If you have any suggestions or are interested in getting involved with our bird box project, please email me at matt.duffy@dcrt.org.uk.

HedgeBlog

In this blog we hear from Anthony Cox, DCRT’s Project Assistant, on how you can help hedgehogs.

Earlier this month I was travelling home from a volunteer day in Chesterfield. That week a road was closed near my home so I took a different route home. As I was passing the former entrance to the Yorkshire Wildlife Park I saw a hedgehog in the road. It was unusual as Hedgehogs are nocturnal so shouldn’t be out in the daytime. I stopped down the street and ran back to look at the poor guy.

Anthony holding the rescued Hedgehog when he found her.

By the time I got back to the hedgehog it had gotten across the road and was sitting still. I immediately called Sally Hyslop (Community Engagement Officer) as I thought she would know what to do. I picked up the Hedgehog and carried it back to the car while Sally did some research on where we could take her. Sally called me back after a little while with an address for a rescue centre I could take the Hedgehog to.

River once she had arrived at the rescue centre. (Credit Annali Crawford Hog Hostel)

When I arrived at the Hog Hostel I was met by a lady called Annie who told me the Hedgehog was a female. She also asked me if I had a name in mind for the Hedgehog but I had none. We had talked a little about my job so Annie came up with the idea of calling her River. River was found to have Round Worm and Flukes and was given a treatment for them. She was nursed back to health and monitored to make sure she was putting on weight. River was released back into the wild on the 22nd June in Auckley. Most hedgehogs are released where they are found but as I found River on a busy road she was released elsewhere.

River just before she was released. (Credit Annali Crawford Hog Hostel)

Recently I discovered I have a hedgehog living in my front garden. It was extremely exciting to see it foraging in the grass. To help my hedgehog I bought a little shallow dish to put water in. Over the weekend my sister captured a picture of it drinking from the dish which was amazing to see but also made me really happy that I had helped it out.

The hedgehog that lives in Anthony’s front garden drinking from the dish he put out. Credit Emily Cox

What should you do to help Hedgehogs?

The best thing you can do if there is a hedgehog in your garden is put out a shallow bowl of water out in the garden for them to drink. Dehydration is one of the second biggest killer of Hedgehogs. You can also put out food for the hedgehogs. This can be cat or dog food that does not contain fish. Don’t dig around for worms to feed to them as they only feed on insects that live on the surface. It is a common misconception that we should give milk to hedgehogs. This is a fiction as Hedgehogs are extremely lactose intolerant so milk can make them very ill and cause them to die. The idea that hedgehogs like milk came from Tudor era where people believed they drank the milk from cow’s udders during the night. If you have pets they cannot catch fleas from the hedgehog as the two animals have different parasites that live on them. However it is still best to keep them away from any pets and keep them in a cold place (a shed or garage).

Why is it important to protect and rescue Hedgehogs? Hedgehogs are the declining at an extraordinary rate. Since the millennium hedgehogs have decreased by 30% in urban areas and 50% in rural areas. This is due to the increase in cars which has increased the amount of hedgehogs that are killed on the road. Also there has been a significant reduction in their habitat in rural areas due to the mechanisation and increase in the production of crops. We have to protect them as they have been classified as vulnerable to extinction in the UK. To try to prevent us loosing another of our native species it is best to nurse them back to health and release them.

How do I encourage hedgehogs to visit my garden?

The best way to encourage hedgehogs is by making a hole in your fence for them to pass through. You have to discuss it with your neighbours first but a small hole would allow a hedgehog to have the amount of territory it needs to forage for food. You can also plant bushes and hedges to allow them to have cover to nest in during the winter and when they sleep in the day time. You can also encourage hedgehogs by encouraging their prey into your garden. You can do this by creating areas of wildflower meadow and leaving sections of grass to go wild. This encourages insects to your garden which Hedgehogs love to snack on. Hedgehog houses are good if you want a resident to live in your garden. They provide a hedgehog with a solid structure to nest in which will protect them during the winter months. Please note that houses must be cleaned out once a year to reduce the risk of your hedgehog getting any diseases. It is best to do this between the breeding season and hibernation season – early September.

Anthony Cox has not been the only DCRT-er to rescue a hog this month. This next section is by our volunteer Antony Meadows, who built a hedgehog feeder out of bricks found on our volunteer days!

“About a month ago I noticed a hedgehog in full sunshine on my lawn. A hedgehog “sunbathing” like this is likely to be unwell. He was not reacting at all to my presence and was somewhat inert. 
I knew I had to do something, so I discovered online a local hedgehog rescue in Retford. I arranged with the lady there to take my hedgehog along. We discovered it was a male and I left him in her capable hands. She thought he probably had not been able to get enough food.
After about 3 weeks she rang to say I could bring him “home”. He had put on about 200 grams and was ready to leave! I hadn’t fed a hedgehog before, but as he had been struggling to get natural food, I decided to build him a feeding station. The bricks I’ve found while volunteering with DCRT finally came in handy! I’ve made it as cat proof as possible.
Since he’s returned I’ve seen him a couple of times at dusk inside his feeding station, and the food has been eaten. I have plenty of cover in my garden, so hopefully he will do ok now.”

Arthur the Hedgehog (credit Antony Meadows).

T

Flod: River litter transformed!

In our latest guest blog we hear from FLOD, an eco start-up that’s working to transform litter from the Don Catchment’s rivers

We are 4 students: Dom, Max, Oscar and Tom from Sheffield Hallam University launching an eco-plant pot business through an enterprise placement year overseen and supported by the uni.

Our journey started at a university self-enterprise meeting. Identifying a shared interest in making a positive environmental impact we established an interest to work with each other.

Freshly motivated and inspired by the potential of the project we set three core goals

  1. Support and involve ourselves with local charities.

2. Improve the quality of green spaces.

3. Create an environmentally friendly product.

After some discussion and research we realised how easy it is to recycle certain types of commonly littered material. We set to testing, melting milk cartons and polishing glass.

We started litter picking with the DCRT volunteers who have been collecting bags of river rubbish for us to use.

Without workshop access the prototyping started in back gardens. Working with a small budget, progress developed using tools such as toasty makers, second hand microwaves and yogurt pots as moulds.

For the last couple weeks we have had full access to the uni workshops and have been hard at work getting ready to sell our first batch. All made possible by the great work of the DCRT volunteers so thank you all so much for the support!

Flod’s first drop of recycled plant pots are available today through their instagram, with 5% of profits going to charity. Each pot is unique, handmade by Dom, Max, Oscar and Tom using eco-friendly materials and riverside litter.

Our finished pot slots into the drip tray which comes in a variety or colours

Heritage Walks: Rotherham 2 – A Meeting of Two Rivers

The Don Valley Way has several heritage walks. In this series of blogs we are going to explore these walks and the features that can be seen on them.

Rotherham Minster

In this addition we are going to talk about the second walk in Rotherham, A Meeting of Two Rivers. The walk is 2.7miles or 4.KM long and will take around an hour and half to complete. This walk is paved with some road crossings and steady inclines. For more information on this walk click here for its page on the Don Valley Way website.

The walk starts at Rotherham Train Station. From here it crosses the bridge over the River Don from which a Chapel can be seen on the left hand side. This Chapel is known as Chapel of Our Lady on the Bridge. It is one of only three surviving medieval bridge chapels still standing in England. It was used by travellers to give thanks for a safe arrival or to pray for a safe journey. Rotherham Bridge was built where there had previously been a ford. The bridge is thought to have been a toll bridge much like the Humber Bridge is today. The charge was levied by priests to pay for the upkeep of both the bridge. In 1483 the Chapel of Our Lady was built as part of the rebuilding of the bridge. In 1547 the richly decorated chapel was suppressed by Henry VIII. At the time the king had recently set up the Protestant Church of England so anything of value in Catholic Churches, Monastery’s, Nunneries and Chapels was taken to help fund his war with France. The Chapel itself only survived as it was an important part of the bridge. In the late 16th century the Chapel was converted into an arms-house. During the English Civil War in 1643 a battle was fought on the bridge between the Earl of Newcastle’s Royalist troops and the town’s people, with 30 boys from the grammar school led by Colonel Gill of Carr House for the parliamentarian course. The Roundheads lost and the town was occupied by the Royalist Army who subsequently sacked it. Small dents in the Chapel walls show where the Royalist musket balls hit the Chapel. In 1778 the building was converted again, this time into the Town Jail. Two cells were formed in the crypt and the Chapel above became the deputy constables quarters. To learn more about the Chapel you can attend an open day hosted by the Friends of the Chapel on the Bridge.

Chapel on the Bridge

Rotherham Town Hall was once the site of Rotherham’s Cattle Market until it was moved to Corporation Street. This occurred at the same time as the construction of the Police Station and Court House. The council moved into the building in 1985 and is used as a working building, not usually open to the public. At the front of the Town Hall stands a large cannon which was made at the Walker Brothers Iron Foundry. Walker Cannons were found on board HMS Victory and there are still Walker Cannons on board Victory in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. Walker Cannons saw action at the Battle of Trafalgar when Nelson defeated the French and Spanish Navies, as well as in the Napoleonic wars and the American war of independence.

After outbreaks of Cholera in Rotherham in the early and mid-19th century it became clear that the town was in need of a new cemetery. Medical students were steeling bodies from the badly maintained burial ground around Rotherham Parish Church for research purposes. From this Moorgate Cemetery was opened in 1840’s by the newly formed Rotherham Public Cemetery Company.

In 1773 Thomas Howard Third Earl of Fingham decided to build a hunting lodge on the south side of Rotherham. The location chosen was on the hillside of Rotherham Moor and the house was completed in 1775. The views from the hill are extensive even today with the town being much more built up than back then. Originally the lodge was known as the house upon the common, but later that year a group of men disguised as Native Americans boarded ships in Boston Massachusetts and emptied 342 chests of tea into the water. This famously became known as the Boston Tea Party, an event that famously fuelled the flames of revolution in what is now the American colonies. The American War of independence shortly began where we fought the colonists rather than give them reputation is the British Parliament in regards to taxation. Thomas Howard was ordered to America to fight the rebels. Despite his desire to serve king and country he resigned his position in the army in support of the colonists. He thought the war was unjust so his hunting lodge was renamed Boston Castle. On the 4th July 1876 Boston Park, Rotherham’s first public park was opened on the site covering just over 8 hectares, and was opened to mark the centenary of American Independence.

Canklow woods is one of the largest ancient woodlands in Rotherham. It is of national importance for archaeology as the summit if the woods is the site of a Bronze Age settlement.  Canklow woods was purchased by Rotherham borough Council in April 2000 (this next bit is for Catchment Officer Matt Duffy), which is a month after I was born, from the Duke of Norfolk. There are waymarked paths in the woods so you can explore if you want to on this part of the walk.

To learn more about the history of Rotherham including information about the history of Rotherham minister, you should get out with our audio guide and explore the walk. You can listen to the audion guide online on the Don Valley Way website, or by downloading the free app available on both Android and IOS devices. Thanks to the Friends of the Chapel on the Bridge for helping us with information for this walk.

Click here for the App on Android devices.

Click here for the App on Apple and IOS devices.

Click here for the Rotherham 2 walk page on the Don Valley Way website.

Click here for the Don Valley Way website.

Click here for more information on the Friends of the Chapel on the Bridge.

By Project Assistant Anthony Cox

Heritage Walks: Sprotbrough – Tails of Knights and Heroes

The Don Valley Way has several heritage walks. In this series of blogs we are going to explore these walks and the fantastic features that can be seen on them.

A view of the River Don as it flows past Warmsworth (the next village downstream of Sprotbrough)

This time we are going to talk about the Sprotbrough walk Tails of Knights and Heroes. The walk is 2.45 miles or 3.95KM long and is mostly flat with some bumpy tracks in the woodland areas. This walk will take roughly 1 hour and 15 minutes to complete. For more information on this walk click here to see its page on the Don Valley Way website.

The trail starts at the junction of Nursery Lane and Boat Lane. On the corner of these roads is the old toll house built in 1849 for Sir Joseph Copley, and used to collect payment for crossing Sprotbrough Bridge. Sprotbrough Bridge was constructed in the mid 19th century with the central span being replace in 1897 with Iron work from the Sheffield Company Newton Chambers. As you begin the walk you will see the magnesium limestone known as the Don Gorge. The Don Gorge was formed as it was eroded by glassier flows and more recently the River Don, which flows at the base of the gorge.

The magnesium limestone that makes up the Don Gorge

World War II flying Ace Sir Douglas Barder grew up in a house along the left side of Boat Lane in the old rectory. He was born in London in 1910 but moved to Sprotbrough after his mother married the vicar of the Sprotbrough Church. In 1928 he joined the RAF as a cadet and became a piolet who was known as a dare devil because of his habit of preforming dangerous stunts. In December 1931 whilst preforming unauthorised low flying aerobatics he crashed and had both legs amputated, one above and one below the knee. In 1939 he re-joined the RAF to help with the war effort against the Nazis. He was credited with shooting down 22 aircraft and damaging 11 aircraft before being shot down and captured on 9th August 1941. Douglas spent the rest of the war was as a prisoner of war. He was knighted in 1976 for services to disabled people. Aged 72 Douglas died in London in 1982.

Sprotbough is mentioned in the Doomsday Book as Sproteberg and predates the Normans (1066) with the name probably originating from the old English Sproter meaning shoot or twig and Berg meaning village. The village mentioned in the book only had 10 households. The lord of the manor in 1066 was Swaine Son of Swarvie but by the time of the Doomsday Book in 1086 was recorded as Rodger De Busli. De Busli or Bully was a Norman Barron, who accompanied William I or William the conqueror Duke of Normandy on his successful conquest of England in 1066. As a reward he was given 86 manors in Nottinghamshire, 46 in Yorkshire (the best county) and others in Lincolnshire, Leicestershire and Derbyshire.

The Ivanhoe pub along the route gets its name from the Sir Walter Scott novel of the same name. Sir Walter is said to have visited the village and taken inspiration from the area when writing Ivanhoe. He used Conisbrough Castle as part of the backdrop to his novel. The opening lines to the novel show the beauty of the Don Valley. “In that pleasant part of merry England, which is watered by the River Don. There extended in ancient times a large forest, covering the greater part of the beautiful hills and valleys which lie between Sheffield and the pleasant town of Doncaster.”

View of Conisbrough Castle from the River Don

At the end of the walk the old Copley Water pump house can be seen as a ruin. It was commissioned by Sir Godfrey Copley in the late 17th century to extract water from the river and purveying it to the roof of the now demolished Sprotbrough Hall, to gravity feed his gardens. The gardens included the Great Canal, the Little Canal, the Great Fountain and the Curved Pool. The Hall boasted a 35 foot long lead lined heated swimming pool, which had been added in the grounds. The inspiration for the Great Fountain was conceived when the Lord of the Manor visited Chatsworth house in Derbyshire and was shown the Emperor Fountain with its jet of 290 feet by the Duke of Devonshire. The pump, which was powered by a waterwheel, was powerful enough to raise water to tanks 100 feet above. The swimming pool could be filled in 5 hours. The River and pump also supplied the village until the water became too polluted from heavy industry upstream in Sheffield, Rotherham, Chesterfield and Barnsley.

The ruin of the old pump house

To learn more about this walk you should go out with our audio guide! You can listen to the audio guide online or on the Don Valley Way app, available on both the App store and Google Play for free! A big thanks to the Don Gorge Community Group for helping us with the information for this walk.

Click here for the App on Android devices.

Click here for the App on Apple/ IOS devices.

Click here for the Sprotbrough page of the Don Valley Way website.

Click here for the Don Valley Way website.

Click here to learn more about the Don Gorge Community Group who work in the area.

By Project Assistant Anthony Cox

Get to know me – DCRT’S new Young Person’s Conservation Assistant

In this blog we hear from DCRT’s newest member of staff, Beckie Fulton, who has just started her role as Young Person’s Conservation Assistant as part of the Kickstart Scheme, in partnership with the Coalfield’s Regeneration Trust.

Every day, since I was a young girl, I’d think about our planet. All the amazing and beautiful things it has to offer. I’m constantly in awe of the power of the Earth’s processes, in particular, volcanic or geological events.

I was first introduced to thinking about geological hazards and the natural world from a young age, through watching documentaries at home, taking walks through our local countryside and lessons at school. However, my passion wasn’t truly ignited until my grandparents took me on holiday to Naples, Italy, where we climbed Mt Vesuvius and explored Pompeii. Since then I have been hooked!

Living with beautiful places like this reservoir right on my doorstep for exploring, has fuelled my love for the natural world.

So… who am I?

Well, my name is Beckie and I have just joined DCRT as the Young Person’s Conservation Assistant. I graduated from Lancaster University last September with a Master’s in Volcanology and Geological Hazards. Since graduating I have been itching to get into my first environmental job. But due to COVID-19 and my very specialist line of study, finding a job I love has been difficult to say the least.

Through my academic career so far, I have specialised in volcanology and geological hazards and have only briefly covered other environmental issues. One of my favourite memories from my time at university was being able to live for 2 months in Sicily to study Mt Etna and one day I even hiked right up to the crater edge. I have to admit that is probably one of the best days of my life so far!


Standing on the craters edge of Mt Etna – what an amazing view!

So although I have very limited experience in environmental management and conservation, my passion for everything environmental led me to applying to DCRT as part of the governments new Kickstart scheme. This scheme focuses on getting 16-24 year olds into a working environment where they can gain invaluable knowledge and experience which will ensure a long and successful career. I am eager to use this opportunity at DCRT to expand my knowledge and build a career in environmental management and conservation.

So why did I apply to DCRT?

I once came across a quote by Robert Swan who said “The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.” This has stuck with me ever since, as I believe it to be true. I have talked with many people from different backgrounds and it scares me how little they actually know or care about the natural world. More often than not they have the impression that it is the job of scientists to fix all the damage humanity has caused.

Since I came to this realisation, it has given me the drive to educate people about our natural world. Ignite in them the same passion I have. To get people involved in protecting their local environment, conserving it, fall in love with it.

This is why I applied to work with DCRT, as it is clear that one of their main goals is to reconnect communities with the local river environments and educate people on how to protect them. This is what I am looking forward to most in my new role. Because no matter how small the action may seem, when we all work together we can make a difference.

I am really looking forward to working with everyone here at DCRT over the next 6 months and meeting new people on our volunteer days.

My first Volunteer Day with DCRT

River Hipper’s Hidden Wildlife and Fish

Don Catchment Rivers Trust, with the support and advice from Derbyshire Council, Chesterfield Council, Environment Agency and the Wild Trout Trust recently embarked on a project to improve the River Hipper as it runs through Somersall Park, Chesterfield for wildlife and park users through the introduction of ‘woody debris’.

This project was fully-funded by the Environment Agency’s Fishery Improvement Program (FIP) which sees fees from rod licences reinvested to generate positive outcomes for anglers and fish stocks through projects such as this one which also included the design and installation of an interpretation board to inform park users of the work.

The River Hipper starts life as the Hipper Sick on Beeley Moor, high above Chesterfield. The river is a typical small, rain-fed Derbyshire stream, which passes through Holymoorside village before entering Chesterfield and flowing into the River Rother near Horns Bridge Roundabout.

It has a semi-natural feel to it however, this and many other stretches have been modified through straightening and the construction of barriers (weirs), restricting many of the natural river processes that would otherwise occur. In addition, the practice of removing windblown trees or branches from the river channel in public parks limits its ability form structurally-diverse habitats. 

What is woody debris?

Woody debris is any woody plant material that has entered the river channel. It can range from twigs caught in a tree’s root system to whole large trees that have fallen into the river.

Wood that has fallen into the channel is often tidied up and removed as it is thought to look “unsightly” or can snag the fishing lines of anglers. They can also cause problems when swept up against bridges or culverts when blockages cause flooding. 

Naturally, woody debris would be abundant and a very important part of the river ecosystem, so we now replicate this feature in a safe manner by carefully anchoring pieces of wood in place with metal fixings– as pictured. Appropriate consents from local agencies are also required to ensure work does not increase flood risk.

Benefits of woody debris?

The introduction of woody debris to the river will:

  • Creates bends, pools and riffles in rivers – important aspects of a heathy river (as pictured).
  • Promotes ‘sediment sorting’ – different plants and animals like different sizes of rock and sands
    •  e.g. burrowing mayflies like sand whereas flat-headed mayflies prefer flat stones and trout like to spawn in gravels.
  • Provides a ‘home’ for fish and other life
    • A place for them to hide from predators such as heron or kingfisher giving them a fair chance to escape – balancing predator-prey relationships.
    • When the river floods – provide somewhere to hide so they don’t get washed downstream
  • Traps leaves, twigs and encourages a biofilm (algea and bacteria) to form – food for insects that other invertebrates.
  • ‘Cleans’ rivers
    • Speeds up flow to clean gravel meaning more oxygen will flow over eggs in fish nests (redds) and greater hatching success.
    • Takes fine bits of dirt out of the water and deposits behind debris meaning water is clearer

Heritage Walks: Sheffield – Industrial Sheffield

The Don Valley Way has several heritage walks. In this series of blogs we are going to explore the walks and the fantastic features that can be seen along them.

This is a short walk around the once heavily industrialised area of North Sheffield. The walk is 1.6 miles/ 2.6km, and is completely paved. The area is well covered by public transport including busses and the super tram. Click here to see the Don Valley Way webpage for this walk.

The walk starts at Kelham Island. Kelham Island is not actually an Island at all. The land was man made to create a goit to help power a corn mill situated at Millsands near Lady’s Bridge. The Island was named after the town’s former armourer, Kelham Homer who set up a grounding workshop in 1637.

Kelham Island Museum

You can regularly see kingfishers on the section of the walk that follows the Upper Don Trail. For more information on the Upper Don Trail click here. Further along on the right a small rectangular Colum can be seen. This is a memorial commemorating the people who died in the great Sheffield flood 1864. Due to the expansion of Sheffield, a better water supply was required. To do this a dam was constructed to create a reservoir in the hills above the city. Dale Dike is a tributary of the Loxley, and was the river selected for the construction of the dam. Unfortunately Dale Dike Dam failed as the reservoir was filling for the first time, late at night on the 11th March 1864 causing a huge wave to sweep through the city, carrying 650 million gallons of water. The monument reads the 12th March as the wave didn’t hit the city until the early hours of the next day. At least 240 people lost their lives in the flood.

Great Sheffield Flood memorial

The first industrial use of waterpower in the town was along the section known as Millsands. The Weir in the area helped raise a head of water to help power the mill but causes a barrier for fish wanting to move upstream. The concrete structure that can be seen on the weir from Lady’s Bridge is designed to create a deeper channel of water which allows fish to pass upstream. Lady’s bridge is the oldest crossing in Sheffield. The bridge was named after the Chapel of our Blessed Lady which stood at the south East end of the Bridge. This is one of very few bridges to have survived the great Sheffield flood intact.

The weir seen from Lady’s Bridge and the Fish Easement

Further along the walk you will come to Mobray Street. There are several former industrial buildings in this section. Sheffield is best known for its cutlery and steel works, but the damage to the health of the workers shortened lives considerably. In 1844 Fredric Engals wrote a report which states, “by far the most unwholesome work is the grinding of knife blades and forks, which especially when done with a dry stone entails certain early death. The unwholesomeness of this work lies in part with the bent posture, in which chest and stomach are cramped but especially in the quantity of sharp edged metal dust particles freed in the cutting, which fills the atmosphere and are nesscserily inhaled.” The life expectancy of dry grinders was only 35 and the wet grinders was only 10 years longer.

Sculpture next to Bridgehouses Bridge showing the areas knife making history

Along Burton Road there is an old arch painted yellow on the right hand side. There is an image of a horse shoe in the keystone to represent the underside of a horses hoof rather than good luck. The building was once part of the Clarence works. It’s now used as the Yellow Arch Studios, where many Famous Sheffield Musicians hare recorded, including the Arctic Monkeys, Jarvis Cocker, Richard Hawley and more recently Blossoms.

Further along the walk you will come to the grade two listed Ball Street Bridge. Originally built in 1856, then rebuilt in 1864 due to the great Sheffield flood, it was widened in 1900. At the far side of the bridge you can see another grade two listed structure, Kelham Island Weir. It is one of the largest weirs in the city and originally drove Kelham Wheel which powered a cutler’s wheel, a silk mill and then a cotton mill. The weir serves no purpose now, but is unfortunately a barrier to fish moving through Sheffield. The concrete beam that can be seen across the weir creates a deeper channel for fish such as Atlantic Salmon to ascend the weir. As the weir is grade two listing, it unthinkable to install a technical fish pass such as the ones seen at Brightside and Meadowhall as this could damage the weir and remove part of Sheffield’s industrial history. The disadvantages of these less invasive easements are that passage cannot be assured 100% of the time where as they can be in other fish passes.

Kelham Island Weir

To learn more about this area of Sheffield and the famous Elephant Lizzy, you should listen to our audio guide as you walk recorded by Community Engagement Officer and resident of Sheffield Sally Hyslop. To listen to the audio guide download the Don Valley Way app or stream it from the walks page of the Don Valley Way website.

Click here for the Don Valley Way Website

Click here for the Industrial Sheffield Walk

Click here to download the Don Valley Way app on Android devices

Click here to download the Don Valley Way app on IOS and Apple devices

By Project Assistant Anthony Cox