Don Catchment Rivers Trust are proud to announce that they have been awarded the Prix Charles Ritz for the ‘Living Heritage of the River Don’ project.
The award is given to individuals or organisations who make a difference to the rivers they cherish, exhibiting the utmost devotion and commitment to the environment, and celebrates those who champion river improvement work. The prize is awarded by the International Fario Club, and this year is the first time it has been awarded in the UK.
Living Heritage of the River Don was funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Environment Agency and match funders, and ran from 2016 to 2019, although the work of the project still carries on today.
The project set out to help return salmon to the River Don after an absence of over 200 years. Five fish passes on ‘orphan’ weirs in Sheffield were constructed, building on the work of several organisations. Alongside this a popular and successful community engagement programme was established, aiming to get people involved with their local river and celebrate the natural heritage of the area.
During the course of the project over 350 volunteers got involved with everything from litter picking to delivering schools sessions. 4300 bags of litter were removed from the river, over 1000 children became a ‘River Guardian’ and 43 community organisations took part in helping to improve their river.
Rachel Walker, project manager at Don Catchment Rivers Trust commented “we are so pleased to have won this award because it recognises the commitment and passion of our volunteers and all the time they have spent improving the river Don – they’ve been out in rain, snow and sunshine alongside project staff. We set out to get communities involved in river restoration, and we are glad they have been recognised by the prize– a big thank you to all of our fantastic team at DCRT for making it happen!”
In 2019 the ultimate aim of the Living Heritage of the River Don project was achieved when salmon were found to have made it through to Sheffield to spawn. After feeding near Iceland for most of the year, salmon make their way inland upstream to lay their eggs and the first point they can do this on the Don is in Sheffield. They haven’t been able to do this in over 200 years owing to the large weirs, which they cannot swim over without the help of ‘fish passes’.
Its been a incredibly busy year for the Don Catchment Rivers Trust. We started our new project (Hidden Heritage and Secret Streams), employed a new member of staff and undertook a new citizen science project.
First though lets look at the work of our incredible catchment volunteers who this year have collected an outstanding 761 bags of litter and have cleaned 4 miles of river. This is amazing as volunteer days only started in April. However over this time with the fantastic dedication of our volunteers we have also removed 24 trolleys and 24 tyres from the rivers in the Rother Catchment. It has been an incredible effort by all and we would like to thank every volunteer who has given their time to help improve our rivers. If you would like to get involved in catchment volunteering click here for more information and to download an application form.
“Volunteering is fun and relaxing. I’ve been learning a lot and I like feeling that I’ve achieved something. You can’t be more connected to the river than wading in it.” A quote from Catchment Volunteer Dan Sellers
The Citizen Science team have explored the river Rother in fine detail this year, analysing and carefully identifying invertebrates (insect larvae, snails, leeches, shrimps and more!) found lurking in the river bed. So far the team have identified hundreds of tiny specimens in order to discover if (and how) the invertebrate life will change after our river restoration works: the removal of a big weir that has divided the River Rother for decades!
Our Scientists have also been surveying the larger side of UK wildlife, and even found evidence of breeding otters on the Rother after spotting a mother and two pups on our camera trap footage.The team has been trained in species identification skills, such as riparian mammals, and have been inspired to conduct surveys such as Water Shrew surveys to find out more about the wildlife of our ‘Secret Streams’.
“Volunteering for the DCRT has been amazing. They have been so supportive and provided me with opportunities to learn that I would not have had otherwise. I’ve been given the chance to help organise projects and spent time in nature. I’ve met some amazing people and made some great friends.” A quote from Citizen Science volunteer Suzie Saunders.
By Community Engagement Officer Sally Hyslop
Natural Flood Management
This year we took on a Natural Flood Management (NFM) Officer who has been looking into opportunities in and around Chesterfield for slowing flows and helping to reduce flood risk. Plans for potential NFM schemes in two council owned country parks have been drawn up and work is continuing to develop these in collaboration with Friends of Groups, Wildlife Trusts, council staff and park users. Working together we aim to not only reduce flood risk but also improve wildlife habitat and create variety, interest and play features in the landscape for visitors. Work has also begun to develop NFM work with private landowners which will be a core focus of our work next year. Click here to read more about natural flood management and the recent flooding event in our catchment.
By Natural Flood Management Officer Debbie Coldwell
Friends of the Don Valley Way
This is the first year of the Friends of the Don Valley way who are the group that started at the end of our previous project (Living Heritage of the River Don). They work on sites across Sheffield, Rotherham and Doncaster, mainly on the walking route that was also set up in the previous project known as the Don Valley Way. This year they have hosted 27 volunteer days led by both volunteers and DCRT staff. If you would like to join in and help out on the Friends of the Don Valley Way volunteer days the first half of the years dates are now up on our events calendar. Thanks to all of the Volunteers who have helped to restore and maintain both the Don Valley Way and the rivers it follows, and a special thanks to the volunteers who stepped up and led some of the days.
The Moss Valley
This year Catchment Officer Matt Duffy has been working hard to improve an area he is very passionate about, the Moss Valley. We have worked in the Moss many times before (to read more about our past work in the Moss click here), but this year we started with an extensive Himalayan Balsam management plan to try and reduce the effect of this invasive plant on the rich landscape of wildflowers in this area. Matt has worked very closely with the Moss Valley Wildlife group as they have been working in this area for years and know exactly where the Balsam plants are, making it much easier to locate target areas.
We have also been working on the wetland again during the winter months to try and reduce the effect of the trees that have began to grow there. Wetland is one of the most rare habitats left in the UK as in the past we have drained them to use them for agriculture. This is why it is important to protect these types of habitat and the wildlife that lives in them. We do this by removing trees from the area so that the ground doesn’t become dried up. In the Moss Valley we have been working on the same area of wetland for a few years now any you can see the impact that this is having on the surrounding area. After we have cut down the trees in the wetland we are creating Habitat piles at the edges for insects to use as they decompose and to create shelter for small mammals.
This year we started to run Brook Explorer events over the summer to engage children and their parents with the river. We ran our program of Brook Explorers in August and engaged 18 children. We took them out to do activities such as river dipping, crafts, bird watching, bush craft and bug hunting. All of these events were very enjoyable to run and we’re very exited to run more next year.
This year we attended lots of community events across Chesterfield to try and get people interested in the new project and make them passionate about their local river. The first event we were involved in was the Great Sheffield River Cleanup that had been arranged by the River Stewardship Company back in March. The event was during the week of the Great British Spring Clean which is a national campaign by Keep Britain Tidy to encourage people to get involved and clean up their local area. We helped on the day by helping volunteers litter pick in the River Don, building a bug hotel and distributing equipment and reading the risk assessment to volunteers. To read more about this event click here.
The next event we did was our annual bio blitz which this year took place on the area of land where we are going to remove a weir in the Hidden Heritage and Secret Streams project. The aim of these events are to count as many bugs, birds and beasties as possible on the day. At the end of the day we discovered that the area was home to 104 species. To read more about this event click here.
The couple of events that followed were village fairs where we took our gazebo and we did crafts, river dipping in a tray and spoke to people about the Hidden Heritage Secret Streams project. It is a good opportunity for us to collect stories about the rivers in our catchment and tell people how wonderful they really are.
On 24th August we celebrated International Year of the Salmon by organising a community event at Meadowhall. We chose this location because this is where we installed our first fish pass on Hadfields Weir. Several organisations connected to the river brought along stalls and activities and we did a river dipping activity to show just how much water quality has improved over the years. Although this is a very urban location, the river at Meadowhall is a corridor for wildlife. Visitors enjoyed watching a kingfisher come and go, as well as a large trout that was swimming by the weir all day!
By Project Manager Rachel Walker
We also went to the Chesterfield Medieval Market this year which was great fun. We dressed up on the day in capes and we talked about what the rivers were used for in Medieval times. On our stall we had boxes to put your hand in and work out what it is inside which had something to do with the river. We also did crafts with children making Dragonflies and Badges.
We have been working with the North East Derbyshire Industrial Archaeology Society (NEDIAS) to carry out feild walking surveys and archive searches. They are helping us discover more about the industrial past of the River Rother and it’s tributaries. They walk along the rivers and streams and they take note of any features that could be of importance.
Catchment Volunteer Antony Meadows has also been interested in archaeology on the Rother and its tributaries. He as been collecting bits of pottery found on the river bed and has been trying to discover what they are. to read more about this please click here.
A fragment of pottery found the River Hipper in Chesterfield
A picture of a water filter Antony found that the shard of pottery is a part of
This year we have run several walks in the Rother Catchment. We have managed to lead 89 people on walks. The most recent walks were our two winter walks. The first walk was for the Friends of the Don Valley Way. This is the 4th year we have run a winter walk on a section of the Don Valley Way to celebrate our volunteers and all the work they have done throughout the year. This year we walked from the Sheffield train station to the mystifying Wardsend Cemetery.
Our other winter walk was in the beautiful Moss Valley. We looked out for all of the incredible wildlife and looked at all of the habitat enhancements that we have put in over the last few years.
A picture from a walk during the Summer in the Moss Valley
It has been a very busy but rewarding year as we have made a huge impact to the rivers in the Rother Catchment. Thank you to everyone who has worked with us this year it has been fantastic. Finally this info-graphic made by Community Engagement Officer Sally Hyslop that shows our achievements for this year. We hope you all have a great Christmas and look forward to seeing you in 2020!
This blog was written / compiled by Apprentice Anthony Cox
In this blog we hear from DCRT Natural Flood Management Officer, Debbie Coldwell. Read on to find out how the natural approach to flood defence could help to better protect us in the future.
November 2019 was a devastating month for many within the Don Catchment. More rainfall fell in 24 hours in some areas than normally falls over the entire month at this time of year. Hundreds of people have been flooded out of their homes and vast expanses of land left underwater for prolonged periods. Unsurprisingly, this has led to a lot of questions about the causes of flooding, and what can be done to reduce the risk in future. A good summary by the BBC is available here. Issues around dredging and hard engineered flood defences (e.g. flood barriers) in particular have received a lot of attention, as has the role of more natural flood management methods.
One of the main issues with both hard engineered solutions and dredging is that they are not sustainable. With climate change, we are expected to experience both more, and higher intensity storms and we cannot simply keep dredging deeper channels and building bigger walls. A much wider approach needs to be taken that includes these traditional measures of flood defence, in combination with management throughout the whole catchment that helps to capture and “slow the flow” of flood waters. There are a variety of ways that this can be done, and it is generally referred to as Natural Flood Management. This includes measures such as tree planting, which can help to increase evaporation of rainfall and allows more water to be absorbed into the soils beneath them. Temporary storage pools can be created in the landscape that fill during heavy rainfall and drain away slowly, delaying the time it takes for this water to reach our river networks. Leaky woody dams can be placed within streams and rivers, helping to slow the speed of water both in the channels as well as causing it to spill out on to vegetated banks that also slow flows. Soils on farms can be improved to better act as sponges, capturing more water and reducing the amount of top soil washed away with knock on benefits for agriculture. If this kind of management is done at a great enough scale throughout the landscape, then it can help to reduce both the maximum height of flood waters and the time it takes for those flood peaks to reach downstream populated areas, allowing more time to prepare.
There are lots of other benefits of NFM too. For starters, it is generally much cheaper than more traditional flood defences and by taking some of the pressure off these walls and barriers, NFM can also help to increase their lifespans, providing further cost savings. NFM can also help to better water quality by filtering out sediment and pollutants, improving our rivers and reducing water treatment costs. NFM can also provide lots of habitat for wildlife and help capture carbon dioxide through the planting of trees and improving soil health, for example.
This is why DCRT support the NFM movement and took me on in April this year. I’ve been looking into the potential for NFM schemes in and around the Chesterfield area in the Upper Rother Catchment and there is an awful lot of opportunity! Development of plans on council owned land is underway and we’re also hoping to work with many private landowners and managers throughout the catchment. NFM works best by having as many features as possible throughout the landscape to help capture and slow down the movement of water as it travels downstream. Each individual measure doesn’t have to be very big, it’s the cumulative effect of water being slowed down and held back across a wide area that helps to reduce flood risk.
It is important to recognise that NFM cannot stop flooding. After prolonged periods of heavy rainfall, NFM features will be overwhelmed and no longer able to hold back further rainfall, which is when more traditional flood barriers come into play, and these too can be overtopped in the severest of cases. Ultimately tackling climate change, which is increasing the number and severity of storms is essential in reducing flood risk. NFM, however, if done over a large enough area, has an important part to play in reducing the risk from many storms that would have otherwise lead to flooding. So if you own or manage land in the area and would like some advice on how you can help contribute to slowing the flow, do get in touch!
Over summer we spent some time with schools in Sheffield and Doncaster delivering year two of our ‘River Champions’ project funded by the Brelms Trust (https://www.brelmstrust.org.uk/). The grant enabled us to engage 146 young people living in disadvantaged areas in Doncaster and Sheffield. This allowed us to go into schools and teach them how to become custodians of the river through a program of environmentally orientated lessons. Pupils learned about the ecology of the river told through the story of the mayfly enabling them to build a model of the river in the classroom and seeing mayfly nymphs metamorphosise before their eyes.
Schools were also invited out to a field visit to the river; this is something disadvantaged schools have limited funds for, particularly for coaches. During their visit to the river classes had the opportunity to do some river dipping, seeing what invertebrates live in the river. During the field trip we delivered ‘Yellowfish’ – a EA project that aims to teach pupils about how pollution affects the river ecology and how they can help stop pollutants entering the river system. This proved to be an engaging method of making the link between human activity and environmental impacts.
This project hopes to inspire the next generation of environmentally-conscious young people by broadening their horizons and stimulating new interests, in turn having an impact in the physical environment of their local areas. The grant contributed towards staff costs, pupil’s transport and tank equipment. We would have not been able to deliver this project without the grant funds from the Brelms Trust.
A few comments from the teachers that took part in this year’s project:
“They loved it, it is not something we do enough of in school so this opportunity was very welcome”
“They had little knowledge due to it not being taught during the curriculum so having these sessions really improved their knowledge and encouraged them to ask questions to learn even more”
Y6 Teacher at New Pastures Primary
“The facilitators were very knowledgeable and shared a lot of information with the children.”
“Children understood the life cycle of the mayfly and were able to identify the different stages”
Y4 teacher at Watercliffe Meadows Primary School
If you know of a primary school that would be interested in taking part in this project in Spring/Summer 2020 please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 01302 439081. This is the last year this project will be fully-funded so take the opportunity to access these classes for FREE whilst they’re still available.
In this blog we hear from Catchment & Archive volunteer Antony Meadows, read on to find out about his most recent discoveries!
I’ve been volunteering now with DCRT for more than 18 months, but for most of this year I’ve been spending more time in Chesterfield with the Hidden Heritage Secret Streams project. I don’t live in the town but I’m only half an hour away, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to discover somewhere new. I’ve really enjoyed it; I had no idea there were so many rivers and streams in the town. I’ve been prompted to look at old maps of Chesterfield to put where we’ve been into some historical context, as it’s quite difficult to imagine what was there in the past especially when you are not local.
Antony has been exploring Chesterfield Library’s archives for old maps!
Discovering Chesterfield’s industrial past has been fascinating. I knew about the glass industry as my father had a chance to transfer to Dema Glass from where he worked at Glass Bulbs in Harworth. He didn’t go in the end, or else I might have been brought up in Chesterfield. One thing I wasn’t aware of though, was the local pottery industry. This neatly brings me to the reason for this blog.
One of the things I enjoy about litter picking – as well as the sense of achievement when we clean up an area and have left it in a better state than when we arrived – is the possibility of finding something interesting or unusual. Basically I’m nosey I guess! Recently I found a few items of pottery that I thought were interesting. First up was a piece of a brown saltglaze jar, the type of thing you can often see in antique shops which you can use for storing utensils in for example. Luckily I found the best bit of it as it had an inscription, “W Cooper Wine Merchant Chesterfield”. I contacted Chesterfield Museum who found an entry in Kellys Directory for 1895 showing a William Henry Cooper, provisions dealer and wine merchant, listed at 11 Holywell Street, Chesterfield.
I’ve also found two other pottery items that turn out to be from ceramic water filters. The first one had enough information written on it to discover, via google, a company called Brownlow of Tonbridge who manufactured water filters in the 19th and early 20th centuries. I found more pieces of this as you will see in the photo, but few of them fitted together, unfortunately. Finally I also found a fragment of pottery with “Fract” and more enigmatic wording. Not hard to guess this might be Pontefract, but I couldn’t work out what the rest of it might mean. I contacted Wakefield Museums and they told me my piece was also part of a water filter. They kindly sent me this photograph of a rather nice example in Pontefract Museum, and my bit is part of the elaborate decoration. Apparently Chesterfield potteries made water filters for many companies so it’s possible they could have been made there.
A fragment of pottery found the River Hipper in Chesterfield
A picture of a water filter Antony found that the shard of pottery is a part of
After this I’m hoping to find more interesting things along Chesterfield’s rivers!
In this blog we hear from Hidden Heritage Secret Streams volunteer, Suzie Saunders, who has helped the trust design and set up a camera trapping project in Chesterfield. Read on to find out how you can take part in capturing the washlands…
Riparian mammals have faced some of the steepest declines of mammal species in the UK. Throughout history some have faced persecution, whilst others have fallen victim to non-native, invasive predators. All rely heavily on the water bodies they reside in to make a living. The increasing pollution of rivers has not helped with their plight. However, all is not lost. There a lot of work going into the restoration of rivers and their catchments.
There is one pair of river mammals in particular whose story has come to the forefront, that causes a great deal of worry to conservationists. That is the tale of the American mink (Neovison vison), and the water vole (Arvicola amphibius).
The American mink arrived in the UK in 1929 for use in commercial fur farms. Whether through accidental or purposeful releases the mink integrated into the UK countryside. It should be noted that this process is not unique to the UK and has happened in may other countries the American mink was exported to. By 1956 they were said to have been breeding in the wild, and by 1967 reports suggested that the mink was fully established in over 50% of U.K. counties. Its speed of establishment, was most likely due to the minks generalised diet. Feeding on fish, amphibians, and mammals, with such indiscriminate diets and ferocious appetites, they have dented many populations of sea birds and mammals alike, including water voles.
The water vole has been in decline since the beginning of the 20th century. With the rapid expansion of industry and agriculture water vole habitats were degraded, separated and shrunk, leading to the fragmentation of populations, and the beginning of their decline. This was exacerbated by the American minks predation. Now in present day we are met with a sad looking state of affairs for the voles. The time to act is now if we are to preserve our native river mammals, and protect their strongholds.
One such stronghold is the Avenue Washlands, a Derbyshire Wildlife Trust Reserve. The reserve was the site of a coking works deemed to be one of the most polluted sites in Europe. Through amazing effort, the site is now home to a vast array of birds, great crested newts, and water voles. How well these water voles are doing is unknown, as there is believed to be a great deal of mink in the area.
The Don Catchment Rivers Trust has been setting up a camera trapping project in the Avenue Washlands. Multiple cameras have been set up across the reserve with the hope of capturing the lives of the mammals that live there. It will hopefully help us understand what’s happening within the area and what management approaches would help in the establishment of water voles, and maybe even otters in the park and along the Rother. The project is hosted by Mammal Web (click here), and we would love for as many people as possible to sign up and help identify all of the animals we photograph.
Since April we have been running volunteer days across the Rother catchment, including the river Rother and Holme Brook. Most of these days are focused on river clean ups around Chesterfield, to improve the area for wildlife and the local community. We have also been working on tackling Himalayan Balsam throughout the summer focusing in the Moss Valley (read more about it by clicking here).
So far this year we have ran 31 clean up days across Chesterfield involving 75 volunteers from varying walks of life whom would never have met if it wasn’t for volunteering. We have collected roughly 519 bin bags of litter so far and 20 shopping trolleys which will have made a huge difference to the wildlife across Chesterfield and improved how our rivers flow. We really enjoy our volunteer days as we like to get out and see the nature along the rivers we help. Throughout the year we have seen trout, damselflies and lots of different wildflowers. Also we enjoy all of the interesting items that we find in the River such as a tankard, a wheel that looks like part of an old mill and an old fire extinguisher.
If you are interested in volunteering with us then email email@example.com or download the volunteering for off the volunteering page of our website, fill it in and bring it to one of our volunteer days.