Beginner’s guide to… Garden camera traps

In this blog we hear from Community Engagement Officer, Sally Hyslop, on investigating the wildlife in your garden.

Barn owls, foxes and otter pups are just a few of the incredible beasties we’ve captured on our riverside wildlife cameras over the past year. We’ve been amazed at the results, able to capture footage of animals hunting, foraging and even playing on the riverside.

But trail cameras aren’t limited to wild, remote places, and if you have a private garden* you have the potential to capture some incredible footage while you’re at home. In this blog we’re going to show you how to set them up to investigate the hidden wildlife in your garden.

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Watch the video here

Buying your camera

Wildlife cameras vary in price, with some costing a few hundred pounds. If you want to invest in a very good camera we recommend buying from Nature Spy, but you can get a cheaper one for around £50, with even supermarkets occasionally retailing them. They’ve come down a lot in price so even these cheaper ones capture great footage and sound, at day and night.

As well as the camera, you will need to purchase a memory card (we use a 32GB SD card) and lots of AA batteries. The camera we use takes eight – however this could keep it going for a few months. If your garden isn’t very secure you can consider using a small bike lock to keep it in place.

Set up

Think about what animals you are trying to capture – most British wildlife such as foxes, badgers and hedgehogs will forage fairly low to the ground, so positioning your camera about a metre off the ground should work well for most gardens. Think about where in your garden might best attract these visitors, such as a pond, hedgerow, scrubby area or secluded patch.

Find a tree or post you can easily wrap the camera strap around and secure your camera well with the strap, incase some curious squirrels investigate it. For best results, angle the camera slightly towards the ground – you can wedge a stick behind the camera to do this. It’s worth spending a little time getting this right, and doing some practise shots.

One thing you want to avoid is the camera capturing ‘false’ triggers which waste your battery, fill your memory card and make processing your footage a real pain. The camera’s sensors trigger recording when they pick up movement and a change in temperature. This means they can be mistakenly triggered, for example by a branch that has been warmed up by the sun and blown into view. The camera has quite a wide range of vision so make sure the whole area around it is clear from branches and vegetation – this may mean a little pruning. If you want to capture good quality images, make sure to position your camera towards the north or south to avoid dazzling sun rises and sunsets.

We’d love to hear about your wildlife camera projects, so if you have been inspired and capture any photos or footage you’d like to share, please get in touch!

*These tips are for setting up a camera in a private garden, rather than public parks or footpaths, for which you’d need landowner permission and signage.

7 steps to a river-friendly bathroom

Wet wipe woe!

After one of the wettest winters on record our rivers are not looking their best. Tangled in trees that line the riverbanks are hundreds of wet wipes, which could only have come from one place… the toilet.

Our sewage treatment works are only designed to hold a limited capacity of water. During events of high rainfall, the sewers often get overloaded and this could lead to them flooding into our streets and homes. To prevent this from happening the sewage treatment works are designed to release some of this excess water into the river system… and within that sewage is thousands of wipes and other sanitary products. What’s worse is these products actually block up sewers, increasing flooding risk even more!

Removing the wipes takes time, energy and money (adding to everyone’s water bills). As well as being unsightly they pose a real risk to nature, creating tangled webs of plastic in the trees. As they slowly break down, the wipes release small plastic fibres into the water which enter the food chain.

You can pledge to #Stopflushingwipes today.

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Want a river-friendly bathroom? Follow these seven steps:

  • Remember the 3 P’s – only pee, poo and paper are legally allowed to be flushed down the toilet.
  • Dispose of sanitary products in a bin or use a reusable menstrual cup. More and more women are switching to reusable products which are better for the environment, your health and your wallet!
  • Cotton buds – look out for brands with paper sticks and make sure they go in the bin!
  • For removing make-up, try flannels and fabric make-up pads which can be popped in the washbox and reused.
  • What goes down the drain can ultimately end up in the river. Eco-friendly cleaning sprays are on the market. On a budget? Try a spray made up of distilled vinegar and a splash of water.
  • Reduce single-use plastics and prevent them entering the river altogether. Use liquid hand soap? Either get your plastic bottle refilled at a zero-waste shop or go for a traditional bar of soap. Plastic toothbrushes are estimated to take 400 years to degrade, so try a bamboo brush instead.
  • Think about your water use. In the UK we use on average, 141 litres of water per person per day. Dirty water ends up in the sewers, risking overflow – so shower more, bath less and check your cistern has a water saving device.

… Enjoy your bathroom knowing that you are on nature’s side!

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Don Catchment Rivers Trust wins the UK’s first Prix Charles Ritz

The Prix Charles Ritz has been awarded in France for many years, and has now been extended to the UK for the first time in 2019.

Anglers have a long and noble history of initiating and supporting environmental efforts on streams, rivers, ponds and lakes, in most countries of the world. But with so few of our rivers currently considered ‘healthy’ according to European legalisation, the actions of individuals and communities in caring for their local waterways have never been more important.

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Now, as we enter the third decade of the 21st century, it is becoming more essential than ever to celebrate our successes, as well as continuing to learn and collaborate internationally.

For many years, the prestigious Prix Charles Ritz has been awarded in France, to highlight projects which focus on improving wild fish populations in harmony with their natural environment, and reward those who enhance their local river habitat.

In 2019, the International Fario Club made the decision to extend the Prix Charles Ritz to the UK for the first time, as a special biennial award…

“… to build a bridge between the parallel fates of our rivers and wildlife, and a link with the various public involved in water preservation, including water and rivers statutory bodies, local communities, farmers, foresters, scientists, and consumers… on both sides of the Channel.”

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International Fario Club director Laurent Sainsot secured the assistance of Salmon & Trout Conservation UK and assembled a judging panel of experienced river restorationists to assess the entrants, under the watchful eye of president Albert Roux OBE:

  • Tony Bird, vice president of Salmon & Trout Conservation UK
  • Janina Gray, head scientist at Salmon & Trout Conservation UK
  • Johanna Halford, great grand-daughter of Frederic
  • Roger Harrison, a former trustee of Salmon & Trout Conservation UK, engaged in protecting the River Itchen
  • Theo Pike, chairman of the South East Rivers Trust, and Trout in the Town officer at the Wild Trout Trust
  • Charles Rangeley-Wilson, founder and vice president of the Wild Trout Trust
  • Richard Sankey, chairman of Fisheries Management Scotland & Kyle of Sutherland District Fisheries Board

A very wide range of 11 dossiers was received from communities, angling clubs and rivers trusts all over England and Wales, and the judges were eventually able to narrow these impressive entries down to three finalists:

  • Don Catchment Rivers Trust’s Living Heritage of the River Don project
  • Wilton Fly Fishing Club’s Stoford and South Newton Improvement project
  • Wye & Usk Foundation’s Gravelling the Elan System project

Different members of the judging panel visited each of these finalists, and eventually made the decision to award the UK’s first Prix Charles Ritz award to the Don Catchment Rivers Trust.

All agreed that the Living Heritage of the Don project reflected the innovative nature of contemporary urban river restoration, with its blend of technical excellence, partnership working, community engagement, long-term monitoring, and above all fish passage improvement – so that salmon are now reappearing in the post-industrial heart of Sheffield after an absence of 200 years.

The project has received a £2500 donation from the Fario Club supported by Peter Ahluwalia – Bellinvest Global Equity Fund together with a sculpture of a kingfisher, the river watcher, cast by reknowed bird sculptor Paul Harvey.

AR Lenoble champagnes & the Grange vineyards in Hampshire kindly presented the winners with bottles of their estates. Those two houses have a special dedication to rivers: Anne Malassagne /AR Lenoble vineyard has been awarded High Environmental Value, whereas the Barings, the Grange estate owners are active conservationists of the Itchen valley.

Albert Roux also proposed a “ Gavroche Angler “ personal award to the Hampstead and Highgate Angling Society for their efforts to protect and promote fishing on Hampstead Ponds, including tuition sessions for local schoolchildren.

The Prix Charles Ritz was presented at the Athenaeum Club in London on 29th January 2020, followed by dinner at the Travellers Club. During the evening, the Don Catchment Rivers Trust gave a presentation on their Living Heritage of the Don project, and a raffle was also held, with many highly desirable prizes generously contributed by members and friends of the International Fario Club.

Edward Shaw, DCRT director says : It was a real treat and honour to spend an evening with the Fario Club to celebrate our winning of the Prix Charles Ritz. We received a warm welcome from the members, and it was good to chat salmon and rivers with such knowledgeable people. The venues were the icing on the cake. The Athenaeum and Travellers Clubs were full of the trappings of exploration, enquiry, privilege and attainment, and it really felt we were somewhere special. It was a night we won’t forget, and we are most thankful for the generosity of the Fario Club for hosting us.

The International Fario Club warmly congratulates to the Don Catchment Rivers Trust for winning the UK’s first Prix Charles Ritz for their exceptional community-focused urban river restoration project.

UK award for Don Catchment Rivers Trust

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.   

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DCRT have worked with local community groups to clean up sections of the river Don

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.

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Fish passes are allowing salmon to return to Sheffield city centre to spawn

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’.

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Hundreds of volunteers from local communities between Doncaster and Sheffield have been encouraged to ‘Don their wellies’ and get involved with river clean ups.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2019 in the Don Catchment Rivers Trust

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.

 

Catchment Volunteering

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.

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Our volunteers working to clean the River Hipper in Queens Park

“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

Citizen Science

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!

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Volunteers preparing collect a kick sample from the River Rother

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’.

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Volunteers putting out shrew tubes to collect their poo for presence surveys

“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.

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The Friends of the Don Valley Way after a volunteer day in October in front of the Litter they have collected

 

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.

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Volunteers Tackling Himalayan in the Moss Valley

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.

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A volunteer from the Sheffield University removing a tree from the Wetland in the Moss Valley 

 

Brook Explorers

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.

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Our Brook Explorers with the Bug Hotels they made

 

Events

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.

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Some volunteers with their bug hotel that can be seen from Ball Street Bridge

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.

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A Peacock Butterfly seen on our Bio Blitz

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.

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Our Apprentice Anthony looking cheerful in the shade at a very hot Old Whittington Gala

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
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Visitors to our International Year of the Salmon event looking at the first fish pass the Don Catchment Rivers Trust put on the River Don

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.

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Matt and Anthony at the Chesterfield Medieval Market

 

 

Archaeology

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.

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The ‘Seldom Seen Engine House’ in the Moss Valley

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.

 

 

Walks

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.

 

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A photo from our winter walk in the Moss Valley

 

 

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.

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A picture from a walk during the Summer in the Moss Valley

In Conclusion

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!INFOGRAPHIC 2019

This blog was written / compiled by Apprentice Anthony Cox

 

Flooding in the Don Catchment: a Natural Flood Management perspective

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.

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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.

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A Leaky Dam at Collingham Beck

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.

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A flood water storage pond at Manor Fields

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!

Debbie.coldwell@dcrt.org.uk

‘River Champions’ schools project – year two update

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 info@dcrt.org.uk 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.

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