Nature experts and enthusiasts alike gathered at the Hidden Heritage Secret Streams Bioblitz this May, with the aim to count all the birds, bugs and beasties they could find on the riverside in just one day. The Bioblitz took place on an important wildlife site in Chesterfield, rarely opened to the general public.
After a day of exploring, the watermeadows were found to be home to 104 different species. 23 different species of bird were heard or spotted, with finds including green woodpecker, buzzard and a very tuneful skylark. Footprints, skulls and burrows also revealed signs of mammals, including roe deer, fox and hare. 62 different invertebrates were discovered, including fascinating insect eggs and Scentless Plant Bugs, pictured below.
Parasyrphus nigritarsis egg
The blanket of wildflowers across the site included yellow water-lily, colts-foot and bird’s foot trefoil. Invasive, non-native species were also recorded, such as Giant hogweed and Himalayan balsam.
During the event, DCRT’s director Ed Shaw, led a guided walk across the site to explain plans for the restoration and regeneration of the river Rother.
Sara Pexioto, from the University of Sheffield, demonstrated how new technology in DNA studies can help us identify water-dwelling wildlife. Sara said “All living organisms leave traces of DNA in their surrounding environments, reflecting their current or past presence. Using environmental samples (eg. water or soil) and genetic tools we can now detect any living organism more efficiently”
Thank you to all the volunteers and recorders that came down to survey the site. If you would like to see the full species list please click here: River rother Bioblitz results.
Today marks the final day of Volunteer’s week and we want to say a huge thank you to all our volunteers across the Don Catchment!
So far this year the Friends of the Don Valley Way have organised 14 of their own litter-picks and conservation days. Volunteer Susan organised a fantastic balsam bash this Tuesday, clearing an entire river Don bank-side of the invasive species, Himalayan Balsam.
After the balsam bash
Our Volunteers in Chesterfield on Thursday ‘donned’ their waders and cleared out 5 trolleys from the Holme Brook.
Everyone was rewarded with lots of cake during tea-break!
This year so far, a total of 64 volunteers in Chesterfield have dedicated over 46 days to cleaning up our rivers and removed 213 bin bags of litter! Our education volunteers, citizen scientists and community archaeologists have also been hard at work inspiring the general public, investigating the river Rother’s wildlife and exploring its industrial history.
Have you ever wanted to walk a long stretch of beautiful and historic river? Well the Don Valley way is an excellent way to do this. The route runs from St Mary’s Bridge in Doncaster, to Wardsend Cemetery in Sheffield. Along the route there are lots of interpretation panels so you can learn the history of the area that you are in, and you can download the Don Valley Way app from the App store and Google Play. There are also 9 small circular walks along the route if you don’t want to tackle the whole thing. It is a great walk to do on a warm summer day. Click here for the Don Valley Way Website. There is a new Don Valley Way leaflet coming soon.
The Don Valley Way is 29 miles long and includes sites such as Conisbourgh Castle, built in the 11th century after the Norman conquest on England in 1066 by William de Warrenne.
You can also see Wardsend Cemetery, a Victorian burial ground in Sheffield that was opened in 1857 and officially closed in 1988 – it is the resting place of 30,000 Sheffield residents.
You will pass under the fantastic architecture of the Conisbourgh Viaduct, which is 1,521 feet in length and has 21 large arches. It was used to create a railway connection between Hull and Barnsley and is made up of around 15 million bricks.
There are also some murals on the route painted by young people, one is at Holmes Lock and the other is under a bridge near the Doncaster end of the walk.
There are also several fish passes on the weirs to try and improve fish migration and encourage the return of the Salmon to the River Don.
Friends of the Don Valley Way
The Friends of the Don Valley Way are a volunteer led organisation set up from the Living Heritage of the River Don Project (click here for more details). They work on sites across the Don Catchment in Sheffield, Rotherham and Doncaster but mainly work along the Don Valley Way. They try to run at least 3 volunteer days a month on a wide range of sites in their area. Could you help out? Click here to see Friends of the Don Valley Way volunteer days highlighted in yellow.
Last Saturday we worked with the River Stewardship Company on a large clean up event in Sheffield. It was a huge success with 81 volunteers in total removing a huge amount of rubbish from the river.
The event started on Ball Street Bridge near Kelham Island that had been closed for the day so we could set up gazebos for our event. On the bridge we signed up volunteers and provided them with equipment to complete certain tasks in and around the River Don. We were completely shocked by the amount of volunteers who signed up on the day, but were happy that so many people came to make a difference to their local river. It proves that no matter what your age or background you can make a difference by volunteering to improve your local area.
On the day we had planed to construct a bug hotel on the bank at the bottom of Kelham weir. This is always a fun and worthwhile task as it creates a habitat for a whole range of invertebrates, and feels like you’re constructing a home. It is good for getting kids involved and interested in nature and allows them to get creative as they painted a sign for the Hotel, or Bug B+B.
There was a lot of media coverage on the day with the event appearing in a segment on Mondays episode of the One Show. It also appeared in articles in both the Sheffield Star and the Daily Mail. However we were too busy to let this phase us as teams of people entered the river in waders to pick litter from less accessible locations. Both our teams were on hand to ensure every ones safety in the water. We pulled several large items out of the river, such as multiple car bumpers and a few yellow ofo bikes.
Further up stream the people from British Canoeing were out in kayaks collecting litter from the Don. The River Stewardship Company also had their metal boat in the water and were taking volunteers out to pick litter from the areas inaccessible by foot.
Overall we really enjoyed our day in Sheffield and at the end of a long hard days work we felt good because we knew we’d made a positive difference to the Don.
Tackling invasive species, working with volunteers and performing habitat enhancement, have all been a part of my apprenticeship with the Don Catchment Rivers Trust. I have been with the Trust since October 2017, and have worked on lots of exiting projects such as the Living Heritage of the River Don and the Moss Valley project (read more here). Over my time in the trust my knowledge and passion for the environment has been enhanced and has given me more drive to do my best to improve our local environment.
Over the time I have worked for the trust I have been on lots of training courses to learn new skills such as getting a brush cutter and chainsaw tickets, my pesticide spraying qualification and my first aid. I have also been on lots of useful nature courses such as the bat ID training and a hydrology training course.
I have been employed on the new project Hidden Heritage and Secret Streams as a level 3 apprentice. It means I will have a larger role in the project and will be working more independently. This year I’m doing units such as managing volunteer groups which I have started to do by taking a larger role in working with the Friends of the Don Valley Way. I will also be completing some plant surveys in the new project area.
2019 marks International Year of the Salmon, and what a start to the year it has been! Multiple adult salmon have not just been found in the River Don but show evidence that they have spawned. Whether the conditions will be right for their young to survive and thrive is unclear, but the long awaited return of the salmon run to Sheffield’s rivers may not be far away…
Salmon divide their lives between salt and freshwater. As adults they live in the ocean, but will migrate from as far away as Greenland to return to UK rivers, including the Don to lay their eggs and start the next generation.
Life in the redd For the eggs that have been laid in the river Don, they begin their journey buried in protective nests of gravel called redds, which are created by the spawning females. Cool, river water flows over the redds, oxygenating the incubating eggs for around 100 days. The newly hatched fish, or alevin, are less than 2cm long and rely on a nourishing yolk sac until they are ready to disperse from the redd as salmon fry.
Emerging at night
Fry avoid lurking predators by leaving the safety of the redd at night. Dispersing downstream, each fry finds a suitable territory which they will defend from other fish as they feed and grow. They develop stripes and markings on their scales as they grow into the next life-cycle stage, parr. Some of the salmon will remain parr for several years, growing slowly in the river Don’s waters before migration to sea.
Migration to sea
The changes involved in the next stage of the life cycle, migration downstream to the ocean, gives the salmon their name Smolt. The smolt undergo changes to their physiology, body shape and colour. Small and silvery, they have lost their parr-marks and have become less visible to predators. If our river Don salmon make it to this life-stage, they will band together and travel downstream in shoals, their behaviour changing ahead of life in the oceans.
Known as post-smolts, the salmon that make their way to the North Sea are swept to nursery areas, rich in food. As they grow they travel great distances.
The Homing Instinct
Using their excellent sense of smell, salmon can navigate back to the river they were born in. A small amount of salmon don’t have this natural instinct and stray to other rivers, allowing re-population of other rivers where salmon have been lost. On reaching the Humber estuary the salmon begin to migrate upstream, leaping spectacularly over obstacles along the way.
Salmon return to freshwater at any time of the year but may wait in freshwater pools for over a year before spawning in late autumn. They don’t actively feed during this time, surviving off reserves of fat built up at sea, but sometimes instinct mean they will go for a well presented angler’s lure!
Females migrate to the spawning sites first where they begin to make their redds, lifting and flicking gravel with their tails into position. Their pheromones attract males and soon the adult salmon pair up. The males have become colourful, developing a red belly and a distinctive hooked lower jaw, called a kype, to attract females from other males. Female pheromones attract males to their redds and work to synchronise mating, the female releases her eggs and the males fertilise them.
The majority of Atlantic salmon, which would have exhausted their fat reserves during the long migration, die after spawning. However, a small proportion, mostly females, survive and return downstream as kelts to feed and recover in coastal waters, building up fat reserves for another migration.
This year was the final year of the 3-year Living Heritage of the River Don project and what a year it has been. I’ve picked out some of the highlights to share with you.
We’ve worked with 19 fantastic school, education and scout groups this year during our LHRD and Brelms Trust project and have taught hundreds of children how to look after their river! Pupils have created miniature aquariums for mayfly larvae, helped stop pollution going down drains, used a microscope and litter-picked by the river.
A huge thank you to our education volunteers who supported our educational visits this year!
We’ve been involved in three really fantastic youth art projects this year!
The first was at mural project in Doncaster, working with artist Chris Swain, where young people learnt street art skills and brightened up a rather grey wall a Crimpsall Sluice.
For our next project we worked alongside street artist Faunagraphic at Holmes Lock, restoring a vandalised wall along the Don Valley Way. The wall features creatures and plants that can be found along our waterways.
For our final project we worked in collaboration with Site Gallery and award-winning artist Eelyn Lee who led art students from the Sheffield College to create a film and exhibition of work about the river Don and Wardsend Cemetry. The River Project: Categories of Life and Death was exhibited for a week at Site Gallery and was accompanied by a special outdoor screening in the Cemetery itself!
Volunteer Days and Clean Ups
We’ve worked with 143 volunteers to remove 1644 plastic bags, 13 trolleys, 58 tyres, 17 traffic cones, 11 bikes, 5 prams and 5 TV’s from the rivers in Sheffield, Rotherham and Doncaster. We’ve been improving several ‘hotspot’ areas by installing benches, bins and new information boards to teach passers-by about the history and wildlife of the Don.
Thanks to all those that dedicated their time by attending volunteer days, meetings and training. Our volunteers have contributed 1122 hours to improving the river Don and Don Valley Way this year and some of them have even organised their own litter picks! We hope you continue to work with us in 2019 and on our new project.
Well done all!
Moss Valley Project
This project started in December 2017 and was funded by grants from the Don Network and Yorkshire water. The project was ran by our Project Assistant Matt Duffy. During the project we removed obstacles to fish migration, created in-stream habitats and reinstated marshland along the river Moss. You can read more about this project here.
Discovery Days and Community Events
We’ve really enjoyed partnering up with the Canal & Rivers Trust, Shanks, Friends of Wardsend Cemetery, Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust and many other organisations on our community events in 2018.
We hope these events will continue to grow so look out for them in 2019.
Apprenticeship By Anthony Cox
I have been working at DCRT for the last 15 months but my Apprenticeship is now drawing to a close. In the time I have been with the trust I have learnt a lot and loved every second with my role. I have learnt lots of skills that will be useful in my future career and have gained lots of useful qualifications as well. But the best part of working in the DCRT team is that we are all passionate about the river and surrounding environment and we all work hard to try to improve it as much as we can. Working with our amazing volunteers is great to, its good to meet people who give up their time to help improve the world for other people without gaining anything but each others friendship. So in conclusion coming to work for the trust is the best decision I ever made.
Whats coming next?
Hidden Heritage Secret Streams!
We did it! Our funding application for the Hidden Heritage Secret Streams Project has been successful!! Read more about it in the press release here!
We can’t wait to get started on the project in the new year!
Thank you to the project Funders:
The Heritage Lottery Fund
Big Lottery / Awards for All
Coalfields Regeneration Trust
HB Allen Trust
Duke of Devonshire’s Charitable Trust