The Moss Valley needs you!

Hello! Matt Duffy here, Catchment Officer at the Don Catchment Rivers Trust for the Hidden Heritage Secret Streams project.

Nestled on the boarder of Sheffield and Derbyshire the Moss Valley lays. The Moss is actually used as the boundary line between South Yorkshire and Derbyshire which makes using an OS map pretty difficult here. Parts of this beautiful valley are even designated as Special Site of Scientific Interest (SSSI) as it contains nationally threatened habitats and holds many valuable species of wildlife.

The Moss Valley Wildlife Group (MVWG) have been active in the area since they formed in 1982 in order to ‘resist the threat of urban development in the valley, when the City of Sheffield was expanding and to bring together people who have an interest in conserving the flora, fauna and habitats found in the valley.’ As well as organising walks and surveys the group did their bit of practical environmental conservation – working tirelessly for ten years to clear most of the valley of non-native invasive weed Himalayan Balsam (HB), which is why it holds much of the biodiversity it does today.

Here’s an infographic of what effects HB has on wildlife.



Aspects of our current ‘Hidden Heritage Secret Streams’ project were inspired by our activities during the pilot ‘Moss Valley Project’ delivered in 2017/18. Following the completion of this project (read more about this here); we decided we would like to continue to support activities here. We are trying to build on the hard work of the MVWG by implementing a number of management techniques including the management of HB, placement of large woody debris within the channel and tree/scrub control in wetland areas.

Unfortunately, the MVWG has struggled to recruit new members to the organisation meaning they’ve had to reduce much of their activities. We’re currently trying to build up a new volunteer group here so that important environmental conservation can continue to take place. If you think you might be interested in joining us on these days we meet every Wednesday, 10am-3pm. Please see our website for details (


One of our volunteers working to remove Himalayan Balsam


What we’re up against!


Here’s just some of the species we’ve managed to capture on camera whilst working here.



Jay feather


Oyster Mushroom


Comma Butterfly


Peacock Butterfly Caterpillar


Peackock Butterfly


Snail Hunter Beetle


Sexton Burying Beetle


Dead Nettle Leaf Beetle


Jelly Ear Mushroom


Toad Tadpoles


Marsh Marigolds


Results from the River Rother Bioblitz

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.

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.




Volunteers Week


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.

04.06.19 susan with balsam

Our Volunteers in Chesterfield on Thursday ‘donned’ their waders and cleared out 5 trolleys from the Holme Brook.

06.06.19 Steve pulling out a trolley


Everyone was rewarded with lots of cake during tea-break!

06.06.19 Steven cake

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.

Thank you everyone!



Don Valley Way

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.Conisbourgh Viaduct

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.20180809_101234

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.most of the volunteers

The Great Sheffield River Clean Up!

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.

A small sample of all the litter collected on the day.

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.

Photo thanks to the Rivers trust of volunteers and the lord mayor of Sheffield at the end of the day 

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.

The completed 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.

A volunteer from the Environment Agency who came to help on his day off

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.

Photo thanks to the Rivers Trust

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.

Catchment Officer Matt Duffy and Apprentice Anthony Cox smiling at the end of a hard days work

Apprentice Week: My Apprenticeship with DCRT

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.

Me, removing Himalayan Balsam at Wardsend Cemetery

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.

Me and some volunteers at the start of a Bat survey I led last year

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.

Me, cutting back vegetation in Sheffield at the beginning of my Apprenticeship

By Anthony Cox

Salmon in the Don: the journey

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…

Female salmon found at the River Don in Sheffield 

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.

Fish passes have been installed on weirs along the River Don, helping salmon over these steep, unnatural obstacles

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.