Moving on

Here’s more pictures of progress at Steelbank weir.  The concrete base has now been poured for the two flights and the resting pool with the steel visible for the walls.  Next job is to put ‘shutters’ around the steels and pour concrete to form the walls.

2016-08-25 10.43.00.jpg

The site has water in it as the pumps had been switched off at the time.  One of the biggest challenges for the contractors is to keep the site dry and as such they use pumps that keep the site free of water whilst they are working.  As soon as the pumps are switched off the water finds it’s way back in!

The site at Lady’s Bridge has now been set up ready for the contractors to sandbag off the top of the weir


The site at Brightside has had sandbags put in place to dam off the top of the weir before they begin breaking out the weir there to install a two flight Larinier fish pass.  Fingers crossed the weather stays dry!

2016-08-30 10.44.37.jpg

Dalton Community Clean-up Day

On Monday 22nd August, Don Catchment Rivers Trust led a community clean-up day by the River Don in Dalton, Rotherham. Despite a rainy start to the day lots of volunteers arrived raring to go and clean up their riverside.

Some of the 42 bags of rubbish removed from site

This was the first clean-up day the Trust had set up in the Rotherham district and we were overwhelmed by the amount of help and support we received both setting up the event and on the day. Sam Jarvis, the Asda Community Champion helped with some funding for extra equipment, organised staff from Asda to volunteer on the day and kept a ready supply of drinks and biscuits for the volunteers. From Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council we received support from the ‘Love my Streets Co-ordinator’ Wayne Munro-Smith. The Council also strimmed the paths for us, helped with publicising the day and provided a Street Pride crew to remove all the bin bags. Canal & River Trust sent a member of staff to help for the day (thank you Brian!) and we also received support from local community volunteers, Dalton Parish Council, Silverwood Miners Welfare Resource Centre and Harsco Metals who sent out a team of volunteers.

During the afternoon, the Deputy Mayoress of Rotherham and Consort, and Councillor Jayne Senior came to speak with Trustees, staff and volunteers and learn more about the Living Heritage of the River Don Project.

The Deputy Mayoress of Rotherham meets project volunteers & staff

By the end of day volunteers had pulled out 42 bags of litter including drink cans, plastic bottles, broken glass, piles of clothes, a wheelie bin and even a fridge! We ended up with over ¾ of a tonnes worth of litter being cleared from the paths.

Volunteers having a well earned cuppa

As part of our Heritage Lottery Funded project this area of river side path will form part of our Don Valley Way trail. The clean-up day has made a really positive start in cleaning up the paths, and we would like to build on this community effort by organising a regular volunteer day so that we can keep the paths clear and promote the area as a wildlife habitat.

Thank you everybody!

Josh Laidlow, Apprentice
Rachel Walker, Community Engagement Officer



Cleaning the River Dearne

Yesterday, we teamed up with the Friends of the Dearne and Paul Gaskell from the Wild Trout Trust to do a litter pick and vegetation removal from a small part of the River Dearne at Clayton West. With permission from the local Tesco Express, who owned the bit of land, we were on our way!


With the help of numerous volunteers armed with litter pickers, we managed to pull multiple bags worth of rubbish out of the river making it look significantly better than it did before.


After the litter pick, the volunteers helped us remove a large quantity of Himalayan Balsam that had infested the river and had overtaken the lovely riverbanks. After an hour or so, the Himalayan Balsam had been defeated.


And this was the result!


This work has ensured that the river is now more visible from the road and that  the habitat has been improved too.

Josh Laidlow, Apprentice


Taking shape

Work is moving on apace at Steelbank weir, the first lot of steels are in place which will form the actual pass, by the end of the week all the steels should be completed, ready for concrete to be poured.P1000851.JPG

It’s been a lovely day for being out and about on the river, I paid a visit to Brightside weir as work begins there too this week.  The bags of stone are ready to be used to dam off the flow of the river and dry the part of the weir to be worked on.


Brightside Weir includes a concrete pipe which is apparently the outfall of the culverted Carbrook


and just because it was a lovely day, here’s a picture of the Don at Brightside looking lovely with the water crowfoot in flower.



Dr Ed Shaw, one of our Trustees and Directors, offers his thoughts on wildness and rivers

Since I was a child a big part of what gave the natural world its magic was its wildness. It’s a quality that I think we all instinctively recognise, but I’m not sure I can completely put my finger on what it is about it that’s thrilling. Perhaps it’s the spontaneity, apartness and independence from humans, and the sense of exploration, adventure and discovery that wild places can give us. While most of our surroundings are designed, owned, controlled and mundane, wildness is exciting, liberating, and mysterious.

Inevitably as I grew older my horizons widened and I began to understand just how modified and managed Britain’s landscape is. As a consequence the wildness and magic our countryside held for me retreated and diminished. To a great extent the same knowledge nurtured a new appreciation of traditional landscapes; valuing how historical land management has shaped moorland and water meadows etc, and this mostly compensated for the loss. Yet at the heart of me my childhood fascination with wildness remains.
sichuan.jpgThick forest envelops a pristine river high in mountains in Sichuan Province, China

A few weeks back I was fortunate enough to participate on a short expedition in the mountains of south-west China, during which I recorded the habitats of poorly known species of plant. While the ecosystems of many rivers in China have been severely degraded, there are still some truly wild rivers in remote parts of the country. On this trip I visited one such river, located high in the mountains in Sichuan province. The vegetation along the riparian zone was completely pristine, having never been cut, burnt, grazed, planted, or otherwise managed in any way. For me, spending time there and soaking up the wildness was sublime.

sichaun 2.jpgWilderness in Sichuan Province, China

The experience got me thinking, not for the first time, about wildness back in the Don Catchment. I’m sure that like me many people must have wondered what the rivers in the Don Catchment would look like if they had never experienced any human impact? Might, for example, the upper reaches of the Don look like this river in China? Clearly this river is far more powerful, but otherwise the climate and the types of plants are not so different as to make comparison meaningless. It’s completely speculation, but I suspect that this pristine Chinese river does indeed represent a vision of what a wild upper Don would look like.

Alaska.jpgPonds in the beds of old river channels stud this Alaskan wilderness. Photo by Travis / CC BY

As for the lowland rivers in the Don Catchment, these are perhaps the most altered and least wild in the catchment, being ‘straightjacketed’ between flood banks in channels dug to rush them as quickly as possible to the Humber. As they are so radically altered I find it hard to imagine what the lower Don landscape might have looked like in its wild state. I suppose there would have been a complex and extensive arrangement of rivers, ponds, reed bed and marsh. One reason wetlands form in lowlands is due to the propensity for sluggish low-gradient rivers to meander. These meanders aren’t fixed, but naturally shift as they erode their way downstream. Big loops can become cut off when high flows give the river the energy to find and cut a new easier channel, leaving behind the old channel to gradually silt up and form ponds. Over thousands of years lowland landscapes can become riddled with such ponds. While such places have mostly been drained, you can see what they look like in wilderness areas such as in Alaska or the Amazon.

Norfolk.jpgThe River Yare in the Norfolk Broads. Photo by Pengannel / CC BY

Chris Firth suggests in his book ‘900 Years of the Don Fishery: Domesday to the Dawn of the New Millennium’ that before drainage the wetlands of the lower Don landscape might have been similar to the network of waterbodies and wetlands present at the Norfolk Broads. He also references another author who draws a comparison to the celebrated great expanse of wildlife rich wetlands at the Doñana National Park in Spain.

Donana.jpgDoñana National Park, Spain. Photo by Daniel Lombraña González / CC BY

So, what is the potential for us to have wilder rivers in the Don Catchment? This is a difficult question and honestly I don’t really know. Fully rewilding a lowland river would require large areas of space for meandering. Clearly our catchment is packed with infrastructure, farmland and settlements, making such a degree of rewilding costly and complicated. In contrast, there is more scope for rewilding the rivers and streams in the upper catchment as little new space is required. I suppose it would simply entail a process of letting the vegetation and the river do its own thing.

Rivelin.jpgBeautiful woodland grows along the Rivelin above Sheffield. Photo by 19andy76 / CC BY

To a certain extent this has already happened at some locations. As the steep-sided valleys that hold rivers such as the Rivelin, Loxley and the upper Don are difficult to farm or develop, the land was often put to use as managed woodland (e.g. coppicing, charcoal burning). Today ribbons of woodland follow a number of the upper rivers, and as they are no longer worked they contain many mature trees. However, these riparian woodlands, which are beautiful and some of my favourite places in the catchment, seem tame and domesticated in comparison to the river in China. I’m not sure why. It could be because their current management checks their wildness, or maybe it takes far more time than these woodlands have had for wildness to completely return. It could even be that while these woods appear different from the riotous forest I saw in China, they are indeed what a British wildwood looks like.

Anyway, our landscapes have many functions, and wild areas are not always the best use of land. That being said, one of my long term hopes is that eventually better landscape management and technology will enable us to let more spaces go wild in the catchment and allow nature to run rampant, so that future generations of children (and adults) can be thrilled by the wildness on their doorstep.

Dr Ed Shaw, Trustee & Director

Ed resized




River Don Mural

Doncaster teens have turned an eyesore on the River Don into a piece of street art to be proud of. 

Working with local artist Chris Swain and in partnership with Remedi, young people from Targeted Youth Support and Doncaster Children’s Services Trust have created the mural on Power Station Road Bridge, which celebrates the natural heritage of the Don and the fact that Salmon are now returning to the river

Youth Art before

Above: the bridge ‘before’                                                              Below: the bridge ‘after’

Youth Art Completed

The mural includes leaping Salmon, as well as the iconic Kingfisher, dragonflies and heron. The bridge on Power Station Road was chosen because it is near the start of the Trust’s ‘Don Valley Way’ trail, which is being funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Although this stretch of the River Don is picturesque, the bridge had been heavily graffitied. Now we hope people will enjoy walking and spending time along the river, knowing that it is being cared for and looked after by volunteers.

20160810_14433620160810_15514420160810_15540320160810_15545720160810_15550320160810_155825We would like to thank:
Remedi, the young people from Targeted Youth Support and Doncaster Children’s Services Trust
Chris Swain, visual artist
The Home Office | Doncaster Prison for their permission to paint the mural
DCRT volunteers
Heritage Lottery Fund and match funders


Technical stuff

Work is moving on at Steelbank; concrete blinding has been poured to stabilise the holes that have been dug with the next phase being the installation of steels to create the two-flight pass.


The two flight Larinier (named after the man who invented the baffles that sit in the pass) being built at Steelbank/Packhorse weir and also at Brightside weir will have a resting pool (see schematic below) and  baffles disrupt the flow of water which makes it easier for fish to ascend the weir.

schematic of 2flt larinier

P1000259 (800x450)

Larinier fish pass baffles that disrupt the flow of water, allowing fish to ascend.


The Lady of the Stream

One of the favourite fish amongst anglers who fish the River Don is the grayling. Often referred to as the Lady of the Stream, this species which frequents the faster flowing reaches of rivers, is regarded as one of our most colourful fish. In common with virtually all species which once frequented the Don, the grayling population was wiped out by pollution as the Industrial Revolution took hold and probably became extinct in the system by the beginning of the 19th century.


In 1983 some progress had been made in addressing the condition of the river in the reaches, above Penistone. The Salmon & Trout Association had taken the initiative and begun to develop brown trout stocks for their members to fish for. Being reasonably successful they welcomed an approach from the Water Authority who had access to some grayling which were being culled from the West Beck, Nr Driffield and a decision was taken to transfer 200 fish to the River Don at Hazelhead.

Since their re-introduction grayling have steadily spread downstream mirroring progressive improvements being achieved in water quality and today you can catch grayling all the way down stream to the lower limits of Sheffield.


Protecting and improving the prospects for grayling is one of the key objectives of the work being carried out by the Don Catchment Rivers Trust.  Installing fish passage facilities on weirs throughout the city will enable, not just grayling, but all species of fish to move with greater freedom to access feeding, spawning and nursery areas leading to greater long term sustainability of the fishery.

Chris Firth MBE,  Trustee & Director


Steelbank excavations

Things are moving on with the Steelbank fish pass.  The weir has now been broken out to create space for the Larinier flights on this two flight technical fishpass. The weir at Steelbank is around 100m long and is also known as Packhorse weir.

As you can see the weir is constructed of stone sets, with a crest stone that has an iron lip along it.  This would have been built without the use of the cranes or hydraulic machinery that Bailey’s are using to lift and shift all the heavy stuff around.  These weirs were built to last!


As part of the works, and because of the age and historical use of the weirs in Sheffield, the contractor has to have an ‘archaeological watching brief’ .  This means that there is an archaeologist from West Yorkshire Archaeology Services on site to record any finds or anything else of interest.  Marina found an assortment of iron objects including two canon balls, one considerably larger and heavier than the other!  We’ll keep you posted if there is anything of more interest that she discovers.




Work begins in the river

Finally, after so much planning, writing of bids, liaising with various people and organisations, the capital works part of our Living Heritage of the River Don project has started!

We have our contractors Bailey Construction on site and in the river at Steelbank.  They have dammed off the river at the top of the weir and are breaking out the weir at this moment so that they can build the fish pass in the weir.

Steelbank Weir being dammed off so that works can commence

AG Shepherd have kindly let us have access to their yard so that the contractors can access the weir.  The river is very constrained at this point with the A61 Penistone Rd on one side of the river and a series of industrial units on the other, so without AG Shepherd, life would be more difficult!

Steelbank weir from the A61 Penistone Rd

We have another four weirs that we are working on as part of this project and hopefully (weather permitting) they will all be completed by the end of this year.  Keep checking back with us on Facebook, Twitter, our website or our blog for further updates.