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.
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.
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.
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!
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.