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.
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.
“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
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!
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’.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A picture from a walk during the Summer in the Moss Valley
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!
This blog was written / compiled by Apprentice Anthony Cox