2021’s River Round-up

After starting the new year in the midst of another lockdown, we weren’t sure what to imagine for 2021 at DCRT, but we have found ourselves ending the year on a real high after a jam-packed programme of riverside events.

Wading, splashing, paddling – we’ve loved being back outside with you all on volunteer days and at our community events. A huge thank you to those volunteers who joined and fed back on our initial volunteer trial-days as lockdown ended – and a very warm welcome to those that have recently joined the team again after many hard months of shielding.

So what did DCRT get up to in 2021?

Even with the lockdown halting volunteer days until the spring, and limited group sizes thereafter, DCRT volunteers contributed a whopping 1605 hours to cleaning up our rivers, removal of invasive species, surveying freshwater invertebrates and restoring riverside habitat this year.

88 volunteers have been trained in beginner’s botany, fungi identification, meadow-surveying, bird-surveying, hedge-laying and underwater film-work. Several volunteers also helped to research, write and record audio guides for our new walking trails in Chesterfield. Bird nest boxes were built by our volunteer team and installed in the Rother Washlands, which were monitored over the breeding season, and we’ve begun monthly bird surveys at Wardsend Cemetery in Sheffield.

We’ve worked hard to ‘slow the flow’ and improve flood resilience through NFM (natural flood management) in the catchment.

  • Volunteers have built more than 30 leaky barriers of different shapes and sizes along tributaries of the Moss Brook in Newfield Spring Wood, and the Holme Brook in Holmebrook Valley Park.
  • Farmland along the Rother has seen further measures introduced to hold back runoff and boost wildlife habitat with the planting of 160m of new hedgerow and removal of large areas of the invasive Himalayan Balsam thanks to our wonderful volunteers.
  • 250 trees have been planted by volunteers in Rotherham in partnership with Rotherham Council, with more on the way in January.
  • The public have sent in 15 photos as part of our fixed point photography project to help us monitor the landscape at Grassmoor Country Park, where we plan to start a very exciting Natural Flood Management scheme soon!
  • We’ve been working in partnership with National Highways to support the delivery of a natural flood management pilot project in the Little Don catchment. The project aims to explore whether natural flood management can be part of the solution to highway flooding and will involve improved soil aeration, tree planting, leaky barriers and storage ponds!

And what about river restoration? Woody debris has been installed on the river Hipper in Somersall park to create new micro-habitats in the river for fish and help restore a more natural flow to our post-industrial rivers. DCRT now have a Fisheries Officer in post, Matt Duffy, who will be working to improve the fishery across the catchment and keep an eye on the returning Atlantic salmon.

As restrictions lifted we were able to deliver our River Guardian’s educational sessions to schools and uniformed groups and have taught a total of 404 children this year, with activities including well-dressing, earthworm surveys, bat-walks, river-dipping and bug-hunting!

We worked with 3 groups of young people this year by partnering up with Chesterfield College, Catch-22 and the National Citizen Service programme. We supported 16 young people with special educational needs and disabilities on a week-long volunteer programme with us.  Our community engagement partner Kakou also delivered a computer-tech project working with young people with special educational needs, who created a new riverside walking trail and an amazing online game for us! We’ve also really enjoyed working with students from Sheffield Hallam University, FLOD, on their incredible enterprise placement creating eco plant-pots out of river litter.

It was a joy to bring back our community events this year and over the summer holidays, we welcomed 79 children and parents to our Brook Explorer events. Families joined us to sew memory squares, go boat-racing, river-dip and hunt for mini-beasts! A real treat was the volunteer summer celebration picnic in Queen’s Park, where at last we got together as a big group to celebrate our volunteer team’s achievements.

From foraging to bat-detecting to industrial nature, we’ve led 7 exciting walks by the riverside this year, and during the lockdown, we hosted a fantastic series of 5 online talks about river heritage and conservation – thanks to those who joined the discussion!

And finally, we were delighted to welcome 3 new staff members to DCRT this year: Jenny Palmer our Agricultural Officer, Erika Phoenix our new Catchment Host Officer and Beckie Fulton our new Project Assistant. We are so proud of our growing team!

A huge thank you to all our funders and supporters for making this year possible.