Flod: River litter transformed!

In our latest guest blog we hear from FLOD, an eco start-up that’s working to transform litter from the Don Catchment’s rivers

We are 4 students: Dom, Max, Oscar and Tom from Sheffield Hallam University launching an eco-plant pot business through an enterprise placement year overseen and supported by the uni.

Our journey started at a university self-enterprise meeting. Identifying a shared interest in making a positive environmental impact we established an interest to work with each other.

Freshly motivated and inspired by the potential of the project we set three core goals

  1. Support and involve ourselves with local charities.

2. Improve the quality of green spaces.

3. Create an environmentally friendly product.

After some discussion and research we realised how easy it is to recycle certain types of commonly littered material. We set to testing, melting milk cartons and polishing glass.

We started litter picking with the DCRT volunteers who have been collecting bags of river rubbish for us to use.

Without workshop access the prototyping started in back gardens. Working with a small budget, progress developed using tools such as toasty makers, second hand microwaves and yogurt pots as moulds.

For the last couple weeks we have had full access to the uni workshops and have been hard at work getting ready to sell our first batch. All made possible by the great work of the DCRT volunteers so thank you all so much for the support!

Flod’s first drop of recycled plant pots are available today through their instagram, with 5% of profits going to charity. Each pot is unique, handmade by Dom, Max, Oscar and Tom using eco-friendly materials and riverside litter.

Our finished pot slots into the drip tray which comes in a variety or colours

Heritage Walks: Rotherham 2 – A Meeting of Two Rivers

The Don Valley Way has several heritage walks. In this series of blogs we are going to explore these walks and the features that can be seen on them.

Rotherham Minster

In this addition we are going to talk about the second walk in Rotherham, A Meeting of Two Rivers. The walk is 2.7miles or 4.KM long and will take around an hour and half to complete. This walk is paved with some road crossings and steady inclines. For more information on this walk click here for its page on the Don Valley Way website.

The walk starts at Rotherham Train Station. From here it crosses the bridge over the River Don from which a Chapel can be seen on the left hand side. This Chapel is known as Chapel of Our Lady on the Bridge. It is one of only three surviving medieval bridge chapels still standing in England. It was used by travellers to give thanks for a safe arrival or to pray for a safe journey. Rotherham Bridge was built where there had previously been a ford. The bridge is thought to have been a toll bridge much like the Humber Bridge is today. The charge was levied by priests to pay for the upkeep of both the bridge. In 1483 the Chapel of Our Lady was built as part of the rebuilding of the bridge. In 1547 the richly decorated chapel was suppressed by Henry VIII. At the time the king had recently set up the Protestant Church of England so anything of value in Catholic Churches, Monastery’s, Nunneries and Chapels was taken to help fund his war with France. The Chapel itself only survived as it was an important part of the bridge. In the late 16th century the Chapel was converted into an arms-house. During the English Civil War in 1643 a battle was fought on the bridge between the Earl of Newcastle’s Royalist troops and the town’s people, with 30 boys from the grammar school led by Colonel Gill of Carr House for the parliamentarian course. The Roundheads lost and the town was occupied by the Royalist Army who subsequently sacked it. Small dents in the Chapel walls show where the Royalist musket balls hit the Chapel. In 1778 the building was converted again, this time into the Town Jail. Two cells were formed in the crypt and the Chapel above became the deputy constables quarters. To learn more about the Chapel you can attend an open day hosted by the Friends of the Chapel on the Bridge.

Chapel on the Bridge

Rotherham Town Hall was once the site of Rotherham’s Cattle Market until it was moved to Corporation Street. This occurred at the same time as the construction of the Police Station and Court House. The council moved into the building in 1985 and is used as a working building, not usually open to the public. At the front of the Town Hall stands a large cannon which was made at the Walker Brothers Iron Foundry. Walker Cannons were found on board HMS Victory and there are still Walker Cannons on board Victory in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. Walker Cannons saw action at the Battle of Trafalgar when Nelson defeated the French and Spanish Navies, as well as in the Napoleonic wars and the American war of independence.

After outbreaks of Cholera in Rotherham in the early and mid-19th century it became clear that the town was in need of a new cemetery. Medical students were steeling bodies from the badly maintained burial ground around Rotherham Parish Church for research purposes. From this Moorgate Cemetery was opened in 1840’s by the newly formed Rotherham Public Cemetery Company.

In 1773 Thomas Howard Third Earl of Fingham decided to build a hunting lodge on the south side of Rotherham. The location chosen was on the hillside of Rotherham Moor and the house was completed in 1775. The views from the hill are extensive even today with the town being much more built up than back then. Originally the lodge was known as the house upon the common, but later that year a group of men disguised as Native Americans boarded ships in Boston Massachusetts and emptied 342 chests of tea into the water. This famously became known as the Boston Tea Party, an event that famously fuelled the flames of revolution in what is now the American colonies. The American War of independence shortly began where we fought the colonists rather than give them reputation is the British Parliament in regards to taxation. Thomas Howard was ordered to America to fight the rebels. Despite his desire to serve king and country he resigned his position in the army in support of the colonists. He thought the war was unjust so his hunting lodge was renamed Boston Castle. On the 4th July 1876 Boston Park, Rotherham’s first public park was opened on the site covering just over 8 hectares, and was opened to mark the centenary of American Independence.

Canklow woods is one of the largest ancient woodlands in Rotherham. It is of national importance for archaeology as the summit if the woods is the site of a Bronze Age settlement.  Canklow woods was purchased by Rotherham borough Council in April 2000 (this next bit is for Catchment Officer Matt Duffy), which is a month after I was born, from the Duke of Norfolk. There are waymarked paths in the woods so you can explore if you want to on this part of the walk.

To learn more about the history of Rotherham including information about the history of Rotherham minister, you should get out with our audio guide and explore the walk. You can listen to the audion guide online on the Don Valley Way website, or by downloading the free app available on both Android and IOS devices. Thanks to the Friends of the Chapel on the Bridge for helping us with information for this walk.

Click here for the App on Android devices.

Click here for the App on Apple and IOS devices.

Click here for the Rotherham 2 walk page on the Don Valley Way website.

Click here for the Don Valley Way website.

Click here for more information on the Friends of the Chapel on the Bridge.

By Project Assistant Anthony Cox

Heritage Walks: Sprotbrough – Tails of Knights and Heroes

The Don Valley Way has several heritage walks. In this series of blogs we are going to explore these walks and the fantastic features that can be seen on them.

A view of the River Don as it flows past Warmsworth (the next village downstream of Sprotbrough)

This time we are going to talk about the Sprotbrough walk Tails of Knights and Heroes. The walk is 2.45 miles or 3.95KM long and is mostly flat with some bumpy tracks in the woodland areas. This walk will take roughly 1 hour and 15 minutes to complete. For more information on this walk click here to see its page on the Don Valley Way website.

The trail starts at the junction of Nursery Lane and Boat Lane. On the corner of these roads is the old toll house built in 1849 for Sir Joseph Copley, and used to collect payment for crossing Sprotbrough Bridge. Sprotbrough Bridge was constructed in the mid 19th century with the central span being replace in 1897 with Iron work from the Sheffield Company Newton Chambers. As you begin the walk you will see the magnesium limestone known as the Don Gorge. The Don Gorge was formed as it was eroded by glassier flows and more recently the River Don, which flows at the base of the gorge.

The magnesium limestone that makes up the Don Gorge

World War II flying Ace Sir Douglas Barder grew up in a house along the left side of Boat Lane in the old rectory. He was born in London in 1910 but moved to Sprotbrough after his mother married the vicar of the Sprotbrough Church. In 1928 he joined the RAF as a cadet and became a piolet who was known as a dare devil because of his habit of preforming dangerous stunts. In December 1931 whilst preforming unauthorised low flying aerobatics he crashed and had both legs amputated, one above and one below the knee. In 1939 he re-joined the RAF to help with the war effort against the Nazis. He was credited with shooting down 22 aircraft and damaging 11 aircraft before being shot down and captured on 9th August 1941. Douglas spent the rest of the war was as a prisoner of war. He was knighted in 1976 for services to disabled people. Aged 72 Douglas died in London in 1982.

Sprotbough is mentioned in the Doomsday Book as Sproteberg and predates the Normans (1066) with the name probably originating from the old English Sproter meaning shoot or twig and Berg meaning village. The village mentioned in the book only had 10 households. The lord of the manor in 1066 was Swaine Son of Swarvie but by the time of the Doomsday Book in 1086 was recorded as Rodger De Busli. De Busli or Bully was a Norman Barron, who accompanied William I or William the conqueror Duke of Normandy on his successful conquest of England in 1066. As a reward he was given 86 manors in Nottinghamshire, 46 in Yorkshire (the best county) and others in Lincolnshire, Leicestershire and Derbyshire.

The Ivanhoe pub along the route gets its name from the Sir Walter Scott novel of the same name. Sir Walter is said to have visited the village and taken inspiration from the area when writing Ivanhoe. He used Conisbrough Castle as part of the backdrop to his novel. The opening lines to the novel show the beauty of the Don Valley. “In that pleasant part of merry England, which is watered by the River Don. There extended in ancient times a large forest, covering the greater part of the beautiful hills and valleys which lie between Sheffield and the pleasant town of Doncaster.”

View of Conisbrough Castle from the River Don

At the end of the walk the old Copley Water pump house can be seen as a ruin. It was commissioned by Sir Godfrey Copley in the late 17th century to extract water from the river and purveying it to the roof of the now demolished Sprotbrough Hall, to gravity feed his gardens. The gardens included the Great Canal, the Little Canal, the Great Fountain and the Curved Pool. The Hall boasted a 35 foot long lead lined heated swimming pool, which had been added in the grounds. The inspiration for the Great Fountain was conceived when the Lord of the Manor visited Chatsworth house in Derbyshire and was shown the Emperor Fountain with its jet of 290 feet by the Duke of Devonshire. The pump, which was powered by a waterwheel, was powerful enough to raise water to tanks 100 feet above. The swimming pool could be filled in 5 hours. The River and pump also supplied the village until the water became too polluted from heavy industry upstream in Sheffield, Rotherham, Chesterfield and Barnsley.

The ruin of the old pump house

To learn more about this walk you should go out with our audio guide! You can listen to the audio guide online or on the Don Valley Way app, available on both the App store and Google Play for free! A big thanks to the Don Gorge Community Group for helping us with the information for this walk.

Click here for the App on Android devices.

Click here for the App on Apple/ IOS devices.

Click here for the Sprotbrough page of the Don Valley Way website.

Click here for the Don Valley Way website.

Click here to learn more about the Don Gorge Community Group who work in the area.

By Project Assistant Anthony Cox

Get to know me – DCRT’S new Young Person’s Conservation Assistant

In this blog we hear from DCRT’s newest member of staff, Beckie Fulton, who has just started her role as Young Person’s Conservation Assistant as part of the Kickstart Scheme, in partnership with the Coalfield’s Regeneration Trust.

Every day, since I was a young girl, I’d think about our planet. All the amazing and beautiful things it has to offer. I’m constantly in awe of the power of the Earth’s processes, in particular, volcanic or geological events.

I was first introduced to thinking about geological hazards and the natural world from a young age, through watching documentaries at home, taking walks through our local countryside and lessons at school. However, my passion wasn’t truly ignited until my grandparents took me on holiday to Naples, Italy, where we climbed Mt Vesuvius and explored Pompeii. Since then I have been hooked!

Living with beautiful places like this reservoir right on my doorstep for exploring, has fuelled my love for the natural world.

So… who am I?

Well, my name is Beckie and I have just joined DCRT as the Young Person’s Conservation Assistant. I graduated from Lancaster University last September with a Master’s in Volcanology and Geological Hazards. Since graduating I have been itching to get into my first environmental job. But due to COVID-19 and my very specialist line of study, finding a job I love has been difficult to say the least.

Through my academic career so far, I have specialised in volcanology and geological hazards and have only briefly covered other environmental issues. One of my favourite memories from my time at university was being able to live for 2 months in Sicily to study Mt Etna and one day I even hiked right up to the crater edge. I have to admit that is probably one of the best days of my life so far!


Standing on the craters edge of Mt Etna – what an amazing view!

So although I have very limited experience in environmental management and conservation, my passion for everything environmental led me to applying to DCRT as part of the governments new Kickstart scheme. This scheme focuses on getting 16-24 year olds into a working environment where they can gain invaluable knowledge and experience which will ensure a long and successful career. I am eager to use this opportunity at DCRT to expand my knowledge and build a career in environmental management and conservation.

So why did I apply to DCRT?

I once came across a quote by Robert Swan who said “The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.” This has stuck with me ever since, as I believe it to be true. I have talked with many people from different backgrounds and it scares me how little they actually know or care about the natural world. More often than not they have the impression that it is the job of scientists to fix all the damage humanity has caused.

Since I came to this realisation, it has given me the drive to educate people about our natural world. Ignite in them the same passion I have. To get people involved in protecting their local environment, conserving it, fall in love with it.

This is why I applied to work with DCRT, as it is clear that one of their main goals is to reconnect communities with the local river environments and educate people on how to protect them. This is what I am looking forward to most in my new role. Because no matter how small the action may seem, when we all work together we can make a difference.

I am really looking forward to working with everyone here at DCRT over the next 6 months and meeting new people on our volunteer days.

My first Volunteer Day with DCRT

River Hipper’s Hidden Wildlife and Fish

Don Catchment Rivers Trust, with the support and advice from Derbyshire Council, Chesterfield Council, Environment Agency and the Wild Trout Trust recently embarked on a project to improve the River Hipper as it runs through Somersall Park, Chesterfield for wildlife and park users through the introduction of ‘woody debris’.

This project was fully-funded by the Environment Agency’s Fishery Improvement Program (FIP) which sees fees from rod licences reinvested to generate positive outcomes for anglers and fish stocks through projects such as this one which also included the design and installation of an interpretation board to inform park users of the work.

The River Hipper starts life as the Hipper Sick on Beeley Moor, high above Chesterfield. The river is a typical small, rain-fed Derbyshire stream, which passes through Holymoorside village before entering Chesterfield and flowing into the River Rother near Horns Bridge Roundabout.

It has a semi-natural feel to it however, this and many other stretches have been modified through straightening and the construction of barriers (weirs), restricting many of the natural river processes that would otherwise occur. In addition, the practice of removing windblown trees or branches from the river channel in public parks limits its ability form structurally-diverse habitats. 

What is woody debris?

Woody debris is any woody plant material that has entered the river channel. It can range from twigs caught in a tree’s root system to whole large trees that have fallen into the river.

Wood that has fallen into the channel is often tidied up and removed as it is thought to look “unsightly” or can snag the fishing lines of anglers. They can also cause problems when swept up against bridges or culverts when blockages cause flooding. 

Naturally, woody debris would be abundant and a very important part of the river ecosystem, so we now replicate this feature in a safe manner by carefully anchoring pieces of wood in place with metal fixings– as pictured. Appropriate consents from local agencies are also required to ensure work does not increase flood risk.

Benefits of woody debris?

The introduction of woody debris to the river will:

  • Creates bends, pools and riffles in rivers – important aspects of a heathy river (as pictured).
  • Promotes ‘sediment sorting’ – different plants and animals like different sizes of rock and sands
    •  e.g. burrowing mayflies like sand whereas flat-headed mayflies prefer flat stones and trout like to spawn in gravels.
  • Provides a ‘home’ for fish and other life
    • A place for them to hide from predators such as heron or kingfisher giving them a fair chance to escape – balancing predator-prey relationships.
    • When the river floods – provide somewhere to hide so they don’t get washed downstream
  • Traps leaves, twigs and encourages a biofilm (algea and bacteria) to form – food for insects that other invertebrates.
  • ‘Cleans’ rivers
    • Speeds up flow to clean gravel meaning more oxygen will flow over eggs in fish nests (redds) and greater hatching success.
    • Takes fine bits of dirt out of the water and deposits behind debris meaning water is clearer

Heritage Walks: Sheffield – Industrial Sheffield

The Don Valley Way has several heritage walks. In this series of blogs we are going to explore the walks and the fantastic features that can be seen along them.

This is a short walk around the once heavily industrialised area of North Sheffield. The walk is 1.6 miles/ 2.6km, and is completely paved. The area is well covered by public transport including busses and the super tram. Click here to see the Don Valley Way webpage for this walk.

The walk starts at Kelham Island. Kelham Island is not actually an Island at all. The land was man made to create a goit to help power a corn mill situated at Millsands near Lady’s Bridge. The Island was named after the town’s former armourer, Kelham Homer who set up a grounding workshop in 1637.

Kelham Island Museum

You can regularly see kingfishers on the section of the walk that follows the Upper Don Trail. For more information on the Upper Don Trail click here. Further along on the right a small rectangular Colum can be seen. This is a memorial commemorating the people who died in the great Sheffield flood 1864. Due to the expansion of Sheffield, a better water supply was required. To do this a dam was constructed to create a reservoir in the hills above the city. Dale Dike is a tributary of the Loxley, and was the river selected for the construction of the dam. Unfortunately Dale Dike Dam failed as the reservoir was filling for the first time, late at night on the 11th March 1864 causing a huge wave to sweep through the city, carrying 650 million gallons of water. The monument reads the 12th March as the wave didn’t hit the city until the early hours of the next day. At least 240 people lost their lives in the flood.

Great Sheffield Flood memorial

The first industrial use of waterpower in the town was along the section known as Millsands. The Weir in the area helped raise a head of water to help power the mill but causes a barrier for fish wanting to move upstream. The concrete structure that can be seen on the weir from Lady’s Bridge is designed to create a deeper channel of water which allows fish to pass upstream. Lady’s bridge is the oldest crossing in Sheffield. The bridge was named after the Chapel of our Blessed Lady which stood at the south East end of the Bridge. This is one of very few bridges to have survived the great Sheffield flood intact.

The weir seen from Lady’s Bridge and the Fish Easement

Further along the walk you will come to Mobray Street. There are several former industrial buildings in this section. Sheffield is best known for its cutlery and steel works, but the damage to the health of the workers shortened lives considerably. In 1844 Fredric Engals wrote a report which states, “by far the most unwholesome work is the grinding of knife blades and forks, which especially when done with a dry stone entails certain early death. The unwholesomeness of this work lies in part with the bent posture, in which chest and stomach are cramped but especially in the quantity of sharp edged metal dust particles freed in the cutting, which fills the atmosphere and are nesscserily inhaled.” The life expectancy of dry grinders was only 35 and the wet grinders was only 10 years longer.

Sculpture next to Bridgehouses Bridge showing the areas knife making history

Along Burton Road there is an old arch painted yellow on the right hand side. There is an image of a horse shoe in the keystone to represent the underside of a horses hoof rather than good luck. The building was once part of the Clarence works. It’s now used as the Yellow Arch Studios, where many Famous Sheffield Musicians hare recorded, including the Arctic Monkeys, Jarvis Cocker, Richard Hawley and more recently Blossoms.

Further along the walk you will come to the grade two listed Ball Street Bridge. Originally built in 1856, then rebuilt in 1864 due to the great Sheffield flood, it was widened in 1900. At the far side of the bridge you can see another grade two listed structure, Kelham Island Weir. It is one of the largest weirs in the city and originally drove Kelham Wheel which powered a cutler’s wheel, a silk mill and then a cotton mill. The weir serves no purpose now, but is unfortunately a barrier to fish moving through Sheffield. The concrete beam that can be seen across the weir creates a deeper channel for fish such as Atlantic Salmon to ascend the weir. As the weir is grade two listing, it unthinkable to install a technical fish pass such as the ones seen at Brightside and Meadowhall as this could damage the weir and remove part of Sheffield’s industrial history. The disadvantages of these less invasive easements are that passage cannot be assured 100% of the time where as they can be in other fish passes.

Kelham Island Weir

To learn more about this area of Sheffield and the famous Elephant Lizzy, you should listen to our audio guide as you walk recorded by Community Engagement Officer and resident of Sheffield Sally Hyslop. To listen to the audio guide download the Don Valley Way app or stream it from the walks page of the Don Valley Way website.

Click here for the Don Valley Way Website

Click here for the Industrial Sheffield Walk

Click here to download the Don Valley Way app on Android devices

Click here to download the Don Valley Way app on IOS and Apple devices

By Project Assistant Anthony Cox

Heritage Walks: Mexborough – Sappers, Poets and Pirates

The Don Valley way has several heritage walks. In this series of blogs we are going to explore these walks and the fantastic features that can be seen on them.

We’re going to start with the walk in Mexborough titled Sappers, Poets and Pirates. The walk will explore the evolution of Mexborough from a small Iron Age settlement to the industrialised town fuelled by the connections of the canal. The walk is 5.4Km/ 3.4 miles and will take roughly 2 hours. The terrain is mostly paved and includes some road crossings. Part of the walk is on unpaved footpaths and tow paths which are well maintained. It is a circular walk that starts and finishes at the ferryboat Inn near the train station. Click here to see the Don Valley Way page for this walk.

The walk starts at the Ferry Boat pub which is the oldest pub in Mexborough dating back to 1442. It was named this after the workers who used it whom ran a ferry to cross the River Don. It was a favourite drinking spot of the Poet Laureate Ted Hughes.

Castle Hills Park is the second point on the walk. It contains Mexborough’s war memorial payed for by local collieries in honour of Sapper W Hacket who was awarded the Victoria Cross. The memorial was originally built to the right side of the doors to Mexborough council rooms at Market Hall. Towards the end of the 20th Century the Hall was sold and the memorial was moved to its new home at Castle Hills Park where it can be seen today. A second memorial for Mexborough’s railway workers can also be seen on the route outside the Train Station.

The park is named Castle Hill as it is the location of the Mott and Bailey castle, Mexborough Castle. Mott and Bailey castles were introduced by the Normans after they concurred England in 1066. They comprised a large earth mound known as a Mott with a wooden palisade at the top surrounding a stone or timber tower. In most examples an embanked enclosure containing additional buildings (the Bailey) joined the Mott. These castles acted as garrison forts during offensive military operations, strong holds and as aristocratic residences. These castles were built from the 11th to the 13th century until they were superseded by other types of castle. In the 11th century the castle was the manor of Robert de Busli Lord of Tickhill.

Mexborough was an ideal spot for early settlers. The Don would have supplied clean water and a ready supply of fish. The surrounding land would have been perfect for grazing livestock and provided clay for pots as well as wood and stone for building. After the departure of the romans, Mexborough was discovered by Saxon’s from whom id derives its name. Mex from the name of the Chieftain Mjukr (pronounced me-ock) and borough which describes a fortification which was thought to have been located at the sight of Castle Hill Park.

Ted Hughes was a pupil in Mexborough in the 1940’s where he was first introduced to poetry. His school can be seen on the route off College Road. His first poems and stories were published in the Schools magazine, The Don and Dearne. The school can be seen at point five on the walk. You will also pass 75 Main Street, the childhood home of Ted Hughes which has a blue plaque above the door commemorating this.

The walk continues along a stretch of the River off Meadow Way. This area was used by small boats carrying valuable cargo from Sheffield. The route had to be navigated in one day as boats moored in this area were regularly targeted by pirates. Boats often ran aground on this section as the waters were very shallow.

To learn more about this heritage Walk you should try it! You can listen to our audio guide online or on the Don Valley Way App, found on the App Store and Google Play!

Click here for the App on Android devices.

Click here for the App on Apple/ iOS devices.

Click here for the Mexborough page of the Don Valley Way Website.

Click here for the Don Valley Way Website.

By Project Assistant Anthony Cox

A photographer’s tale

In this guest blog we hear from local photographer John Grimbley, who has been documenting the recovery of the industrial riverside along the river Rother.

This is a photographer’s tale of lockdown, intrigue and exploration in the Rother Valley. From March 2020, when travel was curtailed through COVID 19, most of my photography needed to be closer to home. This was necessary to keep fit and avoid going ‘stir crazy!’ I stumbled on a patch of land bordering onto Rother Valley Country Park, once part of the Brookhouse Colliery and Coking Plant, until the 1980’s when it closed.

It was once an area in which ‘open-cast’ mining was also undertaken and, although the area is still heavily polluted, if you take a closer look, there is life! Nature has this ability to bounce back and there really is a lot to see: re-colonising wild flowers in the old ‘pit spoil’ and, on a few occasions, I have even had sightings of roe deer, red fox and tawny owl!

 In the spring and summer, there is a profusion of wildflowers; weld, a variety of thistles, oxeye daisy, hawkweed, musk mallow, common birdsfoot trefoil, dog rose and even honeysuckle; along with tree’s such as alder, birch, oak and hawthorn. The area buzzes with a variety of insects.

There is a lot of pollution, with drainage of ochre from the old colliery shafts, which eventually enters Pigeon Bridge Brooke, before finding it’s way into the River Rother.

I have started to undertake a ‘documentary’ record of this area to see how things develop over the years. My initial plan is photograph an Ordnance Survey Map ‘One Grid Square’ of ostensibly unattractive land-its potential for protecting and encouraging wildlife and understanding how the legacy of our industrial activity can mitigated.

Many people pass by whilst I’m taking my photographs (often I’m kneeling or wading in mud!), but few stop, probably thinking the area is a bit of a mess (or this camera guy looks a bit weird!) and quickly walk by. To the casual by passer, this area shows little interest, but on inspection of the ‘spoil’ in the area there is significant evidence of our industrial history and also the potential for environmental improvement.

I would be really keen to speak to anyone who has knowledge of this patch of land – If you do please get in touch: john@johngrimbley.plus.com

Storm Christoph

Another newsletter and another spell of bad weather to report on. Storm Christoph gave rise to over 200 warnings of expected or possible flooding in England and Wales. The downpours delivered nearly five inches of rain in less than 24 hours to some areas resulting in people being evacuated from their homes, road closures and suspended rail services. Most residents of the Don Catchment were, thankfully, spared this time around though reports of water levels flush with flood embankments hammer home that it was a close call.

The River Don close to overtopping flood embankments in the aftermath of Storm Christoph. Photo credit Jordan O’Grady.

With the devastation caused by last year’s floods in the catchment still raw for many, we are reminded once again that we are in a state of climate emergency and that these extreme weather events are, and will be happening more regularly. It is vital that we do as much as we can to improve our resilience to flooding while the root causes of climate change are addressed. Natural flood management (NFM) is a really important part of the toolkit needed to help tackle flood risk together with sustainable urban drainage, hard engineered solutions (like flood walls and levees) and property level protection (e.g. flood doors, higher positioned sockets and electricals). Interest and investment in NFM is increasing all the time as the evidence base for it both in reducing flood risk and delivering a host of other benefits grows. There is still a long way to go but with plans underway for organisations including ourselves to partner up and implement flood alleviation measures throughout the Don Catchment right the way from the hills in the Peak District out to the Humber Estuary, we are hopeful and excited at this step change in managing flood risk here and the impact it could have.

We got out during the storm to see how the NFM measures we’ve already installed with your help were holding back high flows (see leaky dam video below) and visited new sites to understand how water travels through them during heavy rainfall and where best to try and hold it back as part of future schemes.

Links

Find out if you are at risk of flooding https://www.gov.uk/check-flood-risk

Sign up to receive flood warnings https://www.gov.uk/sign-up-for-flood-warnings

Measures you can take to help protect your property against flooding – https://www.knowyourfloodrisk.co.uk/sites/default/files/FloodGuide_ForHomeowners.pdf

2020 at the Don Catchment Rivers Trust!

Happy New Year all!
In our first blog of 2021 we hear from Project Assistant, Anthony Cox, on what DCRT got up to last year.

2020 has been a very difficult year for so many. We haven’t been able to see our friends or family as we normally would, but there have also been some surprising benefits for our environment as well.

Volunteering

Can you remember a different time when we were free to travel wherever we wanted to go, see whoever we wanted to see? Well this era was known as January and February 2020. We ran a volunteer day every week during this time with as many people as wanted to come along. This is genuinely enough to give you nightmares in the current climate.

However after the lockdown hit in March we had to adapt to find new ways of volunteering. Our dedicated volunteers were going out on their own or with members of their household to clear up riverside paths and parks in their local areas. This level of dedication has made us all very proud of them and we are very grateful to have such a commited volunteer team. We also ran regular online tea breaks so that volunteers could stay connected online.

A photo of a socially distanced volunteer day in Rotherham

When we came out of lockdown we had to adapt our voluntary tasks and make them covid-safe for the volunteer team. We restricted volunteer days to 6 people (volunteers and staff) at a time, and started to run two sessions per day to accommodate more volunteers. We restarted volunteer days for the Hidden Heritage Secret Streams project in Chesterfield, led by Catchment Officer Matt Duffy, and for the Friends of the Don Valley Way, ran by me (Project Assistant Anthony Cox).

Natural Flood Management

We’ve been very busy last year in the field of NFM. Our Natural Flood Management Officer Debbie Coldwell has been developing various NFM projects in the Rother Catchment, with two key schemes getting underway in 2020. The first began at the start of the year before the lockdown where we were preparing to construct leaky dams in the Moss valley. Leaky dams are put in place to hold water back in times of high flow, reducing the amount of water heading downstream and therefore reducing the flood risk downstream. The first day on the site was in February where we had lots of volunteers come out to help us prepare to construct them. However due to the COVID19 issues that followed construction of the leaky dams did not begin until October.

Leaky Dams in the Moss Valley

Debbie has also been leading a lot of work on a farm on the banks of the Rother between Grassmoor and Hasland. This work involved multiple innovations including putting in flood storage scrapes and planting a wildflower meadow. This will reduce the flood risk as the rougher meadow vegetation creates more resistance to runoff, and the scrapes can hold water becoming small ponds in times of heavy rainfall. Both activities also create more wildlife habitat on the farm. Click here to read Debbie’s blog on this scheme.

Volunteers spreading wildflower seeds to create a meadow

It hasn’t just been Debbie working on NFM though. Volunteer Barry Caldwell has also been conducting his own NFM work at home. He has created his own rain garden to slow the flow of water from his garage roof. Click here to read Barry’s blog about his rain garden. He has also constructed his own permeable paving so that he can park his car and slow the flow of water into the rivers reducing flood risk. Click here to read Barry’s blog on Permeable paving.

Prix Charles Ritz

At the start of the year we were the first ever UK organisation to win the Prix Charles Ritz award for our work on the Living Heritage of the River Don Project (click here to learn more about the project). The award is given to individuals or organisations who make a difference to the rivers they cherish, exhibiting the upmost devotion and commitment to the environment, and celebrates those who champion river improvement work. The prize is awarded by the Fario Club, and this is the first time it has been awarded in the UK. Click here to read more about this prestigious award.

The DCRT Team collecting the award in London in January

Lockdown Content

You may be wondering “Anthony, what does a Rivers Trust employee do when you have to work at home during a lockdown?” Well reader, I will tell you. Over this difficult year we decided we would produce a regular newsletter jam-packed with entertaining and educational content. I wrote a regular article on positive wildlife stories to try to give people a boost as let’s be honest, the lockdown was really depressing.

We also created fun activities for children and adults to have something to do. Regular videos were created on a broad range of topics from cycling to garden schools to history, which would hopefully connect more people to their local rivers. Click here to see our YouTube channel.

We also created our learning pool on the website, an educational page for children to learn about their river (click here to view the page). Finally we created 1200 activity packs throughout the year which we have taken to foodbanks so that disadvantaged children have something to let them learn and play throughout the lockdown.

Community Engagement Officer Sally Hyslop preparing some of the packs

Citizen Science

If this year has done anything it has shown us the importance of science to our society. This was our 3rd year collecting data on aquatic invertebrates in the Rother. The project is lead by Community Engagement Officer Sally Hyslop and has been a real battle to keep running this year. Days have been postponed many times due to bad weather and lockdowns, however the data has been collected on what was once the most polluted river in Europe. You can learn more about how we collect this data by clicking here.

Staff out on a sampling Day

Capital Works

This year we installed the last fishpass on the River Don to allow Atlantic Salmon to reach their spawning grounds in Sheffield. The last weir that needed a fishpass was Masbrough Weir in central Rotherham. We worked with Canal & Rivers Trust, The Environment Agency, Yorkshire Water and Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council. This was the final piece in a 20 year puzzle for fish passage to the spawning grounds a Salmon Pastures.

The completed fishpass on Masbrough weir

Also this year we removed a weir on the River Rother. This will improve fish passage and re-naturalise the river, allowing a wider variety of species to live there. The weir that was removed was Slitting Mill Weir. Special thanks to Project Manager Rachel Walker for leading these projects and for helping the rest of us get through the year.

Slitting Mill Weir after it was removed

Apprenticeship

This year I completed my level 3 apprenticeship in environmental conservation. Finishing an apprenticeship in 2020 was very challenging as it was hard to complete practical work. However I have always enjoyed working for the trust for every day since I started in October 2017. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the staff, trustees and volunteers who have helped me get to where I am now, and a special thanks to my college tutors Craig and Cathryn.

Events

Events were a little different this year, but we still managed to take part in the Chesterfield well dressing festival. Volunteers created a section of a larger design, which we fitted together like a huge puzzle. This welldressing was displayed for two weeks at Tapton Lock on the Chesterfield canal.

The welldressing we created at Tapton Lock

We also worked on the Festival of the Mind this year in collaboration with the University of Sheffield. This involved us creating a metal Salmon sculpture which is currently in place outside of Sheffield Train Station. The idea was to promote the River Don and the return of the Atlantic Salmon. We also created a new walking trail map and audio guide for a route following the river from Kelham Island to Sheffield Station. Click here to learn more about the project.

A photo of the Salmon Sculpture made for the Festival of the Mind

In the Autumn we worked with Rotherham charity Grimm & Co, who work to help children unleash their creativity and learn literacy skills by creating magical stories. In a series of online creative writing sessions, local children explored the history of the river Don and the disappearance of Atlantic Salmon. Working together, the children produced and voiced their own script which will be turned into a short animated film about the salmon’s magical return. Watch this space!

What a year!

I’m not going to pretend 2020 has been our best year at the trust, however we’ve worked hard to achieve as much as we possibly could in these tricky times. We want to thank all of our volunteers for keeping in touch and joining in with our online programme, and our wonderful trustees who have supported us through these strange times. Finally we would like to thank the National Lottery Heritage Fund and our other project funders for allowing us to have the flexibility to adapt our projects, so we can still work to complete them during the lockdowns and restrictions.