Catchment Volunteering on the Hidden Heritage and Secret Streams Project

Since April we have been running volunteer days across the Rother catchment, including the river Rother and Holme Brook. Most of these days are focused on river clean ups around Chesterfield, to improve the area for wildlife and the local community. We have also been working on tackling Himalayan Balsam throughout the summer focusing in the Moss Valley (read more about it by clicking here).

Our volunteers working to remove large items from the Hipper behind Ravenside Retail park.

So far this year we have ran 31 clean up days across Chesterfield involving 75 volunteers from varying walks of life whom would never have met if it wasn’t for volunteering. We have collected roughly 519 bin bags of litter so far and 20 shopping trolleys which will have made a huge difference to the wildlife across Chesterfield and improved how our rivers flow. We really enjoy our volunteer days as we like to get out and see the nature along the rivers we help. Throughout the year we have seen trout, damselflies and lots of different wildflowers. Also we enjoy all of the interesting items that we find in the River such as a tankard, a wheel that looks like part of an old mill and an old fire extinguisher.

An old fire extinguisher found in the River Hipper in Queens Park

If you are interested in volunteering with us then email or download the volunteering for off the volunteering page of our website, fill it in and bring it to one of our volunteer days.

Volunteers in the Holme Brook where it meets the Rother.

By Apprentice Anthony CoxHHSS_Master logo_RGB


Work experience? What an experience!

Hello! My name is Sam, I’m a countryside management student that’s been given an opportunity to work with the Don Catchment Rivers Trust, in fact I’m the first ever work experience student that they’ve ever taken on.

Working with the trust has given me a lot of experience with the different aspects of river management and interacting with the public and volunteers. Litter picking, Himalayan Balsalm pulling, trolley removal, wading, brush-cutting, bushcraft with brook explorers, making pipe-cleaner dragonflies, wildlife ID and the slips and wobbles that come along with wading in rivers, are all activities I have had the pleasure (mostly) of doing while with the trust. I say mostly because rivers are quite cold when you fall in.

brushcutter volunteer.jpg

My time at the trust started with them, very kindly, putting me through my brushcutter/ strimmer course, which I passed along with another volunteer called Andy, nice chap. Anyway, the first proper session I did was a river clean-up in Holme Brook behind ravenside retail park in chesterfield. This gave me a chance to meet the many dedicated volunters that keep the rivers free of trolleys, traffic cones and tyres. I had a wonderful time working with them and by the end of the day we had two trolleys, each full with bags of rubbish and about half a dozen full bags strewn around them.

The week after, exciting times, bushcraft with brook explorers and my first signal crayfish find ever. Another trolley out the river and one almost coaxed out but alas it would be a job for another week.

Third week in and its time to do some Himalayn Balsalm pulling, just need to cut a path through and.. oh, brushcutters aren’t meant to wobble that much, turns out the blade was just a little off balance, causing the entire machine to vibrate like a washing machine, so I resorted to a stick. Fortunately, we didn’t use it and the day after I noticed what was wrong. Although I wasn’t able to fix the blade issue, I and two others were able to remove the leftover trolley from the week before.

20190822_102813.jpgThe troublesome trolley was filled with silt and litter making it difficult to remove but we eventually got it out. 

Later on, I got a dunking after my foot slipped down a hidden clay bank, however I was lucky becuase a little after I slipped, Matt properly fell in and got quite wet…

On the Saturday after, we had our International Year of the Salmon event next to the Oasis dining area at Meadowhall. I was tasked with helping children make pipe-cleaner dragonflies and river wildlife badges, it was great fun! However, the highlight of the day would have to be the Kingfisher that kept flying up and down the river next to us, an incredible sight to see.

More Balsalm pulling in week four and a few more signal crayfish finds while litter picking in the Holme Brook/River Rother confluence, sadly the trolleys we found were surrounded by deep water which we couldn’t access even with our waders. Other finds include the back panel of a Hilux, a wheelchair, a brake disc and about a quater-ton of rebar and scrap metal. A top-notch Victoria Sponge made by Anthony provided the energy needed for removing the mix and match of metal, plastic and rubber from the river.

The Moss Valley needs you!

Hello! Matt Duffy here, Catchment Officer at the Don Catchment Rivers Trust for the Hidden Heritage Secret Streams project.

Nestled on the boarder of Sheffield and Derbyshire the Moss Valley lays. The Moss is actually used as the boundary line between South Yorkshire and Derbyshire which makes using an OS map pretty difficult here. Parts of this beautiful valley are even designated as Special Site of Scientific Interest (SSSI) as it contains nationally threatened habitats and holds many valuable species of wildlife.

The Moss Valley Wildlife Group (MVWG) have been active in the area since they formed in 1982 in order to ‘resist the threat of urban development in the valley, when the City of Sheffield was expanding and to bring together people who have an interest in conserving the flora, fauna and habitats found in the valley.’ As well as organising walks and surveys the group did their bit of practical environmental conservation – working tirelessly for ten years to clear most of the valley of non-native invasive weed Himalayan Balsam (HB), which is why it holds much of the biodiversity it does today.

Here’s an infographic of what effects HB has on wildlife.



Aspects of our current ‘Hidden Heritage Secret Streams’ project were inspired by our activities during the pilot ‘Moss Valley Project’ delivered in 2017/18. Following the completion of this project (read more about this here); we decided we would like to continue to support activities here. We are trying to build on the hard work of the MVWG by implementing a number of management techniques including the management of HB, placement of large woody debris within the channel and tree/scrub control in wetland areas.

Unfortunately, the MVWG has struggled to recruit new members to the organisation meaning they’ve had to reduce much of their activities. We’re currently trying to build up a new volunteer group here so that important environmental conservation can continue to take place. If you think you might be interested in joining us on these days we meet every Wednesday, 10am-3pm. Please see our website for details (


One of our volunteers working to remove Himalayan Balsam


What we’re up against!


Here’s just some of the species we’ve managed to capture on camera whilst working here.



Jay feather


Oyster Mushroom


Comma Butterfly


Peacock Butterfly Caterpillar


Peackock Butterfly


Snail Hunter Beetle


Sexton Burying Beetle


Dead Nettle Leaf Beetle


Jelly Ear Mushroom


Toad Tadpoles


Marsh Marigolds

Results from the River Rother Bioblitz

Nature experts and enthusiasts alike gathered at the Hidden Heritage Secret Streams Bioblitz this May, with the aim to count all the birds, bugs and beasties they could find on the riverside in just one day. The Bioblitz took place on an important wildlife site in Chesterfield, rarely opened to the general public.

After a day of exploring, the watermeadows were found to be home to 104 different species. 23 different species of bird were heard or spotted, with finds including green woodpecker, buzzard and a very tuneful skylark. Footprints, skulls and burrows also revealed signs of mammals, including roe deer, fox and hare. 62 different invertebrates were discovered, including fascinating insect eggs and Scentless Plant Bugs, pictured below.

The blanket of wildflowers across the site included yellow water-lily, colts-foot and bird’s foot trefoil. Invasive, non-native species were also recorded, such as Giant hogweed and Himalayan balsam.

During the event, DCRT’s director Ed Shaw, led a guided walk across the site to explain plans for the restoration and regeneration of the river Rother.

Sara Pexioto, from the University of Sheffield, demonstrated how new technology in DNA studies can help us identify water-dwelling wildlife. Sara said “All living organisms leave traces of DNA in their surrounding environments, reflecting their current or past presence. Using environmental samples (eg. water or soil) and genetic tools we can now detect any living organism more efficiently”

Thank you to all the volunteers and recorders that came down to survey the site. If you would like to see the full species list please click here: River rother Bioblitz results.




Volunteers Week


Today marks the final day of Volunteer’s week and we want to say a huge thank you to all our volunteers across the Don Catchment!

So far this year the Friends of the Don Valley Way have organised 14 of their own litter-picks and conservation days. Volunteer Susan organised a fantastic balsam bash this Tuesday, clearing an entire river Don bank-side of the invasive species, Himalayan Balsam.

04.06.19 susan with balsam

Our Volunteers in Chesterfield on Thursday ‘donned’ their waders and cleared out 5 trolleys from the Holme Brook.

06.06.19 Steve pulling out a trolley


Everyone was rewarded with lots of cake during tea-break!

06.06.19 Steven cake

This year so far, a total of 64 volunteers in Chesterfield have dedicated over 46 days to cleaning up our rivers and removed 213 bin bags of litter! Our education volunteers, citizen scientists and community archaeologists have also been hard at work inspiring the general public, investigating the river Rother’s wildlife and exploring its industrial history.

Thank you everyone!



Don Valley Way

Have you ever wanted to walk a long stretch of beautiful and historic river? Well the Don Valley way is an excellent way to do this. The route runs from St Mary’s Bridge in Doncaster, to Wardsend Cemetery in Sheffield. Along the route there are lots of interpretation panels so you can learn the history of the area that you are in, and you can download the Don Valley Way app from the App store and Google Play. There are also 9 small circular walks along the route if you don’t want to tackle the whole thing. It is a great walk to do on a warm summer day. Click here for the Don Valley Way Website. There is a new Don Valley Way leaflet coming soon.Conisbourgh Viaduct

The Don Valley Way is 29 miles long and includes sites such as Conisbourgh Castle, built in the 11th century after the Norman conquest on England in 1066 by William de Warrenne.

You can also see Wardsend Cemetery, a Victorian burial ground in Sheffield that was opened in 1857 and officially closed in 1988 – it is the resting place of 30,000 Sheffield residents.

You will pass under the fantastic architecture of the Conisbourgh Viaduct, which is 1,521 feet in length and has 21 large arches. It was used to create a railway connection between Hull and Barnsley and is made up of around 15 million bricks.

There are also some murals on the route painted by young people, one is at Holmes Lock and the other is under a bridge near the Doncaster end of the walk.

There are also several fish passes on the weirs to try and improve fish migration and encourage the return of the Salmon to the River Don.20180809_101234

Friends of the Don Valley Way

The Friends of the Don Valley Way are a volunteer led organisation set up from the Living Heritage of the River Don Project (click here for more details). They work on sites across the Don Catchment in Sheffield, Rotherham and Doncaster but mainly work along the Don Valley Way. They try to run at least 3 volunteer days a month on a wide range of sites in their area. Could you help out? Click here to see Friends of the Don Valley Way volunteer days highlighted in yellow.most of the volunteers

The Great Sheffield River Clean Up!

Last Saturday we worked with the River Stewardship Company on a large clean up event in Sheffield. It was a huge success with 81 volunteers in total removing a huge amount of rubbish from the river.

A small sample of all the litter collected on the day.

The event started on Ball Street Bridge near Kelham Island that had been closed for the day so we could set up gazebos for our event. On the bridge we signed up volunteers and provided them with equipment to complete certain tasks in and around the River Don. We were completely shocked by the amount of volunteers who signed up on the day, but were happy that so many people came to make a difference to their local river. It proves that no matter what your age or background you can make a difference by volunteering to improve your local area.

Photo thanks to the Rivers trust of volunteers and the lord mayor of Sheffield at the end of the day 

On the day we had planed to construct a bug hotel on the bank at the bottom of Kelham weir. This is always a fun and worthwhile task as it creates a habitat for a whole range of invertebrates, and feels like you’re constructing a home. It is good for getting kids involved and interested in nature and allows them to get creative as they painted a sign for the Hotel, or Bug B+B.

The completed Bug B+B

There was a lot of media coverage on the day with the event appearing in a segment on Mondays episode of the One Show. It also appeared in articles in both the Sheffield Star and the Daily Mail. However we were too busy to let this phase us as teams of people entered the river in waders to pick litter from less accessible locations. Both our teams were on hand to ensure every ones safety in the water. We pulled several large items out of the river, such as multiple car bumpers and a few yellow ofo bikes.

A volunteer from the Environment Agency who came to help on his day off

Further up stream the people from British Canoeing were out in kayaks collecting litter from the Don. The River Stewardship Company  also had their metal boat in the water and were taking volunteers out to pick litter from the areas inaccessible by foot.

Photo thanks to the Rivers Trust

Overall we really enjoyed our day in Sheffield and at the end of a long hard days work we felt good because we knew we’d made a positive difference to the Don.

Catchment Officer Matt Duffy and Apprentice Anthony Cox smiling at the end of a hard days work