Don Network Day 2017


Yesterday was Don Network Day at Kelham Island Industial Museum, an annual event organised by Don Catchment Rivers Trust & Environment Agency – joint hosts of the Don Network. This catchment-based approach (CaBA) project aims to bring together groups and projects on the river don catchment,to encourage partnership working, to identify priorities and overcome issues within the sub-catchments.



DCRT’s Chairperson – David Rowley (above), started off the day by giving a small introduction to the Don Network and how it operates.

Next, Environment Agency’s catchment coordinator for Don and Rother – Jo Briddock, took us though a presentation on their ‘environmental program’ and gave an insight into how funding streams are distributed amongst their priorities. A refreshing start to the talks as she explains there is the money available to achieve organisation’s objectives and encouraged delegates to contact her with ideas for projects and what match funding the EA might be available for them.

A big theme for the day appeared to be partnership working, an ethos the CaBA tries to encourage. Keith Tomkins’s (SRWT) Sheffield Lakeland Landscape Partnership, Michael Roger’s (YWT) Humberhead Levels Project and Pete Wall’s (YWT) Dearne Valley Green Heart Partnership presentations all proved what can be achieved when working in partnership to connect disparate nature reserves with wildlife corridors- a true inspiration!

20171109_102232Keith Tomkins from Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust


20171109_120747Pete Wall from Yorkshire Wildlife Trust

Finn Barlow-Duncan, iCASP impact officer offered opportunities for organisations to be partnered-up with academic researchers in developing effective evidence-based riverine projects. This is something Dr Ben Aston – lead advisor in ecology and biodiversity to Yorkshire Water – touched upon when giving insight into evidence-based methods in stopping or reversing the spread of invasive non-native species in water systems.


The day concluded with Nicky River’s (SRWT) presenting how last year’s Don Network grants allowed them to catch footage of otters on the Don through their ‘Otterly Amazing’ project. After which Don Network project coordinator Rachel Walker announced the launch of the next round of grants. Click here to see how to apply.


Thank you to everyone that came and to the speakers at the event. We hope that attendees found it useful and that all the good work on the Don catchment continues.


If you’re interested in being involved in next year’s Don Network Day make a note to keep Thursday 8th November 2018 (tbc) free.


Darker side of the Don

It was Halloween Eve. Meeting local historian – Ron Clayton, at the top of the Wicker he led us on a night walk along the shadowy streets that follow the River Don.


Starting at Lady’s Bridge, Ron painted vivid images of the bridge in Victorian England and covered deathly tales of the old Sheffield Castle that stood at the confluence of the rivers Don and Sheaf.

20171030_194900.jpgMoving upstream, we stood next to the memorial at Millsands and took a moment to remember to the victims of the 1864 flood when Dale’s Dyke Dam broke.

Before ending the walk at the haunted Ship Inn in Shalesmoor we stopped at industrial Kelham Island where ghost stories were swapped.


Thank you to everyone that came and to Ron for leading the walk.

If you’re interested in more of Ron’s walk click this link –

A fungi foray in Canklow woods

We were in Canklow Woods for our fungi foray last week!


Ecologist, Julie Riley guided a group of 17 through the varied and interesting fungi that these woods had to offer. Whilst regaling us with facts and folk tales surrounding the different species Julie helped identify a number of specimens some of which included:  brown birch bolete,  a stinkhorn species, trooping funnel, blushing bracket,  turkeytail, a russula species, an earthball species and jelly ear. We also found…


oysterling (photo – nicole kelly)



fly agaric (photo – nicole kelly)



birch polypore (photo – nicole kelly)


This particular species – although initially unidentifiable – turned out to be Contorted Pipe Club. Although not particularly rare the National Biodiversity Network atlas indicated it had not been included in local records before. So we’ve help discover a first for Rotherham’s fungi records!

The fun didn’t stop there…

DCRT had a craft stall making seasonal pine cone critters, fungi stone art and bird feeders.


Also Tim Stevens from Living Adventure set up his tarpaulin and took people through different bush craft techniques for lighting fires after which we had toasted marshmallow smores.


DCRT just want to say a big thank you to Julie, Tim, Rotherham Council and everyone that came along to the day make this event a success. We hope this will end up being an annual event.

Introducing our new Environmental Conservation apprentice…

I’m Anthony and I’m the latest member of the Don Catchment Rivers Trust team. I’m 17 years old making me the youngest member of the team, and I am from Doncaster. My position as the latest Apprentice is a big change in my life as I move from full time education. My previous job was part time as a barista at costa coffee, which is odd as I can’t stand coffee. I dropped out of sixth form after my first year deciding that I wanted to get out and do something! I do believe this position is well suited to me as I enjoy being outside and from a young age I have had a keen interest in the environment.

Anthony at the end of his first Volunteer Day at Holmes Lock, Rotherham
   My hobbies include being a member of my explorer scout group, sailing and snowboarding. I snowboard every February in the small Swiss village of Kanderstag, and it is the favourite part of my year as I find it relaxing. I also help out as a young leader at Edenthorpe cub group where I help to run a whole range of activities for the young people who attend. I play the bass drum on parade for my local brass band (Armthorpe Elmfeild brass band), and I also assist them with moving equipment and instruments. I do enjoy a whole range of indie rock music and collect vinyl records because they sound so much better than downloads. My favourite bands include the Arctic Monkeys, the Kaiser Chiefs, and the Fratellis.

I hope to get a lot from my new role as I enjoy to learn new skills and to participate in community projects. I also have a keen interest in Geology which is my favourite subject at school, in which I have an AS level and hope that some of my knowledge will be useful. I have always had an interest in geology from a young age, I hope to learn more on the subject in my time with the trust. I’m a very practical person and I like to get things done rather than leave something till later.

So far my time at the trust has been amazing. I have enjoyed meeting all of the wonderful volunteers and helping make a difference to the environment. They all work incredibly hard and they should all be commended for their selflessness. The trust has done some incredible work over the last couple of years and has completed its project to install fish passes onto the weirs in the river Don, which allows the salmon to reach their spawning grounds in Sheffield. If the salmon do reproduce in the Don, it will be a huge achievement for the team. The trust also runs a wide range of activities that include everything from walks to talks and information about fungi to bat detecting. There’s a whole range of activities that can be seen on our Facebook page and on the events calendar section of our website.

A busy week with budding River Guardians.

DCRT’s community engagement team have been busy this week. With schools being back after their summer holidays we’ve taken a lot of bookings for our River Guardians program to ease them back into the year with a bit of river fun. We had 123 individuals in total out from Gerard’s Primary, Wybourne Primary and Swallownest Beavers where we did a bit of river dipping, talked about what animals live in the River Don, reasons why salmon have been absent from the River Don for 200 years (and why they’re coming back!) and how to stay safe near waterways.

collage.jpg-1Here’s a collage of drawings from pupils at St. Gerard’s detailing ‘their favourite thing from the day’.

If you’d like a school that you know of to be involved with our FREE River Guardians program please contact us at or call us on 01302 796173.

Wildlife on the Way!

The Don Valley Way is a trail that stretches from the centre of Doncaster to the centre of Sheffield. It’s a whopping 29 miles in total and takes you through some fantastic areas that flourish with wildlife. Explore the geology of Sprotbrough, the history of Mexborough, the heritage of Sheffield and more!

The wildlife on this walk couldn’t be more varied. With many species of dragonfly, a whole array of birds, and if you’re lucky you might even see a grass snake! The range of plants along this trail is absolutely phenomenal, with red campion lighting up the greenery to garlic mustard creating aromas.

Here’s a few of my personal favourites from the Doncaster to Mexbrough section of the walk:


Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) – Mainly found along slow-flowing lowland streams and rivers, particularly those with muddy bottoms.
Credit: Joshua Laidlow


Common Blue Butterfly (Polyommatus Icarus) – Adults drink nectar from flat-headed flowers. Caterpillars eat wild, leguminous plants such as bird’s-foot trefoil, rest harrow and white clover.
Credit: Joshua Laidlow


Red Campion (Silene dioica) – Red Campion was used as a herbal medicine in order to treat snakebites!
Credit: Joshua Laidlow


Red Admiral Butterfly (Vanessa Atalanta) – This species of butterfly has only had its name since 1799! It’s names before that have been Admiral, Alderman, Admirable and Scarlet Admiral!
Credit: Joshua Laidlow

You can find the full list of the species that you can find here!

by Joshua Laidlow
Project Apprentice


Findings from the Don Discovery Bioblitz at Wardsend Cemetery

Wardsend Cemetery is a secluded and hidden spot of Sheffield, nestled on the edge of the River Don. Left without management for many years, Wardsend has a wild, over-grown and unexplored quality – a small haven for wildife in Sheffield.



kinder kalsi 11
Photo Credit: Kinder Kalsi

The Don Discovery Bioblitz on the 10th August was the first Bioblitz event to take place at the Cemetery. Wildlife organisations, experts and scientists came together to show visitors how to survey, identify and record the wildlife on the site, with the aim of counting as many species as they could within one day. The grand total at the end of the day was an incredible 343 biological records of plant, fungi and animal (Bioblitz species list).

6 c. Kinder Kalsi
photo credit: Kinder Kalsi

What is a biological record? A biological record documents the sighting of a plant or animal, in a place and at a time. A record includes four bits of essential information: the name of the person that  saw the species, what the species was, the location it was found in and the date it was seen – the Who, What, Where and When.

Collecting this information builds up a detailed picture of UK biodiversity. Combined, the biological records allows scientists to observe changing patterns in how different species live and behave. This is especially important for conservation as it helps scientists understand which species are in decline and need our help.

At the Don Discovery Bioblitz, Dr Deborah Dawson from the University of Sheffield and wildlife experts from Sheffield and Rotherham Wildife Trust and the Moors for the Future Partnership were on hand to tell visitors about the return of otters to the River Don and their work recording them. Camera traps placed along the river-side help to record the otters activity along the river at night, when they are most active. The group also survey the river itself, climbing down the steep banks to look for otter footprints and spraints (droppings).

1 c. Kinder Kalsi
Photo Credit: Kinder Kalsi


The Friends of The Blue Loop sampled the water in the River Don for freshwater invertebrates – the tiny mini-beasts, insects and larvae that are found in the water. The river sample was rich with species, of stonefly and mayfly, indicating good water quality. Throughout the day many of the larvae left the water and emerged into their adult form, a transformation from a creature with gills to one with wings. Mayfly don’t live for long once they emerge (they are sometimes called day-flies) and are often caught and eaten by the fish in the water.


David Rowley and Bob Sedgwick from Don Catchment Rivers Trust spent the afternoon fly-tying. They showed visitors how to tie cotton and feathers to make fishing hooks which mimic the mayflies’ appearance and fool unsuspecting fish.

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The day was filled with walks and talks by natural history experts. Chris Firth from Don Catchment Rivers Trust gave a talk about the history of fish and return of salmon to the River Don. Val and Bob Clinging from Sorby Natural History Society guided visitors on a mini-beast hunt around the cemetery. Ben Keywood from SRWT and Joe Margetts from Moors for the Future took visitors on a stroll down the River Don to hunt for bees and butterflies – they recorded 10 species of butterfly.

Bioblitz guests were also able to try and catch insects themselves using insect nets and pots. One of the favourite finds of the day was a Devil’s coach horse beetle, which rears it’s whole abdomen in the air when it feels threatened. A beautiful banded long horn beetle, Leptura quadrifasciata, was also spotted at the end of the day by the river.

At the end of the afternoon, Matt Duffy from DCRT took guests on a bird-walk along the river Don, where dippers, king-fisher and heron are often seen. The last walk of the Bioblitz was a bat walk with Alistair McLean, Natural Sciences Curator from Museums Sheffield and Kate Denton, a bat expert from the University of Greenwich. Kate showed the guests a Soprano pipistrelle bat specimen, one of the tiniest species in the UK (the size of a thumb!). Alistair explained to guests how to identify bats with bat detectors, which turn the bats’ high pitch sonar calls into sounds audible to human ears. 5 species of bat were recorded and we were lucky enough to see rare Daubenton’s bats fly inches from the water’s surface; a special feeding behaviour they use to catch their insect prey.


At the end of the Bioblitz, scientists and visitors had worked together to record an incredible 234 species at the Wardsend site.

This event was part of DCRT’s Heritage Lottery Funded Living Heritage of the River Don project. A big thank you to all the scientists, experts and visitors that joined us on the day to record and celebrate the nature found at Wardsend Cemetery and along the River Don. Special thanks to The Friends of Wardsend Cemetery; Paul Winks & Graham Perkin from the Friends of the Blue Loop; Sara Blackburn, Jayne Scally & Ben Keywood from Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust; Sarah Procter, Barry Soames & Joe Margetts from the Moors for the Future Partnership, Dr Deborah Dawson from the University of Sheffield; Dr Natalie Dos Remedios from the University of Sheffield & Amy Withers from the University of Leeds; Kate Denton from the University of Greenwich; Alistair McLean, Natural Sciences Curator at Museums Sheffield; Val & Bob Clinging from Sorby Natural History Society and Owlerton Stadium.