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 info@dcrt.org.uk 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; Natalie Dos Remedios & 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.

The 2007 Floods in pictures

 Rotherham in the 2007 Floods
Photographs by Chris Bilton.

The months of May to July in 2007 were recorded as the UK’s wettest in 250 years. The river Don, was already fit to burst it’s banks when, on 

Monday 25th June 2007, a torrential downpour fell. The rainfall was some of the heaviest recorded in UK history) and led to flooding across areas of Sheffield, Rotherham and Doncaster.

Chris Bilton, a Rotherham resident and writer, explored the flooded town with his grandaughter Jade. His photos show a empty and strange Rotherham.


floods 25 6 07 028

Jade looking over the flooded river in Rotherham. The chance of a flood of this extent happening in Rotherham was 1 in every 200 years.

The extent of the floods in Rotherham town centre and beyond

Bridge before boat
The river flowed over the Bailey Bridge


Later, as the tide went out a boat was left, parked on the top of Bailey Bridge

splatted bench (2)

Jade, investigates a bench splattered with twigs and leaves. The river normally flows around 30 metres from this flooded spot on the Eastwood playing fields.

Flotsam was dragged down the flooding river and built up on the side of Chantry Bridge.

Chantry Bridge View

The dramatic flooding around Our Lady of the Chapel on the Bridge.

Bottom St Anns Road


The town was shut down with roads, motorways and railways closed. Meadowhall shopping centre was left with a ground floor submerged in several feet of water.

Hundreds were evacuated from their homes by dinghy, boat and helicopter. Entire villages nearby Ulley reservoir were evacuated amidst fears the dam would burst.

floods 25 6 07 038

Shortly after, millions were invested in flood protection schemes and upgrades to the flood defences along the Don.

Don Valley Way project (teaser)

Matt has been out and about in the wet weather today collecting photographs for our ‘Don Valley Way’ project – a long distance trail from Doncaster to Sheffield with audio trails and improved signage. One of the stops along the way is the remains of a 17th century Sprotbrough pumping engine (pictured).


For a detailed and interesting description of the history of the pump station please have a read of the article through this link – https://doncasterhistory.wordpress.com/local-history-2/sprotbrough-hall/sprotbrough-pumping-engine/

If you would like to visit this heritage feature head down to the canal adjacent to the carpark on Nursery Lane, Sprotbrough and follow the towpath downstream in a northerly direction for around 400m.

Keep an eye out for details regarding the unveiling of our Don Valley Way trail here on this blog!

Meet our latest team member!


Just a quick one to introduce myself…

I’m Matt Duffy the new Project Assistant for the Living Heritage of the River Don project. I will be delivering volunteer days and community engagement activities having a particular focus on ‘hot-spot’ project sites along the river. These are areas that have been identified for improvement including tackling highly visible areas of litter, vegetation maintenance and fencing works. This will hopefully allow people to access and use these riverside hot-spots for recreation purposes as well as learning about the local history and heritage of these sites. If you’d like to know more about this project please contact me at matt.duffy@dcrt.org.uk

If you’re interested in the route I’ve taken to my current position – after leaving university I started my career in environmental conservation at the Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust delivering community engagement events. Following this I worked for the River Stewardship Company delivering environmental contracts and community work days which equipped me with the necessary skills for waterway management.

Our response to the Update on the Upper Don and Sheaf consultation

At the end of last month Sheffield City Council released an update to the Upper Don and Sheaf Consultation that was undertaken last year (http://www.floodprotectionsheffield.com/pages/consultation)

Here is our response to the update:

We welcome the Upper Don and Sheaf consultation update and suggest that Sheffield CC publicise it directly to the various community forums already engaged and email it to all those who made submissions to the consultation. The 2007 Sheffield floods dealt a blow to many businesses in Sheffield and it is essential that similar events do not occur in the future. We are keen for flood risk to be reduced through the implementation of sustainable solutions that not only protect against flooding but also provide multiple additional environmental, economic and social benefits. 

We recognise: 

– the need for a high standard of flood management to protect people, property and businesses across the Don Catchment to ensure the sustainable social and economic future of communities. 

– the challenging limitations that Sheffield CC are faced with in terms of; treasury rules that favour hard engineering solutions to flood risk, funding limits and timescales to deliver high standards of flood defences for Sheffield.

In particular we welcome the consultation outcomes that:

– seek to reduce the environmental impacts of proposed flood storage particularly in the Rivelin and Loxley valleys.
– make positive comments about NFM and use of YW reservoirs for flood storage. We will closely watch progress on the commitment to these measures. We believe these alternative may well enable the removal of the more environmentally damaging proposals remaining in the proposals.
mention of the potential for fish passage improvements.

As we have stated before, what is troubling is the urgency of the programme’s timetable, and we fear that Sheffield CC is placed in the position of having to rush through decisions without being able to fully explore alternative options. In particular we urge like-minded organisations to continue to lobby for NFM and for Sheffield CC to take the message to the heart of government.

Going forward the Trust wishes to work constructively with Sheffield CC, Arup and other stakeholders to arrive at the best outcome for the catchment and its people. We will seek further clarifications on how the remaining culverting options, flood storage reservoir usage and NFM are to be taken forward.

We offer the Trust’s expertise to help further develop work in these areas. We wish to engage with Sheffield CC to provide advice on measures to reduce the environmental impact of hard engineering. For example the scale and nature of culverts associated with storage structures to minimise any possible impedance to upstream/downstream movement of species. We would be happy to provide a list of specifications and criteria that any culvert should meet and to support any NFM funding opportunities.

Don Catchment Rivers Trust