Award for Don Catchment Rivers Trust
The award is given to individuals or organisations who make a difference to the rivers they cherish, exhibiting the utmost devotion and commitment to the environment, and celebrates those who champion river improvement work. The prize is awarded by the International Fario Club, and this year is the first time it has been awarded in the UK.
Living Heritage of the River Don was funded by the National Heritage Lottery Fund, the Environment Agency and match funders, and ran from 2016 to 2019, although the work of the project still carries on today.
The project set out to help return salmon to the River Don after an absence of over 200 years. Five fish passes on ‘orphan’ weirs in Sheffield were constructed, building on the work of several organisations. Alongside this a popular and successful community engagement programme was established, aiming to get people involved with their local river and celebrate the natural heritage of the area.
During the course of the project over 350 volunteers got involved with everything from litter picking to delivering schools sessions. 4300 bags of litter were removed from the river, over 1000 children became a ‘River Guardian’ and 43 community organisations took part in helping to improve their river.
Rachel Walker, project manager at Don Catchment Rivers Trust commented “we are so pleased to have won this award because it recognises the commitment and passion of our volunteers and all the time they have spent improving the river Don – they’ve been out in rain, snow and sunshine alongside project staff. We set out to get communities involved in river restoration, and we are glad they have been recognised by the prize – a big thank you to all of our fantastic team at DCRT for making it happen!”
In 2019 the ultimate aim of the Living Heritage of the River Don project was achieved when salmon were found to have made it through to Sheffield to spawn. After feeding near Iceland for most of the year, salmon make their way inland upstream to lay their eggs and the first point they can do this on the Don is in Sheffield. They haven’t been able to do this in over 200 years owing to the large weirs, which they cannot swim over without the help of ‘fish passes’.