Tuesday, 29 October 2013


I have been reminded that it’s been too long since I wrote anything about the group's current situation, and I consider my knuckles rapped, but there has been good reason as so many changes have been under way that it was difficult to know what to say that wouldn’t have changed by the time it had been published.  

The Don Gorge Community Group does, however, still exist and our conservation volunteers are proof of that if nothing else.  They continue to do a great job in the gorge, albeit now under a different framework and with Ken Green, one of the long-serving members of the team taking on the admin/liaison role. 

The cuts have made a great impact on many voluntary groups and we have not been the exception.  In May 2012, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust (YWT) told us about the Lower Don Partnership (LDP) and we were invited to join.  Many of the agencies represented on the Don Gorge Strategic Partnership (DGSP) were already on this Steering Group so, after considering all the options, we agreed and the DGSP was disbanded.  We had already lost the DGSP co-ordinator and felt we had no real choice.  

The LDP is now called REVIVAL and consists of two sub-groups: one for biodiversity issues and one relating to communities, now known as the ‘People’ Sub-group, of which we are a member.  The aim of this group is to increase access to the river Don by way of extending footpaths and increasing awareness of places of interest along its length.

There is currently a list of 26 projects up for consideration, but only 7 are in development and 4 of these are in the Don Gorge: the fish pass; parking on Nursery Lane; creation of a heritage trail, incorporating the Copley Pump; and towpath maintenance.  The remaining 3 are: creation of an Arksey History Trail; creation of Bentley Park Community Garden; and a public rights of way (PROW) study.   However, Revival is basically an information exchange group and not one which involves itself directly in the work of its members. The result has been that, if the community group wants anything to change, it has to be more proactive and use its own human resources which is not always easily done.

The next thing to hit us was the loss of support from DMBC’s countryside warden, as our conservation volunteers have worked with Dennis Roe since the group was first formed.  Fortunately, YWT (which now manages much of the woodland in the Don Gorge) and the Canal & Rivers Trust (C&RT), (previously British Waterways, which has now become a charity), have agreed to organise and oversee the volunteers’ work in future.

From the Revival projects listed above, I can report that work on the fish pass, minus the hydro power plant, has now commenced and should be completed sometime in the new year; the proposal to have a car park at the top of Nursery Lane, to stop people parking on and spoiling the grass verges, is at an impasse as the owners of the land do not feel that we as a group can fulfil the legal requirements considered necessary; the heritage trail is a longer-term aim, into which the Copley Pump will be incorporated; and the erosion of the river bank is not our responsibility, except for reminding the C&RT that it is getting worse.  Beyond these, we are still investigating the possibility of a visitor centre at The Boat Inn and a possible ‘Right Up Our Street’ art project.  Enough to be going on with I think.

Many of these needs have recently been discussed with councillors and officers of DMBC and we are hopeful of their support as a result.

In the meantime, the work on the disappearing footpath near the landing stage has been completed, as has the work on the river bridge which necessitated traffic lights for a few weeks.

An advanced notice:  the lock gates are being replaced in the new year and an Open Day is planned for Sunday 16th February 2014 when access into the lock itself should be possible.  Put this date in your diary now, as it will be a very rare event; more publicity will be available in due course.

Lastly, just a reminder that new volunteers are always needed and will be made very welcome.  See our noticeboard at the landing stage or contact me for details of dates, etc.

Liz Reeve

Wednesday, 18 September 2013


Sprotbrough Local History Group


A Slide Presentation Evening

The Trams and Trolleybuses 
of Doncaster

Tuesday 15th October at 6 PM

at Sprotborough Library

Tickets on sale at the Library
All proceeds to Sandtoft Transport Museum

Tuesday, 16 July 2013


I have been informed by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust that the contractors for Northern Powergrid are widening the wayleave strip in Sprotborough Plantation this autumn. The strip directly under the powerlines will be cut on a 3 year rotation, and a couple of trees either side of the original strip will be felled (probably on a 10 year rotation). This widening will provide a good graded edge along the woodland and will also widen the track to improve access.

Signs will put up in the autumn to explain that the work is necessary to protect the power lines, and that the following benefits to the wildlife can be expected:

·         Variety of ages of trees - some insects and birds need/prefer young trees
·         More dead wood created - places for bats to roost (standing dead trees) and beetle larvae to grow
·         More butterflies and other insects
·         More light to the woodland floor, so more flowers

Friday, 5 July 2013


Following years of fruitless planning and endless disappointments, the fish pass is on course once again.  The first steering group meeting was held on the 27th June, when it was announced that plans had been passed and a contractor had been appointed.  It is hoped that the project will be completed before the end of the year and that it will take no more than 12 weeks.  It will be situated on the south side of the weir.

The scheme, led by the Canal & Rivers Trust and the Environment Agency, is supported by the owner of the land, as well as the Don Catchment Rivers Trust, the Doncaster & District Angling Association and, of course, the Don Gorge Community Group.

The only thing holding up the start date is archaeology relating to the mill which stood on this site for many years, but discussions with DMBC are in hand and it is hoped they will not hold up the work for too long.

The pass will allow course fish to swim upstream, but the ultimate aim is to encourage salmon into the river.  Once salmon are enabled to swim to new breeding grounds, their young will return there each year and they will gradually become established.  Eels are also declining in numbers and it is hoped the population will increase as a result of easier access.  Sprotborough weir is critical in this process as it the first one in the chain of weirs going upstream and one of the last to have a fish pass installed.

The current structure of the weir will be unchanged and the pass will be similar to one being constructed at Adwick-on-Dearne.  A photographic/video record of the build process will be undertaken.

There will not now be a canoe pass, but conversations with the relevant clubs about portage above and below the weir are ongoing.

Topics put forward for discussion by the community group were:

Car Parking – this remains a priority for us, but will it ever be achieved?
Viewing Platform - likely
Landscaping of the area – possible
Signage and Interpretation Boards, QR signs, etc - likely
Educational Aspects - possible
Water meadow - possible
Tree Planting - likely
Volunteer involvement in maintenance of the site on completion - likely
Raised walkway – this may be a dream too far!

All these items were discussed with a view to incorporating whatever was possible, finance allowing.  They may not all be possible immediately, but could become future projects.

It was agreed that Newsletters would be produced at different stages of the build to keep people informed of progress and these will be reproduced on this blog.  Press releases and information boards will also be erected on the site.

Monday, 17 June 2013


The number of people who visit the countryside is many and varied and their reasons for doing so unpredictable.  Living in a well-known beauty spot, I am for ever amazed that those who come to enjoy the peace and tranquility of an area of special scientific interest can be so neglectful of it. 

Litter and inappropriate car parking are two particular cases in point.  Visitors often can't be bothered to carry their plastic bottles further than the place where they drink from them, nor do they put chocolate wrappers or empty cigarette packets in their pockets to deposit them in the next litter bin.  It's much easier to put them in a hedge or just drop them on the floor for the next, more thoughtful passer-by to care about.

Going out yesterday, it was very easy to see that the fishing season has started again, as vehicles were everywhere.  Nobody wants to spoil their pleasure, but why can't they take up the offer of parking on the island where they would bother no-one, the safety of pedestrians would be increased and the grass verges would be protected.  At the bottom of the hairpin bend, bollards have been put in to protect the new verge going up the hill, but someone just had to park beyond them, didn't they - and this wasn't the first time someone had done this.  At the top of the bend, there were signs of a vehicle having been burnt out with damage to at least one tree.

It is just so disheartening to see all these things happening.  And it's likely to get worse.

Plans are once again going ahead for a fish pass to be constructed on the Warmsworth side of the Falls.  This is great news for fish and other wildlife, but will planning for more parking be considered.  It is bound to attract more visitors and so it should as it is fascinating and worthy of interest, but where will they park?

The first meeting of the steering group is due to be held on the 27th June and there is no doubt we as a group will be raising this issue once again, but will anyone listen or help us to do something about it?  We have a possible parking area in view, but need statutory backing to make it a reality and we also need visitors to realise that if they want to visit the Don Gorge they will have to walk a bit further to do so.  

Thursday, 14 March 2013


It's not often we get to see Red Polls in the garden - in fact this is a first.

Chaffinches are regular visitors

Goldfinches arrived when we put Niger seed out

Monday, 21 January 2013


It was quite a shock to discover last weekend that the landscape within the woods at Lower Sprotborough had been changed out of all recognition.  If, when you commenced your walk, you were expecting to find the usual winter landscape of leafless trees and shrubs lining the footpath, you will have been disappointed to find that in parts they have been completely decimated.

It was understood a year or more ago that Yorkshire Wildlife, the contractor appointed to manage the woodlands by Lafarge Aggregates, hoped to prune out some of the trees and reinstate the hedge, but we understood that scheme had fallen by the wayside due to lack of funds.  However, we now discover that since the quarry closed, Lafarge has been selling off parts of the land and that the farmer who has rented the fields for many years has now purchased them.  Presumably the trees, etc, were included. 

It is rumoured that the farmer intends to either fence the land or allow the remnants of trees and bushes to re-grow into a hedge.  

The loss of such a swathe of habitat all in one go is quite devastating, but it had been neglected for a long time and, if a hedge is allowed to re-grow, it shouldn't mean a permanent loss.   It is sad to lose the archway of  trees by the 'leg o' mutton' field, but hopefully it too will recover in time.