The Sheaf and Porter Rivers Trust is about:

  • Restoring Sheffield's wildlife habitats

  • Creating a City image for Sheffield.

  • Celebrating Sheffield's heritage

  • River stewardship

  • Continuous public access

  • Adapting to climate change

 

Background


The Sheaf is a modest river, only some 17 miles long including its tributary streams, but it looms large in the topography and history of Sheffield, the city after which it is named.


The city was founded around the Norman castle situated at the strategic confluence of the Sheaf and the Don. Its waters powered some of the earliest metal‐working industries and the Sheaf Valley continues to be one of the dominant landscape features of the city. Its course includes Sheaf Valley Park, Heeley Millennium Park, Millhouses Park, the Abbeydale Hamlet and Beauchief Abbey and provides one of the city’s gateways to the Peak District National Park.

Yet apart from Millhouses Park (where it has recently been partially re‐naturalised) the Sheaf is largely hidden and unrecognised throughout its course to the Don.   Although some other sections of bank such as Cutlers Walk, Broadfield Rd (‘the Primrose’) and Sheaf Gardens have been made accessible for walking and cycling, none allow access to the water and the quality of the channel and general environment remains severely canalised, poor in habitat and disconnected.

 

Downstream of Granville Square the Sheaf is almost entirely invisible and devoid of any vegetation in the centre of the city which bears its name.   This is because the Sheaf is in many ways the most highly damaged of Sheffield’s main rivers.  Although modified for water‐powered industry for many centuries, much, but by no means all of the culverting, straightening and canalisation came with the construction of the Midland Railway and Midland Station in the late 1860s.  This set the precedent for more and more of the river to be culverted over the following 50 years

 

The Opportunity

There are many reasons why 2019 may be the right time to start to redress this situation.

 

  1. Water quality in the Sheaf and most other local rivers is the best it has been since the 18th century

  2. North Atlantic Salmon are expected to return to the Don and potentially its tributaries in the next 2‐3 years and other species of fish, birds and animals including Kingfisher, otter and trout are already present and growing in number. Culverts and some weirs represent a barrier to this positive trend

  3. Climate change makes it highly desirable to remove culverts and canalisation to allow better flood management capacity wherever possible

  4. Sheffield has established award‐winning expertise in de‐culverting its rivers and in urban river stewardship

  5. As more and more people return to living in the inner city the importance of green and blue spaces and corridors in our urban areas for promoting health and wellbeing has increased

  6. The Midland Station is expected to undergo major reshaping over the next decade in order to accommodate the new HS2 train services offering opportunities for daylighting and improved habitat and passage if not actual deculverting

  7. Sheffield increasingly wishes to present itself as the leading Outdoor City based on its natural landscape and the lifestyle opportunities that it offers...our urban rivers are already part of that offering opportunities for canoeing, jogging, walking, cycling and fishing

  8. The restoration of lost rivers has developed into a world‐wide movement closely linked to heritage, place‐making and urban regeneration which engages with a wide spectrum of people and community action

  9. An immediate opportunity exists to reveal a high profile section of the Sheaf in the historic heart of the city at the former Castle Market site to create a focal space in the regeneration of the Castlegate Quarter. £200,000 has already been allocated by the Environment Agency towards an estimated cost of £520,000 to remove the unsound culvert covering the river close to its confluence with the River Don, creating the opportunity for a new pocket park next to the historic site of Sheffield Castle, also planned for regeneration and development

Benefits :

The benefits of reclaiming the River Sheaf are numerous and multi‐functional including:

 

  1. Creating a focal feature for the regeneration of key areas such as Castlegate and understanding the heritage and identity of Sheffield

  2. Extending the habitat for fish, aquatic mammals and flora within a green/blue corridor 3. Creating new opportunities for recreation within the urban area of the city close to many disadvantaged communities

  3. Facilitating better river management and stewardship by both public agencies and volunteers

  4. Creating attractive and useable open spaces for the health and wellbeing of residents, workers and visitors


Why a New Organisation?


Whilst public agencies such as the City Council and The Environment Agency have policy which supports the regeneration and deculverting of rivers this is just one of many competing priorities for their resources and staff.
The Don Catchment Trust and Sheffield Waterways Strategy Group maintain a strategic overview of the Don and its tributaries at a catchment and city‐wide level which include deculverting and improved access but neither is primarily focussed on the Sheaf.
Similarly the Castlegate Partnership brings together community, educational and private sector bodies with specific interests in that area but none are focussed on the Sheaf or raising resources for that cause.
Sheffield has a long history of environmental trusts which have achieved very significant improvements on the Lower and Upper Don, Upper Porter and Rivelin.

Aims and Objectives of the  Organisation

  1. Deculverting – the first priority is is likely seizing the immediate opportunity at the Castle Market site where a  100 metre section of culvert is in an advanced state of decay and requires repair or removal.  Other possible opportunities may arise from the master planning of the lower Sheaf Valley around the accommodation of High Speed Rail 2 at Midland Station – for instance the section of culverted river which runs between Ponds Forge leisure centre and Sheaf Street

  2. Daylighting – whilst removal of the culverts under the railway tracks of Midland Station is probably unrealistic the potential of sinking light‐pipes into the dark tunnels to allow fish and animal passage could be considered as part of the environmental mitigation of the scheme c) Improved public access to existing open channel sections and newly deculverted ones including access for fishing, kayaking and stewardship eg Pond Hill, Sheaf Gardens, Cutlers Walk, the Primrose etc

  3. Marking, celebrating the concealed course of the river where it remains hidden for now, using public art, trails etc and guided visits using trained guides

  4. Interpretation of the river’s history, wildlife and environmental functions and engagement with its neighbouring communities

  5. Promotion of good practice by riparian owners, such as ‘yellow fish’ markers on street and yard drains which take water directly to the river warning against disposal of pollutants

  6. More sustainable urban drainage in the Sheaf corridor following the example of Grey to Green

Current Position April 2020

  1. Charitable status has been applied for

  2. After a successful programme of tours in 2019 the Trust's finances have a sound base for administration, but not capital projects

  3. A membership system has been devised but not implemented due to delays in obtaining charitable status

  4. Two corporate sponsors, Firma-Chrome and Wolf Safety Lamps are actively supporting us

  5. A new corporate river stewardship strategy is being developed by Riverlution 

  6. Detailed walkover surveys have commenced and are being recorded for development and prioritisation of projects

  7. We have drawn up detailed project proposals for daylighting the Platform 5 confluence but changes at East Midland Trains and the Coronavirus lockdown has slowed progress. 

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