Volunteers answer call for river clean-up after floods hit Sheffield

More investment is needed so moorlands can protect South Yorkshire’s urban areas from flooding.

Monday, 11th November 2019, 3:30 pm
Updated Wednesday, 13th November 2019, 1:17 pm

But there’s still a huge job to do to clean up the mess left after a month’s worth of rain fell in just 24 hours, leaving the banks of the River Don covered in plastic waste and other debris, and damaging walls and footpaths.

The River Stewardship Company, which organises regular clean-up days along the river, appealed for extra hands to help with the mammoth task and it has been delighted with the response.

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The Great Sheffield River Clean-Up on the River Don earlier this year, which was organised by the River Stewardship Company working with Don Catchment Rivers Trust (pic: Steve Ellis)

Adam Rollitt, chief executive of the social enterprise, said: “We’ve had a lot of interest from people wishing to volunteer, which is great, but we’re still keen to hear from more people who want to help.

“What happened last week has helped us reach a slightly wider audience and hear from more people wanting to help out and give something back to their community.”

The next of the fortnightly volunteer sessions will take place tomorrow, Tuesday, November 12, at Washford Bridge on Attercliffe Road, which was badly hit by last week’s heavy rainfall, but the organisation is planning to organise extra clean-ups to deal with the aftermath of the latest floods.

Well over 100 volunteers have helped clear invasive shrubs, litter and other debris from the banks since the sessions began in 2010, between them putting in some 17,000 man hours not only keeping the river tidy and helping wildlife flourish but preventing blockages which could lead to flooding.

A man with car in a flooded street Sheffield, after torrential rain in the area.

Mr Rollitt said last Thursday’s dramatic downpours demonstrated the importance of their work and that of professionals from the company, which was responsible for the ‘channel maintenance’ element of the £21 million Lower Don Valley Flood Defence Project to prevent a repeat of the 2007 deluge.

“The channel maintenance work is a vital part of what’s been done to reduce the flood risk,” he said.

“There are a few pivotal photos and videos out there which show how close we came to major flooding in Sheffield last week, like the footage of water lapping just over the top of the wall at Meadowhall.

“That vindicates all the effort that’s been put in and the money that’s been spent over the last few years, both in terms of the capital work and channel maintenance.

“It’s hard to say exactly how much worse it could have been had that work not been done, but it’s certainly had a positive impact in terms of reducing the flood risk.”

As well as the more obvious benefits, Mr Rollitt added that the volunteer sessions had been shown to improve participants’ wellbeing and help them develop new skills which could bolster their CVs.

For more about how you can get involved, visit the-rsc.co.uk/riverlution/get_involved.