Restored Rother will champion wildlife and reflect industrial past

Jayne Mann


A North East Derbyshire river ravaged by industry for over two centuries is to be restored to its natural glory, thanks to a National Lottery grant of more than £450,000. The River Rother and its many tributaries came to prominence in the early days of the 17th century industrial revolution when the fast-flowing brooks and streams were tamed to serve the watermills that powered new factories. In the 19th and 20th centuries heavier industries arrived, including collieries, coking and chemical works. Natural habitats and wildlife suffered, a meandering stretch of the Rother was straightened out and dammed, and toxic pollution all but wiped out aquatic life. Now, thanks to Heritage Lottery Fund support, the Don Catchment Rivers Trust is to reclaim the area for nature, helping local communities to rediscover the waterways and learn about the industrial heritage. A 700metre straightened stretch of the Rother will have meanders reintroduced recreating its natural appearance. Some 170 volunteers will be recruited and trained to restore natural habitats by planting trees, laying hedgerows, clearing litter and removing invasive vegetation in a project working in partnership with Moss Valley Wildlife Trust. An exciting and ambitious Citizen Science education programme has been devised involving 60 events and targeting more than 3,000 people. Activities will include BioBlitz days where groups undertake a ‘record everything’ census in a specific location, nature-themed treasure hunts and river visits for 600 children from ten local schools. The North East Derbyshire Industrial Archaeology Society will also help volunteers to locate and research the watermill heritage of the area revealing just how important it was to the development of the earliest industries. Public access to the restored river and streams will also be greatly improved with waymark signs and interpretation boards. As major housing developments are planned for the area the restored Rother and its tributaries will provide an improved natural environment for new, as well as existing, communities. Jonathan Platt, Head of HLF East Midlands, said: “This project will restore the natural environment while giving people the chance to learn about the important industrial heritage of the area. Whole communities will get the opportunity to be involved in a variety of ways and this is all thanks to the generosity of National Lottery players.” For the Don Catchment Rivers Trust, project manager Rachel Walker said: “Not only does this funding mean we can restore a section of the River Rother to its natural course, but we can really celebrate the natural, community and industrial heritage of the area. We can't wait to get started, and neither can all of our project partners.” Anthony Downing, for the Environment Agency’s Don and Rother Environment Programme, said: “This project is a great opportunity to deliver some important improvements to the natural environment of the River Rother, once one of Europe’s most polluted rivers. A great benefit of working with DCRT, and HLF support, will be to bring this once neglected river into the heart of the community through their great volunteer and engagement work.“
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