July 2020
Lots to get involved with this month! We've lined up some real experts and enthusiasts to provide FREE online training sessions on bees, fish and foraging (make sure to register using the 'Soak Up Nature' links below). And while you're at it why not sign up to take part in our well-dressing on the river Rother! We're also especially pleased to announce that we can now offer socially-distanced activities to our regular volunteers and hope they enjoy being out and about on the river again.

You may have noticed we've been slowly reducing our weekly newsletter to match the easing of lockdown, so from this newsletter onwards you will be receiving a monthly edition of 'From Home to the River' delivered on the first Friday of the month.  In the mean time make sure to check our
News & Activities page for updates and activities.

See you in August!
Chesterfield Well Dressing Festival - help DCRT make a river well dressing!
Well dressing is an ancient calendar custom in Derbyshire, first documented in Chesterfield in 1864 when the town decorated the market place water pump during a very dry summer. Like many of the UK's calendar customs, the tradition died out but was revived in 1991 and has continued ever since. This year DCRT hope to make their first well dressing by the river to celebrate our rivers and everything they provide us!

Due to the pandemic, this year DCRT will be giving out free mini well dressing kits to residents of Chesterfield. Particpants will need to complete their well dressing in the week of the 7th-11th September, for collection on the morning of the 11th so the dressings can be assembled together at Tapton Lock Activity Centre where they will be displayed for the following week.

Want to join in? To sign up for a Well Dressing Kit please fill in the form on the webpage and email it to Kits will be delviered to your door and include instructions, ideas and the materials needed.

Want to find our what it involves, read our volunteer Margaret's experience below of creating well dressings for the friends of Spital Cemetery.
Hi Margaret, Fantastic to see your photo (above) from a previous year's well dressing at Spital Cemetery and for chatting to us about such a weird and wonderful calendar custom!

How long have you been taking part in well dressings?
This year will be our 4th year.
What do you make them out of?
The base inside the board is clay and this has to be 'puddled' a bit first to make sure it stays wet enough.  We don't add much water because our dressing is in September but, in the drier months, this is more necessary.  For the dressing itself we use whatever natural materials are to hand, mostly taken from the Cemetery.  We mark out the pattern with black peppercorns.  The rest is mostly beech nuts, leaves and berries.  September is a hard month as there aren't so many lovely flowers around to give it colour and we try not to buy any if at all possible.
What do you enjoy about it?
It's lovely creating something in a group and being part of a long tradition.  It also draws people into the Cemetery who might not otherwise visit.
Can anyone give it a go? Any tips for a beginner?
I would say anyone can have a try.  You need to find someone to build a board (we used Men in Sheds) and don't make it too large!  With the clay in it, it gets very heavy.  Try and watch other people doing it so you can pick up tips (we're doing ours on public display for the first time this year at St Leonard's Mission, Spital during the previous week).  And don't be too ambitious with your design.

This year Chesterfield's Well Dressings are displayed from the 12th - 19th September - you can check where to find them here.
Dip into a summer of online wildlife training with our Soak Up Nature training courses! Our volunteers have first priority on course spaces, but some of the courses have unlimited spaces! Follow the links below to register.

Buzzing riversides with Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Friday 17th July 10.30-12.30 - DCRT Volunteer Priority (please email for booking)

Freshwater Fish with Jack Perks - Friday 24th July 10.30-11.30AM

Riverside Foraging with James Kendall from the Woodland Classroom - Friday 31st July 3-4pm CLICK HERE TO REGISTER
Citizen science survey of the week is:
Butterfly Conservation's Big Butterfly Count

Click the link to take part in 2020's butterfly count which starts this month on Friday 17th July. Choose a spot to count butterflies and moths and count all the species you see in 15 minutes. Use their online recording sheets to submit your sightings or try the new app.
Save it for a rainy day!
Water saving at home and in the garden is vital, not only in times of drought but also times of high rainfall. During heavy rain sewerage systems can somtimes reach capacity and nasty sewage is discharged into our rivers, harming wildlife. Using less water at home or catching rain in gardens to use on drier days can help reduce pressure on this system.

Human-caused climate change means that periods of drought and extremely rainy weather are becoming increasingly frequent, so trying some of these simple steps can make a BIG difference.

Free water saving kits are offered by Yorkshire Water and Severn Trent - why not give them a go? And watch Matt & Debbie's video for more ways to save at home and in the garden.
Nature Journal
July is a fantastic month for spotting nature. Many of the later, summer wildlfowers are now in bloom so you may start seeing some different species popping up, like toadflax, selfheal and red campion.  The earlier plants are now in fruit so look out for delicious cherries, reducrrants and gooseberries to enjoy on your adventures! 
Otterly Amazing!
DCRT staff have recently started resuming some of their outdoor work, and today we had the brilliant task of kick-sampling the river for our citizen science invertebrate survey. Whilst completing our final river sample of the day, we were thrilled to spot potential evidence of an otter on the riverbank!

Otters are incredibly elusive creatures so their presence is usally confirmed by evidence such as footprints (you can see  some claw marks in the photo) and spraints (poo and scent-marks). They often leave the latter in obvious places to inform other creatures of their whereabouts!

Otters are agile swimmers and hunters. They predate a varied diet of fish, crayfish, freshwater mussels and other river-dwelling creatures. On inspection we found fish scales and crayfish remnants in the spraint.... so there is a good chance it was left by an otter. The final test however is the SNIFF TEST because, unlike other scats from mammals, otter spraints strangely don't smell that bad at all... in fact some people describe the smell like 'jasmine tea'.

The otter nearly became extinct in the 1980s due to the use of toxic agricultural pesticides which washed into the river, built up in the food chain (biomagnification) and poisoned them. Otter are now at last returning to our rivers with healthier popualtions, but have a bad reptuation amongst anglers and landowners who want to protect stocked ponds of fish from these hungry little mammals. The presence of predators, like the otter, on our rivers is a good sign of a healthy ecosystem – by regulating prey populations they keep everything under control, for example otters often predate the unhealthy, easy-to-catch individuals, thus regulating disease and restoring balance. Predators burn lots of energy hunting and need to eat lots of prey - the fact these animals are increasing suggets smaller fish and insects lower in the food chain are thriving too.
As lockdown has eased the problem of litter in our wildspaces has been hitting the news and appears to be a growing problem. Although we are unable to host volunteer work parties and big river clean-ups for the time being, our regular volunteers can now request a personal litter-picking kit with the DCRT team to help clean up our waterways in their excercise time. Volunteers can get in touch with their usual task leader for more info (Please note, unfortunatley we can only currently offer the kit to those who have volunteered with us before).
We follow the 5 Ways to Wellbeing

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Don Catchment Rivers Trust · Churchill Business Centre · Churchill Road · Doncaster, DN2 4LP · United Kingdom

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