Norbriggs Flash

Breathing life back into the Doe Lea

Nobriggs Flash reed raking team 2018

Our work at Norbriggs Flash

Since June 2018 DWT have worked in a very successful partnership with hundreds of local adults and children to establish and ensure a future for the beautiful re-meandered River Doe Lea at Chesterfield Borough Council’s Norbriggs Flash Nature Reserve in Staveley.

Fifteen thousand pounds of volunteer hours have been donated in the past 12months by local people and professional partners from the Environment Agency and Brindle & Green Ecological Consultants.  This, as match funding for the £42,000 fund from The National Lottery Heritage Fund has helped secure a promising future for the Nature Reserve.  The newly-formed “Friends of Norbriggs Flash” community group will take over the projects and tasks that DWT set up for them, as the Heritage funding ends and DWT step back and let the community take over “their” reserve.

Let us tell you more...

What we will be doing...

We want to see the Doe Lea and the surrounding Norbriggs Flash Reserve restored so it can be a real haven for wildlife. 

We will be restoring a 650 metre stretch of the Doe Lea River which was previously straightened when its water was too polluted to support life. The Environment Agency have already carried outwork to restore the river to its meandering channel from 1700s, restoring a range of habitats, including slower and faster moving sections of water which will support diverse fish and invertebrate populations.

The latest elements of the project involves promoting the site to local communities and connecting them with it and its wildlife.

We will be working with volunteers to improve the nature reserve around the river: clearing up rubbish; working to educate users about reducing dog muck on the site and conservation tasks including ‘balsam bashing’ (to eradicate Himalayan balsam, an invasive plant species).  There will also be a regular programme of events such as guided walks, wildlife survey training and children’s activities including river dipping.

Project timeline

We thought you'd love to get an insight into what we hope will happen and when...

  • June 2018 - Project start
  • July 2018 - Start of the Bio Blitz season 
  • August 2018 - May 2019 – “Outdoor health club” - volunteer programme to restore/improve habitats (1st Friday of month 9.30-1pm, meet at gate on Bent Lane) 
  • September – May 2019 – Educational sessions with local schools
  • August 2018 - May 2019 - Events for the local community 
  • March 2019 - Installation of new reserve signage 
  • May 22nd 2019 - Celebration event for the local community

What happened

Norbriggs Flash Project Officer Helen Mitchem set up monthly conservation tasks and wildlife surveys out on site alongside writing a management plan with her colleagues, to ensure the site is managed successfully for wildlife and people as part of the Chesterfield Living Landscape.  Helen said “Local wildlife enthusiasts have flocked to this project including butterfly surveyors Mark Radford and Sid Morris who have shared their wealth of information with friends, neighbours, new group members and DWT.  This project has cleared sections of scrubland next to the Flash, which formed as a result of mining subsidence.  Trees have been cut back in the winter to open up the woodland floor for flowers and then butterflies and bees can feed on them. We have laid over 100m of hedgerow, to open up the woodland paths, create a woodland edge on the fields to provide new habitats for species such as sparrow, hedgehogs, moths and wood mice.” 

Others members of the new group have linked into DWT’s “Living Rivers” Water Vole survey through training with Kath Stapley (Living Rivers Officer) and our dedicated volunteer Marian…….  Locals Marie Grainger and Jade Smith are now skilled in the art of surveying for Water Voles and Otters, which may be a way off returning to Norbriggs Flash yet, but when they do, our vole experts will be able to spot and record them!

Brindle and Green staff undertook regular wildlife and plant surveys since October as part of their generous donation of monthly staff time, organised through discussions with their owner and director Neil Crofts.  The ecologists also contributed to conservation tasks on snowy winter days, when all the wildlife was snuggled up, not wanting to be spotted!

For those less active members of Staveley and the surrounding areas communities, who wanted to contribute to a project but weren’t able to do the practical tasks outside, Helen set up weekly “Nature Therapy” sessions with Derbyshire artist Allie Barnes at Poolsbrook County Park.  These sessions enabled adults with mental and physical impairments such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Multiple Sclerosis, Anxiety, Diabetes and Dementia and their carers, to connect with nature through indoor art activities including willow weaving, painting wildlife and landscapes, pyrography (wood burning), leaf pressing, nature poetry, wildlife photography combined with good portions of tea, cake and chat.  This group is in the process of applying for ongoing funding to continue this excellent Wellbeing project themselves now the Norbriggs Flash project funding for DWT support has come to an end.

Our “River Diary” film, on our You Tube channel has been created by Jack Perks Photography, with the volunteers.  It features exciting under and above water footage of the wildlife that has started to come back into the re-meandered River Doe Lea.  The Environment Agency dug out the original river channel back through the flood-meadow area, where it used to flow before being straightened, in Summer 2017 and 2 years on, the water wildlife communities area thriving.  Jack, who featured on Springwatch 2019 (after making our film) said “I loved exploring this little known “new” river and its wildlife.  The Water Vole footage was not filmed here; despite our surveyors thinking they may have spotted the tell-tale nibbled leaves (at a 45degree angle) no footage was gained of actual water voles on this site yet……. Hopefully next year?!”  This film is now an educational resource for the local schools who visited the site, to see their local wildlife in their natural habitats.

And as all great project should have, all partners came together for a celebration event towards the end (In May) which included Norbriggs Primary school; Ilkeston Home Education Wildlife Watch group; the Nature Therapy participants; Chesterfield Borough Council staff; Environment Agency; DWT staff and Trustees and the all-important members of the Friends group, who will keep the wildlife surveyed, the woodland managed and the site in a great condition for people and wildlife for many years to come.

Jack Perks

Volunteers needed

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Wildlife Guardians - volunteer DerwentWISE 

All our lives are better when they're a bit wild
The Wildlife Trusts

With thanks to

The fascinating project has been made possible through National Lottery funding. Thanks to National Lottery players through The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund logo

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