The river forges its way through the Peak District’s UNESCO-World heritage sites. Rising in heather-clad uplands, the Dove weaves through broadleaf woodlands, flower-rich grasslands and arable lands. The Dove is enjoyed by anglers, ramblers and wildlife alike and it has been for quite some time. In 1676 Charles Cotton praised the Dove as ‘the finest River that I ever saw, and the fullest of fish’. While Izaac Walton’s ‘The Complete Angler’ enthuses about ‘the swiftness of its current’, ‘one of the purest Chrystalline streams you have seen’.
Confluencing into the Dove, the River Churnet, Tean, Manifold, Hamps form this predominantly rural catchment area. Within this catchment, the industrial revolution and historic milling continues to echo, as barriers change flow regimes and restrict species migration. Both stories of successful reintroductions and persistent barriers continue to shape resilience, biodiversity and water quality. While weirs and other obstacles are part of the region’s rich cultural heritage, restoration works are starting to restore the ‘swiftness of its current’ and give aquatic wildlife the conditions it needs to recover and thrive.
Following a programmme of salmon re-introduction, facilitated by the removal of a series of weirs, the Dove is slowly returning to become a river that can once again become a haven for threatened species. Learning from the experience, long-term commitment, shared collaboration are key to success in the Dove and beyond.
The Dove faces fundamental pressure from agriculture and habitat modification. In some of the catchment, water abstraction to supply drinking water reservoirs creates artificial flow conditions and an increased sensitivity towards drought, especially at Henmore Brook. Sewage, like in other parts of the catchment, puts further pressure on this important site for fish and other aquatic species. Climate change and the increased likelihood of low flow conditions, as experienced in summer 2022, further concentrate the toxicity in the water.
Agricultural pressures result in soils and sediment reaching the watercourse, affecting habitat conditions and nutrient levels in the water. Pollution is both point-source and diffuse and low impact farming is key in reducing pollution levels. A focus here lies on silt, and its capacity to put spawning grounds at risk.
Silt is an issue that intensifies as barriers, such as weirs can trap sediment that would otherwise be flushed downstream. Barriers also restrict migration, not only of the great migration icons such as the critically endangered European eel and Atlantic salmon, but also smaller fish, travelling through different river sections to complete their life-cycle.
Mineral extraction is a common theme across the entire Trent catchment. There are significant deposits of aggregate minerals – sands and gravels, along the Lower Dove. Existing live extraction sites and more sites allocated for future use which will have a significant impact on the landscape in the short-medium term.
While such sites put habitat at risk, at site and downstream, their restoration provides the opportunity for nature and for rivers to be restored.
The Trent Rivers Trust hosts the Dove Catchment Partnership. It has a Steering Group which guides and oversees the work of the partnership. Trent Rivers Trust works closely with a range of partners to deliver advice and capital projects across the catchment. The partnership uses the available data to prioritise, design and assess the success of projects.
Find out about the current catchment plan.
More information on the challenges, priorities and plans for the Dove Catchment is available on the Humber River Basin Management Plan.
Removing or overcoming barriers to the movement of fish, reducing the amount of soil, fertilisers and chemicals reaching the water courses from rural sources and improving river habitat are priority actions for the Catchment Partnership. Find out more about the Dove CP at www.catchmentbasedapproach.org.