River explorers

Suitable for:11 to 16, 16+

Built where five rivers meet, Sheffield became an industrial powerhouse, creating the steel that built the modern world. Water power could also hold the key to Sheffield’s future as a green, energy efficient city with an information economy. These rivers are the life of our city, past, present and future. So why don’t we know them better?

Sheffield’s five rivers

  • The Don
  • The Loxley
  • The Porter Brook
  • The Rivelin
  • The Sheaf

The source of the Porter Brook is in the Peak District. It comes down through Hunters Bar into the city centre where it merges with the Sheaf. The Loxley comes from Bradfield Moor, down through Stannington to meet the Don at Owlerton. Which of our five rivers is nearest to you, and where does it go? 


Back when the city’s steel industry was huge, the Don was so polluted it would sometimes catch fire. Now the river runs clear again, you can see heron, mink and even otters among the old factories. In 2019, salmon returned to the river for the first time in 150 years. 

Your river mission

Imagine you’re a town planner. Your challenge is to design a green space like the one at Porter Brook, along one of the city’s rivers. Where will your green space be, what will you put in it and why?


A river in Sheffield
A river in Sheffield

You could simply use pen and paper to plan your green space.

Why not get inventive. Use lego or objects around the house to help map your green space. 

You might not be able to visit rivers right now but there are plenty of pictures and research you can do online.  

For an idea of how and where Sheffield’s rivers run, Wikipedia is a good place to start – take a look at this page. 

To find out more about Sheffield’s otter population, visit the Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust website.