Salmon of Steel Trail

A festival of the mind project

In Collaboration with Dr Deborah Dawson & the University of Sheffield, Yorkshire Water & the Environment Agency.

During the Industrial revolution large structures called weirs were built across the river. The weirs powered water mills which fuelled Sheffield’s early steel industry. Weirs still remain in the river today, preventing salmon from reaching their spawning grounds in Sheffield. Over the past 20 years many organisations have been working together to build fish passes on the weirs along the Don, creating a migration super highway from the sea to Sheffield.

But, how do we know the salmon are coming back? So far we have relied on sightings of salmon to know the fish passes are working, but scientists at the University of Sheffield have been looking for invisible signs of the salmon’s return… DNA. The university have been analysing samples river water to find evidence of Atlantic salmon DNA…. want to find out more?

Click here to learn more about the project

The Salmon of Steel trail map

Illustrated by Sophie Carter

Click the map below to download the Salmon of Steel Trail on to your mobile device (you may need to download a PDF viewer to view).

Why not listen to one of our podcasts as you follow the trail?

River walk podcast



Salmon story podcast



River Don quiz

The Salmon of steel sculpture

By Jason Heppenstall

Follow the trail all the way to Sheffield Railway Station to see the Salmon of Steel sculpture created by local Scrap Metal Artist Jason Heppenstall.

The sculpture is built from recycled steel: each of the 1533 spoons had to be hit with a 3lb hammer 10 times to create one of the salmon’s scales!

The use of Sheffield steel in the sculpture represents

  1. The many steel-producing industries located on the banks of the River Don, which historically polluted the river and were powered by the weirs that block salmon migration routes
  2. The steely determination of salmon in their attempts to reach their spawning grounds
  3. The true grit of the many agencies, charities and volunteers who have worked in so many ways over many years to reverse the damage done and supported the recovery of the river.

About the artist

Jason Heppenstall was born in Holmfirth, West Yorkshire and brought up on a postwar council estate where he started an apprenticeship in sheet metal. Working with steel for nearly 30 years taught Jason how it behaves and can be manipulated. Jason started making sculptures as a hobby, tinkering in the garage with scrap metal.

In 2013 Jason took the plunge to become a self-employed artist. In 2017, Jason was commissioned by IKEA to create “Allen” the peregrine falcon from 17,000 allen keys, now on display near the University of Sheffield’s Diamond Building.

Artist webpage

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