Quiet flows the Don

If you’ve read either of my haiku collections, you’ll know I have a fondness for rivers; but then, who doesn’t? Living in the middle of England, fifty-five miles from the nearest coastline, landlock naturally means that I gravitate to rivers and canals. Rotherham is where the Rother ends, at its confluence with the Don.

The upstream Don has long ago been split so that part of it forms and is shadowed by the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation, i.e. canal. It bends round the back of Rotherham United’s New York Stadium, in the New York part of the town, because the steel produced locally was used to make the fire hydrants in NYC. There, today, Lyn and I saw the first of probably five or six lots of sand martins. I don’t think there is a collective noun for sand martins and I’m struggling to think of a word which would be appropriate other than something like ‘joyfulness’. They are one of my favourite birds and always an absolute pleasure to encounter. I’ve written a few sand martin haiku over the years, and this, written on the Skirfare and published in both Wing Beats and The Lammas Lands, is probably the best of them:

river loop—
a sand martin squirms
into its nest hole

From Meadowhall, the retail cathedral replete with lead-green roofing, we followed the Five Weirs Walk towards Sheffield. We were amazed to find that each of the weirs dates back several centuries – Sanderson’s Weir since the 1580s and Brightside Weir since 1328. We got a riverside view of Lady’s Bridge, so called because, like Chantry Bridge in Rotherham, it had a chapel on or beside it in medieval times.

I was also very happy to see tansy:

There was already plenty of yellow about, with the preponderance of ragwort and sprawling hedge mustard (“as wild as Leo Sayer”, Lyn noted), but tansy is slightly more golden, a lovely contrast to the pinkish purple of slender thistles and teasel and the proper purple of buddleia. In England, it’s at its best at this time of year. I wrote about it 10 or so years ago, when I spotted a clump of it along the Thames, heading upstream between Ham and Kingston:

school’s out
the riverbank flush
with tansy florets

2 thoughts on “Quiet flows the Don

  1. Great photos (and haiku too of course). The Don is such a lovely and varied river. The source of it is just a few miles up the road from us and there are lots of old weirs, even as high up as we are – it’s a real industrial artery, past and present. There are some great walks out of Sheffield following the various tributaries (Rivlin, Loxley). What a shame it’s raining – this is making me want to get my boots on and get out there!
    Julie x

    1. Thanks, Julie. I don’t think I’d grasped just how many small(-ish) steel-making firms still line the Don. I walked along part of the Loxley a few years ago, but I’ve not properly explored either it or the Rivelin yet. So many places to go!

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