The Friends of the Blue Loop is an entirely volunteer-led organisation that aims to maintain and improve the area known as the ‘Blue Loop’ - an 8 mile stretch of waterway including the River Don from Sheffield City Centre to Meadowhall and the Tinsley Canal.
Activities include footpath maintenance, cutting and pruning vegetation, treating invasive species as well as removing litter and debris from the footpaths and river channel. The group meets every Wednesday and one Saturday per month on the Canal or River. All PPE, tools, equipment are provided on the day and training if necessary.
Friends of the Blue Loop were established in 2013 as a legacy to the Blue Loop Community Project which worked to connect people to their local waterway.
Friends of the Blue Loop (FotBL) were established in 2013 as a legacy to the Blue Loop Community Project which worked to connect people to their local waterway. Coined ‘The Blue Loop’, this comprised the River Don (from Ladys Bridge to Meadowhall) and the Sheffield and Tinsley Canal, taking in the Burngreave, Attercliffe, Darnall and Tinsley areas of multiple deprivation.
The project’s vision was to take the Blue Loop into the local community and to bring the local community to the Blue Loop. A number of local schools, community groups, businesses and individuals were engaged during a 2-year programme.
This included over 4,800 engagements through educational visits and included the successful ‘Trout in the classroom’ project. Over 10,000 people were engaged through guided walks, events, festivals, and volunteer days. Over 100 local people volunteered on the project, gaining generic, transferable skills and experience, as well as specific skills, experience and knowledge in health and safety, machinery use and practical waterway/landscape conservation and ecology.
Legacy was an essential consideration of the project, hence the establishment of the Friends of the Blue Loop. Since the group’s formation, they have delivered over 10,000 additional hours of volunteer time through weekly sessions attended by an average of 15 volunteers. Their hard work has significantly improved access to over 8km River Don and Tinsley Canal that is used regularly by over 5,000 people.
Under the guidance of River Stewardship Company (RSC), who set up the group and continue to provide guidance and support, the group have gone from strength to strength. Key members of the group have been trained in water safety, first aid, boat operation, tool use and volunteer engagement, enabling them to operate as a self-sustaining group. They have successfully raised their own funding to cover six years of operation.
Key projects that have been led by the group include installation of a fishing platform at Washford Bridge, creation of a footpath at East Coast Road, and creation and distribution of education packs for schools. The group also delivers engagement activities at events and festivals and manages a successful Facebook page. Despite the challenges faced by Covid-19, the group maintained a presence through online ‘revisits’ and by supplying litter picking equipment safely to individual volunteers.
They also assist RSC to identify areas along the river that need attention and maintenance.