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Off the Shelf
17-27 September 2020

Salmon of Steel

  • 3D/360
  • Sustainability

The Project

Local artists and conservation experts come together to celebrate the regeneration of the River Don and the return of the iconic Atlantic salmon.

Highlights include the Salmon of Steel itself, a 7ft sculpture of a leaping salmon made by Scrap Metal Artist Jason Heppenstall; a beautiful trail map, illustrated by Sophie Carter; and a podcast in which invited speakers reveal the story of the river.

The project grew out of an earlier collaboration between the Don Catchment Rivers Trust and Dr Deborah Dawson, a conservation geneticist at the University, investigating the return of Atlantic salmon to Sheffield after an absence of 220 years.

The sculpture

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 and block the migration routes of fish, including Salmon, preventing them from reaching their spawning grounds in Sheffield. Many organisations have been working together to provide fish passage solutions along the Don, bringing Salmon back to the Steel City.

The Salmon of Steel sculpture was commissioned to celebrate the return of Atlantic Salmon to Sheffield after over 220 years of absence.

  • Ingredients: Recycled cutlery, 1533 spoons (scales), 60 metres of stainless bar, 2 1960s lamps (eyes),1 spade (label)
  • Recipe: Each spoon was hit with a 3lb hammer 10 times. TIG welding allowed colours to be added and these are enhanced by laquer to give a wet shiny appearance and bring out the colours

See the sculpture at Sheffield Station from 14th September 2020

The artist

I endeavour to create sculptures that are appreciated for their aesthetic appeal as well as the fascination aroused from the eclectic components used

Jason Heppenstall

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.

The Steel City river trail

Follow the river as it flows through the Steel City on a journey through time. Discover how the power of Sheffield’s rivers defended early settlers and fuelled industry. Uncover how booming industry led to the disappearance of salmon, and find out how organisations across Sheffield have worked to get them back. Why not follow the trail from Kelham Island all the way to Sheffield Station to see the Salmon of Steel Sculpture.

The map can be viewed on your mobile device. The trail has some narrow paths so please be aware of others on your journey. Good footwear is recommended as the ground can be slippery and uneven. The trail is accessible and cyclable. 

Listen to the podcast that accompanies the trail below:

A podcast on The Story of Sheffield’s Salmon was also published.

The illustrator

Sophie Carter is an illustrator based in rural Essex. Heavily inspired by the surrounding countryside, she enjoys drawing all things wildlife related, especially fungi and birds.

The Team

  • To read more on Dr Deborah Dawson’s work, visit their University of Sheffield staff page

About Sheffield’s rivers and waterways

Sheffield’s rivers and waterways and the wildlife that depend on them are looked after and monitored by a range of organisations and volunteer groups including:

  • The University of Sheffield
  • Sheffield City Council*
  • Don Catchment Rivers Trust*
  • Yorkshire Water*
  • Environment Agency*
  • Five Weirs Walk Trust
  • Blue Loop Troop
  • Canal & Rivers Trust
  • Upper Don Trail Trust
  • River Stewardship Company
  • The Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust
  • The Sorby Natural History Society
  • The Wild Trout Trust
  • The Riverfly Partnership
  • Sorby Breck Ringing Group
  • Sheffield Bird Study Group

Several organisations (marked *) have also worked to improve fish passage on the River Don.

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