The fig trees of the River Don

When our industrial ancestors enjoyed eating fig biscuits, they didn’t realise that they would leave a legacy for us.

Alongside the banks of Sheffield’s River Don, towards Meadowhall, are about 30 mature fig trees, some about 70-years-old, which owe their existence to a combination of human appetite, imperfect sewage and the steel industry.

Fig biscuits were popular amongst steel workers. The fig seeds passed through their digestive system, and each time there was a heavy storm a proportion of sewage overflowed into the river.

At the turn of the 20th century, because of industry alongside the River Don, the waters of the east end were at a constant twenty degrees creating perfect conditions for the fig seeds to germinate and grow.

And they’re not just confined to the Don, with fig trees also found on Porter Brook and the River Sheaf.