Northumberland Wildlife Trust, Coquetdale branch

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Mike Pratt, chief executive of the Northumberland Wildlife Trust, gave the members of the Coquetdale branch a most interesting talk at their November meeting.

Mike’s talk, entitled Our Wild Lives, brought the members up to date with the latest projects being undertaken by the Trust and also with those planned for the future.

The ideal would be to restore the countryside to the state that it used to be in. The biodiversity of our countryside has dropped by about 50 per cent over the last decades. Mike felt that it should be possible to halt the decline in nature locally and in the British Isles but whether it will be possible worldwide is hard to say.

He told the members about some local success stories – the main one being the restoration of the Border Mires which has been achieved over the last 50 years so it is important to have long-term objectives and these can be achieved.

At the place where the river road from Rothbury to the A697 is being repaired, a large colony of slow worms has been discovered. It is hoped to maintain this but there may need to be some translocation so that the population survives when the road is repaired.

Mike asked the audience to let the Trust know if anyone finds grass snakes as it is sure that they are around but just need to know where.

Marsh harriers are returning round Druridge Bay and East Chevington. There are also bittern and bearded tits at Druridge Bay and thee pairs of osprey at Kielder. Unfortunately the golden eagles have not yet returned and there are only small numbers of black grouse but if we keep restoring the habitat we should see them back here.

Northumberland Wildlife Trust is a large organisation now with over 60 staff and 300 volunteers. No other organisation does what NWT does but there is a need to engage with future generations in order to continue the support and the work of the Trust.

The Trust does a lot of work with children and it should be possible to carry out all aspects of education in the outdoors, giving children the benefit of fresh air and experiencing wild creatures and habitats.

The new visitor centre at Hauxley, which is replacing the old one that was burned down, will be the greenest building in the north of England with wonderful viewing areas and all sorts of activities and it is hoped that it will be open by Spring 2016.

Mike has a grand vision for the future – to create a wild wood from the top of Kielder Head and into Scotland. Some trees have already been planted and many seeds are being grown.

The whole project will take a long time but in 100 years or so there should be a huge open structured open woodland as there was in the past.

Finally, Mike mentioned the new initiative to try to persuade government to protect the fauna in the North Sea. We have large populations of white-sided dolphins off Tynemouth. There are also porpoises, whales and, of course, seals but these need to be protected.

The members thoroughly enjoyed Mike’s talk and felt that it was good to be reminded of all the projects our parent organisation is engaged in.

The next meeting of the Coquetdale branch will be on Monday, December 1, when the speaker will be Geoff Dobbins with a talk entitled Beequest.