Accolade for Northumberland nature reserve restoration

The sand and gravel quarry at Branton has been progressively restored and transformed into a nature conservation area.
The sand and gravel quarry at Branton has been progressively restored and transformed into a nature conservation area.

A former Northumberland sand and gravel quarry turned nature reserve, has been highly commended in a national award to recognise restoration and biodiversity.

Branton Quarry, near Powburn and overlooked by the Cheviot Hills, used to provide products to the construction industry, but now is a home to diverse wildlife.

The accolade was given by the Mineral Product Association to honour the achievements of the partnership approach taken to restore the area. Northumberland County Council planners, conservation and ecology staff worked closely with the operator CEMEX UK to vastly improve the site.

Northumberland Wildlife Trust has also had an ongoing involvement, providing advice on the wonderful species which have now been introduced into the environment. Many keen birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts are drawn to the site by its 55 varieties of birds, 21 butterflies and 14 mammals.

The site boasts two lakes and is a centre for nature conservation. Other facilities include a bird hide, interpretation boards, a dipping pond and a car park with disabled access.

It has recently been bought by local land owner John Carr-Ellison, who is exploring plans to further improve the site for wildlife.

Coun Allan Hepple, cabinet member for economic growth at the county council, said: "The restoration of the site is a great achievement which demonstrates how business, jobs, wildlife and recreation can all benefit from the restoration and operation of an industrial space, and this has all been achieved with the help of the county council’s planning staff. Quarries in the county provide a huge opportunity to create something valuable for nature as well as being thriving businesses and providing skilled employment in rural areas. The site now sits in harmony with its surroundings in the landscape."

Alex Finn, restoration manager at CEMEX UK said: "It will be a great asset for years to come for Northumberland, as an extended management period was secured by county council planners when planning permission was granted."

Neighbouring Branton Community First School has its own wildlife area within the reserve, which the children use as an education resource. Headteacher Zoe Ryan said: "We are extremely fortunate to have direct access to such a fantastic area that we use regularly to enrich our school curriculum. Our school badge has even been redesigned to reflect our wonderful locality. It’s excellent to see the site praised on a national scale. Everyone involved has had a major hand in shaping and developing the site since the 1990s."