A conservation project to improve the land and habitat for people and wildlife at an East Chevington nature reserve has moved a step forward.
Northumberland Wildlife Trust wants the develop the reserve with a major improvement project, Catch my Drift.
The name is a nod to the reserve’s history reserve’s history as it was a drift mine from 1882 to 1962 and an opencast coal site from 1982 to 1994.
The project has been awarded a £90,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to develop the plans and apply for a full grant of £415,800 in the future.
Following on from the success of its National Lottery-funded Dynamic Druridge Project, which included the creation of the new Hauxley Wildlife Discovery Centre, the wildlife charity has now set its sights on improving biodiversity and reconnecting people with nature at the East Chevington site.
Catch my Drift is the next step towards creating a connected mosaic of habitats throughout Druridge Bay.
The 185-hectare site passed to Northumberland Wildlife Trust in 2003 and now contains lakes, ponds, reed beds, woodland, pasture and arable farming that are homes to nationally significant species such as marsh harrier, red squirrels and great crested news.
It is also important to the people who use the site as an area for walking and access to the beach and it is estimated 10,000 visitors go onto the site each year.
Currently, the reed beds around the two main ponds are at risk of being lost due to silting up of the water, leading to the development of willow scrub and eventually carr woodland.
The plantation woodland that was put in place as part of opencast restoration is dominated by closely compacted Scots pine that needs partial removal to open up the woodland canopy, allowing more light onto the woodland floor to encourage the growth of plants and flowers.
The nine hectares of meadow are now of a poor quality, but should the development phase lead to a designated project, this area and a further 20 hectares of pasture will be turned into species-rich meadow which will have a positive impact on bees and butterflies which are in decline.
The year-long development phase is essential for the Trust to finalise the details of the project, further analyse risks and continue consulting with local communities, visitors and project partners.
Project development tasks will include the appointment of a Catch my Drift project assistant, the creation of a masterplan that includes new habitats, access routes and update of the sites management plan. There will also be a water study of the site.
An architectural brief has been included in the development phase, which will see the Trust applying the construction skills learnt during the construction of its Hauxley Wildlife Discovery Centre to facilities at East Chevington.
Elaine More, Northumberland Wildlife Trust’s Druridge Bay development manager, said: “Our East Chevington reserve has the potential to be an amazing site for people and wildlife, but work has to be done first to plan how this could be made possible, which is why the £90,000 from players of the National Lottery, via a grant from Heritage Lottery Fund is so invaluable to us.”