Engineers win race against time to complete works on Northumberland nature reserve before breeding season begins

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Civil engineering work has been timed to avoid conflict with the bird breeding season on a Northumberland nature reserve.

A two-stage contract to re-instate drainage ditches at East Chevington’s North Lake and replace its existing sluice structures with user-friendly penstocks has been completed by Hartlepool-based Seymour Civil Engineering Contractors.

The work is part of Northumberland Wildlife Trust’s management plan for the site to regain control of the water levels, which in turn, will enable the project team and volunteers to carry out vital reed bed habitat management to stop the South Lake from becoming scrubland and encouraging further growth on the North Lake. The second stage is planned for autumn 2021.

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Managing the reed beds in this manner will ensure that resident species of birds such as marsh harriers, cetti’s warblers and bearded tits that many of the visitors to the reserve have come to know and love will continue to have prime habitat in which to breed. It is also hoped that bitterns and the males with their distinctive booming mating call will also be attracted to the reserve to look for a mate.

The East Chevington nature reserve. Picture: BiotopeThe East Chevington nature reserve. Picture: Biotope
The East Chevington nature reserve. Picture: Biotope

Sophie Webster, Catch My Drift project officer, said: “It was important to the project to get the sluices done in the early stages as it will give us the maximum time to work throughout the three years carrying out restoration.

"I’m glad the contractors managed to get the work done during lockdown as were already up against time due to the approaching breeding bird season where we would be unable to carry out any works.

“If the reed beds were left without proper management, there is a risk that they would be completely lost and, as the largest complex of reed beds in the county that would be disastrous.”

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The 185-hectare reserve on the site of the old East Chevington drift mine, near Druridge Bay, attracts 10,000 visitors each year and contains lakes, ponds, reed beds, woodland, pasture and arable land that are homes to nationally significant species such as marsh harrier, red squirrels and great crested newts.

Sluice structures have been replaced at the East Chevington site. Picture: Sophie WebsterSluice structures have been replaced at the East Chevington site. Picture: Sophie Webster
Sluice structures have been replaced at the East Chevington site. Picture: Sophie Webster
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