An initiative that will recruit and train an army of volunteers to look after the north Northumberland coast has landed a £500,000 grant.
The north Northumberland coastal area, much of which is designated as an area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB), is a stunning landscape popular with local people and visitors alike.
It includes nature reserves, wildlife habitats and historic buildings of national or international importance, but it is a fragile landscape that requires careful management.
Made possible by National Lottery players, the grant of £522,600 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) will enable Coast Care to employ a small staff team to recruit and support volunteers who will help care for this special place.
Coast Care is a partnership initiative bringing together the Northumberland Coast AONB Partnership, Northumberland Wildlife Trust (NWT) and Seahouses Development Trust to oversee the project.
Coun John Woodman, chairman of the AONB Partnership, said: “The Northumberland coast is a very special place and working together we can make sure it remains so.
“We know that there are many people who live on the coast or nearby who want to help to improve the area and we can’t afford to keep turning them away.
“This project will match those people to jobs that need doing whether it is conserving wildlife habitats, preserving historic buildings or just improving the area in which they live. We are delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has decided to support this initiative.”
The staff team will be based in Seahouses, in the heart of the Coast Care area, and it is anticipated that a project co-ordinator will be recruited early this year.
Shirley Wright, from Seahouses Development Trust, said: “One of the highlights for me will be the opportunity to restart the Young Rangers programme which gives 13 to 18-year-olds practical, hands-on experience of countryside management.”
The Coast Care area is the coastal landscape from Amble in the south to Berwick in the north and stretching west as far as Lowick, Belford and Alnwick.
Steve Lowe, head of conservation at NWT, said: “The Coast Care project will provide volunteering opportunities such as beach clean-ups, site management and a host of other opportunities that help in taking care of this special part of Northumberland.
“As an active volunteer myself, outside of my day job, I am amazed by what a group of dedicated and well-supported volunteers can achieve; by coordinating that enthusiasm, this project will help people to do their bit and have fun along the way.”
Anybody interested in volunteering should contact the Northumberland Coast AONB Partnership on info@north umberlandcoastaonb.org or 01670 622306.
Ivor Crowther, head of HLF North East, said: “Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, we are very pleased to be able support Coast Care.
“The project will increase capacity to look after the landscape by effectively match-making volunteers with volunteering opportunities and coordinating effort so that, collectively, local people, communities and visitors are able to contribute to the management of their amazing natural and cultural heritage.
“Training, support and resources will be provided to enable as many people as possible to contribute and to maximise the potential of an as-yet-untapped, volunteer army.”