Natural flood defence helps protect Rothbury golf course

Chief executive at Blyth Star Enterprises, Gordon Moore, front centre, with Graham Stephenson, back right,  from Rothbury Golf Club and staff from Stakeford Nurseries.
Chief executive at Blyth Star Enterprises, Gordon Moore, front centre, with Graham Stephenson, back right, from Rothbury Golf Club and staff from Stakeford Nurseries.

More than 1,000 shrubs have been planted to help save a Northumberland golf course from flood damage.

Groundsmen at Rothbury Golf Club estimate that up to 10 metres of the river bank next to the 13th hole has steadily eroded into the Coquet over the past seven years.

During periods of heavy rainfall, the swell of the river covers the green entirely, dragging debris and fallen trees with it, causing costly damage to the course.

Now the club, Northumberland Estates, the Environment Agency and mental health charity Blyth Star Enterprises have joined forces to develop a natural flood defence.

Service users and members of staff from the charity’s Stakeford Nurseries facility have planted 1,200 shrubs and bushes which, when fully grown, will help to filter out any debris from flood water.

The planting was carried out as part of its Next Steps’ project, which aims to provide service users who have taken part in the horticultural training programme at Stakeford Nurseries with volunteering experience in community-based environments.

Gordon Moore, chief executive at Blyth Star Enterprises, said: “Our Next Steps project is all about identifying new opportunities and environments for our service users from the Stakeford Nurseries to further develop their understanding of horticulture and apply their skills to initiatives which in some way benefit the local community.

“The Rothbury Partnership project to help conserve the golf course fit perfectly with this ethos so we were delighted to get involved.

“The project has been supported by a number of national and local charities. It is one of a number of challenging schemes we have undertaken, inclusive of work with Northumberland National Park Authority, local parish councils and special schools.

“Working together with the club groundsmen and the other partners, we agreed to create a natural flood wall out of low-growing scrub plants such as dogwood, hazel and thorn bushes which, once mature, will help filter out any debris brought by the river across the golf course during periods of flooding.

“Groups of service users from the Nurseries, supported by our staff and volunteers, spent two weeks at the golf club planting the bushes which we will help to nurture from now until they reach maturity.”

Graham Stephenson, groundsman at Rothbury Golf Club, added: “It was great to have the support of Blyth Star Enterprises on this project.

“The new scrubland will provide much-needed protection for the golf course against damage caused by rising flood water, but will also help to enhance the beauty of the course once the plants reach maturity, providing a new habitat for local wildlife in the process.

“The groundskeeping team from the golf club did all the initial prep work to level the land and mark out the spaces for the shrubs and bushes to be planted but beyond that, the staff and service users from Blyth Star handled the rest. They were incredibly competent and we look forward to welcoming them back to the golf club in the future.”

Blyth Star Enterprises helps support more than 350 people living with severe and enduring mental ill health and or learning disabilities.

The charity is always on the lookout for new opportunities for its Next Steps project to expand its reach across the county. Visit www.blythstar.org.uk