Volunteers support conservation projects across the park

The current National Park Centre and Youth Hostel at Once Brewed
The current National Park Centre and Youth Hostel at Once Brewed

A team of volunteers working on The Sill project has been supporting a range of conservation initiatives in Northumberland National Park, as part of the development phase of Northumberland’s flagship Landscape Discovery Centre.

Northumberland National Park Authority and YHA (England and Wales), the partners behind The Sill project, launched a call to find volunteers in 2013, successfully recruiting more than a dozen people to support the scheme, with work already well underway on a number of conservation projects.

And now, with the New Year upon us, the team is encouraging more new recruits to sign up.

If plans for Northumberland’s new national Landscape Discovery Centre are approved and funding successfully achieved, a fully accessible ‘green roof’ made out of Northumberland’s rare whin vegetation will form its centerpiece – a unique conservation project of national significance.

Even in its early phase of development, The Sill’s team of volunteer ambassadors have been working alongside Northumberland National Park rangers and botanist, Janet Simkin, to collect and plant a series of trial plots at Once Brewed and Walltown.

The idea is that these trial plots will replicate the gradient and conditions of the future Sill site at Once Brewed, testing a range of different substrates to discover the best growing conditions for the whin vegetation.

Janet Simkin is currently nurturing the seeds collected by volunteers so they are ready to plant at the trial plot sites in the spring.

She said: “The work that the volunteers have been undertaking has been invaluable in getting this unique conservation project off the ground.

“The prospect of creating a UK first, the whin grassland roof of The Sill building, and protecting these rare and native Northumbrian species of plant life is very important.

“It will create a living habitat and essential educational resource for the community and visitors to the National Park, helping bring vital conservation messages to the forefront.”

For Pamela Dive, volunteering for The Sill project has given her the opportunity to try her hand at something new.

She said: “I’m excited by the new experiences and challenges volunteering for The Sill project presents.

“To be involved in something so unique and to help give back to the community is something that really appeals to me.”