This is one of our most important areas of work.
This page provides a summary of our work in this area during the 2013-14 financial year.
We continued to work with a wide variety of landowners, farmers and other partners to conserve and enhance our hay meadows and species rich grasslands, to create a better future for our peatlands and to increase community action for the environment, especially through our WildWatch project.
Local Nature Partnership
It is hoped that our work with others through the Northern Upland Chain Local Nature Partnership to promote High Nature Value Farming will bring about a more collaborative approach that gets a better deal for farmers and a better deal for nature.
- We commissioned a report on High Nature Value Farming in the upper dales of Teesdale, Weardale and Tynedale which involved interviews with 25 farmers.
- We have contributed to an explosion of interest in wildlife recording with over 200,000 records collected from across the North Pennines in the last three years.
- We received excellent feedback from our interim evaluation of WildWatch North Pennines which demonstrated that ecological training is leading to high levels of participant education, satisfaction and continued engagement in wildlife recording.
Some of our achievements this year:
- We surveyed 37 flower-rich banks and three upland hay meadows.
- Our volunteer botanists surveyed 10 of these banks in detail using quadrats.
- We wrote management plans for all 37 flower-rich banks surveyed in discussion with farmers and Natural England.
- Flower-rich ‘green hay’ was harvested from six banks and spread on seven meadows with a total area of 38ha.
- All harvesting and spreading operations were funded through agri-environment schemes.
This year the AONB Partnership’s Peatland Programme has:
- Completed 4km of perimeter fencing.
- Cut, transported to site and spread, by hand, 950 bags (150 tonnes) of heather brash onto bare peat.
- Blocked 30km of moorland grips (drainage channels).
- Started restoring approximately 100ha of bare/eroding peat by covering it in heather brash, blocking gullies and spreading lime, fertiliser and moorland seed.
- Installed 60 coir rolls to slow sediment movement through bare peat sites.
- Continued to provide advice and funding to the Northumberland National Park Authority for peatland restoration.
WildWatch North Pennines project
We have engaged with over 800 people at events since the project launched in 2012. Six hundred and fifty people have registered to record wildlife on our website. Over 200 people are actively recording regularly and have helped us achieve over 15,000 new records to help us better understand and conserve biodiversity in the North Pennines AONB.
Some examples of how we have translated our public engagement work with WildWatch North Pennines into conservation activities include:
- Monitoring of 12 transects by our volunteers for Red Squirrels Northern England. The work has contributed to revealing a rise of this endangered species of seven percent, year on year (Spring 2012-13).
- Riparian restoration work including installation of live willow fencing coppiced from local woodland along the East Allen Valley. This control will conserve some species rich upland hay meadow and residents took part in the work learning conservation skills in the process.
- Installation of over 30 bird boxes at Bowlees Visitor Centre in January 2014. Many are already occupied with nesting birds.
- Launching a primary school ‘WildWatchers’ programme to inspire biological recording in younger generations.
Our three new wildlife groups in the South Tyne, Weardale and Allen Valleys are now running their own events and wildlife recording activities.
- The new groups illustrate that people in the North Pennines are passionate about recording and conserving wildlife.
- In addition some group members are actively pursuing environmental careers, demonstrating that the project is influencing people’s professional as well as their social interests.
In the third year of the project we are working to assist the groups in attaining full independence through formalisation and funding. We look forward to celebrating their achievements and learning more of what the data recorded can tell us about the picture of wildlife in the North Pennines at our final event on the 18 October 2014.
Mine Water Remediation Stakeholder Engagement Project
The AONB Partnership continues to support the Environment Agency and The Coal Authority’s investigations and proposals for metal mine remediation schemes in the North Pennines.
This year we have:
- Liaised with landowners over access permissions for ground investigations and installation of monitoring equipment.
- Produced opportunities and constraints maps for the Nentsberry area.
- Coordinated stakeholder consultation discussions for proposals in the Nent, West Allen and Rookhope catchments.
- Liaised with local residents in Carrshield during a culvert repair and spoil heap stabilisation trial at Barneycraig Mine.
- Provided evidence for two post graduate research projects on North Pennines mine water remediation.
Nenthead spoil heap stabilisation trial
Following a year of monitoring (in partnership with Tyne Rivers Trust and the Environment Agency) to establish the effectiveness of trial treatments on the movement of the slope and the concentrations of metals in the run-off following high rainfall events, metal tolerant spring sandwort was planted on the slope. The ability of the plants to establish on, and stabilise, the slope is now being monitored.
Cold Blooded and Spineless
We are delighted to have received a stage one pass from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to develop our five year invertebrate project, valued at over £550,000. Through this project the AONB Partnership aims to:
- Establish a wide appreciation amongst the general public and land managers of the complexity, beauty and importance of our invertebrate fauna, including four iconic art installations created with 150 school children and local artists.
- Develop volunteer expertise in a few of the more important, representative and accessible groups of invertebrates in the North Pennines through a training and lecture programme offering over 2,000 participant places.
- Produce a map of important sites for invertebrates in the North Pennines as a major step towards invertebrate conservation.
A Cold Blooded and Spineless website would also offer a recording platform for all wildlife – enabling continued interest for submitting all wildlife data currently provided through the AONB Partnership’s WildWatch North Pennines project. We hope to receive a final decision from the HLF in autumn 2014. The project is currently planned to run from 2015-19.