Heart of Durham Volunteers are really pleased!

Anne Porter Heart of Durham, Heart of Durham Blog, News

As part of their work with Northumbrian Water at Derwent Reservoir, Durham Wilidlife Trust’s  Heart of Durham volunteers put up a small enclosure in 2016, with a view of increasing the biodiversity of the area.  Has it paid off?

Heart of Durham volunteers fence off a small area within the nature reserve at Derwent Reservoir to see what impact this has on the natural flora of the area.

The nature reserve, at the north west corner of Derwent Reservoir, is ancient semi-natural woodland posessing many lovely and majestic veteran and ancient oaks and other maturing tree species. Although some new trees have been planted over the years, no natural regeneration is occuring in the wood.

As a mini experiment, an enclosure has been erected to exclude rabbits and deer and the occasional flock of sheep, from a small area of the woodland. The aim of this mesh barricade is to gauge the effect on the natural regeneration of the ground flora, the subsequent establishment of a shrub understory and the growth of new trees by excluding these browsing mammals.

The small area selected for enclosure, lies beneath well established oak and birch trees. Light levels at ground level were good, but there was a noticeable lack of shrubs, wild flowers and saplings. A botanical survey in 2016 of the completed enclosure area provided a valuable base line of vegetation to which future surveys could be compared.

The fenced off area in 2016. There was a noticable lack of tree seedlings.

The same area in 2017, a year and two months on. The vegetation is very different, bare patches of earth have greened over and there is a good level of green growth.


Two small oak saplings were found as well as many saplings of birch


Bramble shoots are starting to take hold

….as well as an array of other wildflowers

A small mammal survey revealed that bank voles are beginning to use the area as the vegetation is now at height that will protect them from predators

A small mammal survey, on completion of the enclosure was carried out in June 2016 using Longworth traps. Nothing was caught then, so it was with great excitement that three  bank voles were found in the 2017 small mammal survey carried out by the Heart of Durham Project last Friday the 21st of July.

Some of the volunteer team who helped put up the enclosure.

The positive results of the mammal and botanical surveys is good news to all those involved. Monitoring will continue and the partnership between Northumbrian Water and Durham Wildlife Trust’s Heart of Durham Project  may begin to look at other areas owned by Northumbrian Water where a scheme like this may benefit and increase biodiversity.

Thank you to Northumbrian Water who have supported the Heart of Durham Project.