Fred is the Man for the Job

Fred Robinson- Is the newly inducted Volunteer Warden at Newton Aycliffe Sewage Treatment Works Nature Reserve.

Following on from his site safety briefing with the manager of Newton Aycliffe Sewage Treatment works, Joe Hall, Fred Robinson, a Heart of Durham volunteer for the last 7 years will take charge of keeping an eye on a small nature area on the treatment site. He will carry out checks on water levels in the pond and making sure that the hedge is weeded, whilst also observing the seasonal changes and wildlife visitors to the reserve.

Newton Aycliffe sewage treatment works is situated on Newton Aycliffe Industrial Estate, just off the busy A167. The small nature reserve forms a valuable wildlife haven amongst all the surrounding bustle. Northumbrian Water and Durham Wildlife Trust’s Heart of Durham Project are working in partnership to increase the biodiversity of this area to provide suitable habitat for a wide range of flora and fauna. The water, for the small pond here, comes from surface run-off from the staff canteen’s roof. Dug some years ago, the pond is now home to newts and water plants, like water forget–me-not, water mint, bog bean, purple loosestrife and common reed. Surrounding the pond on one side is a small area of grassland which has been sown with wildflower seed mix to encourage butterflies and insects.

Durham Wildlife Trust’s Young Volunteer Group have got involved too, constructing a compost bin and a reptile hibernacula. Last year Heart of Durham volunteers planted a hedge of hawthorn, hazel, holly and guelder rose with several crab apple trees dotted at intervals. These will provide pretty blossom in the spring and once they mature fruit in the autumn.

Fred is an advocate for volunteering, he just loves being outside “any stress or anxiety” he says “is swept away, you just forget about things as you immerse yourself in the countryside and the job in hand”. “There is a good crowd of people on the team who are all there for the same reason to be outside and to enjoy themselves. The banter is brilliant and we all have a good laugh”.

Fred says he loves the peace and tranquillity and the fact that you never really know what you might see. “We have a fox that regularly comes into our garden in Newton Aycliffe and we love to watch him on a night. We also have a camera in a nest box and over the cold spell at the beginning of February we watched a wren sheltering, puffing up its feathers to keep warm”

Newton Aycliffe Sewage treatment works are a 30 minute walk along the burn from my house. I helped plant the hedge last year (2018) and I am looking forward to seeing how it grows and develops. The main challenge for this site are Rabbits!! They nibble everything and have dug holes along the hedge line.”

Volunteering with the Heart of Durham Project means I get to work on a lot of sites adjacent to sewage treatment works, but these are some of the best places for wildlife as there is no public access.  We also work around Derwent Reservoir and also at Wearhead just below Burnhope reservoir. We do all sorts of tasks and each week is different and it is all great fun. I am really looking forward to my visits to the nature reserve at Newton Aycliffe treatment works and watching how things change and evolve here.