From Sludge Dump to Wildlife Splendour

Mosswood Treatment Works, just off the A68, nestling on the Northumberland Durham border, is a gem of a place.

Built in the 1960’s to supply clean drinking water, from Derwent Reservoir, the by-product of the treatment process is a solid residue with the visual consistency of coffee grounds! For over 40 years this residue was sprayed onto land around the works, raising the level by over 3 feet in some places. Ten years ago this process stopped and since then tremendous efforts have been made by Northumbrian Water and to a lesser extent Durham Wildlife Trust’s Heart of Durham Project, to bring the land back into a state which is favourable to wildlife. Over these years the site has evolved, from bare patches of red black earth, thistles and dandelions to meadows that are spectacular in their array of wild flowers,  buzzing with the sound of insects, a fluttering with butterflies and moths, home to mammals and birds.

On Sunday, 14th July, Durham Wildlife Trust members were invited to come and join Durham Wildlife Trust’s Heart of Durham Project and Northumbrian Water for a wildlife safari around the fields at Mosswood.

Stuart Pudney from Northumbrian Water started the morning with a brief history of the site explaining how the transformation has taken place


Members were then guided around the site to experience a range of activities. First up, seeing what had been caught in the 15 mammal traps. A water shrew, common shrew and bank vole were caught.
Martin Hughes, having set his mist nets early in the morning had bags of fluttering birds to reveal to the group. The total by the end of the morning, 12 species and a total of 35 birds. Martin as always gladly imparts his wealth of knowledge to the delight of his audience.



A young robin is ringed


Surveying ponds, like other surveys reveal much about the environment. Several Water Stick-insects were found in the sludge lagoons. This species had been found at Low Barns a couple of years ago, finding them at Mosswood proves it is well-established in County Durham, almost certainly responding to climate change.
Martin Hammond delivered tray full of interesting aquatic life
Les Goodyear with his hydrophone dropped far out into the pond delivered sounds of aquatic life, water beetles and scorpions, the soothing plop of air bubbles rising to the surface and the grating scrunch of water snails feeding.
Valerie Standon identified the many butterflies and lace wings
A burnet moth rests on a scabious flower


Michael Coates revealed the fascinating life of damsel and dragon flies


Lesley Hodgson and Krys Stenhouse led the wildflower walk
………..through the most amazing swathes of colour.

Thank you to all who helped out on the day to make it such a success.