Creating a wildlife haven in an unlikely place

  A constant and increasing demand on land for houses and industrial development highlights the importance of the pockets of buffer land surrounding water treatment and sewage works owned by Northumbrian Water.

These sites are important wildlife havens.

Newton Aycliffe Sewage Treatment Works is situated within Newton Aycliffe Industrial Estate just off the A167, a busy area or roads manufacturing units and houses. Northumbrian Water along with Durham Wildlife Trust’s Heart of Durham Project is enhancing the site to increase biodiversity and offer a habitat for a wide range of species.

The treatment site is vast but the area of conservation work comprises of a lined pond, which is supplied by surface runoff from the canteen building’s roof,  a small area of grassland and an area of scrub.

The pond dug some years ago now boasts newts, with water forget –me- not, water mint, bog bean, purple loosestrife and common reed. This pond was cleared out by Durham Wildlife Trust’s Young Volunteer Group, last winter. They also constructed a compost bin and a reptile hibernacula.

On Friday the 9th of March the Heart of Durham Team went into plant a mixed hedge of hawthorn, hazel, holly, guelder rose and holly. Several crab apple trees dotted along the hedge length will provide glorious blossom in the spring.

The small overgrown scub area has, with maturity, become “rabbit city” providing the rabbits with wonderful cover for hiding and “munching”. As a result, what little ground cover grows is browsed before it can establish.

The Heart of Durham volunteer team set about clearing the scrub and coppicing the hazel to allow light in and space for new young trees. In view of the large number of rabbits present, volunteers had to be ingenious in their attempts to make protection for the future new hazel shoots which shortly will emerge from the coppiced stumps.

Variations in stump protection design
The coppiced hazel stumps protected we hope

Scrub cleared, the area was then replanted with crab apple trees along with holly for ever green colour and berries and hawthorn and hazel for fruit. Three new bird boxes were put up and before the afternoon was out prospective owners were checking out the dimensions which was quite wonderful.

A mix of wildflowers and yellow rattle sown, last October (2017) will hopefully germinate attracting insects and butterflies to the site providing a  good haven for wildlife.

The Heart of Durham Volunteers with Mark Morris from Northumbrian Water