Vital repairs to Whitelee continuing

Tuesday 17th October 2017

Peter Ernst Estates Officer at Whitelee, photo Geoff Dobbins

Estates staff and volunteers at Northumberland Wildlife Trust will be watching the weather forecast for the foreseeable as they start work on Phase Two of the restoration of blanket bog on its Whitelee Moor nature reserve in North Northumberland.

The project will prevent carbon loss and allow the land to hold more water which will, in turn, reduce down-stream flooding and produce better habitat for wading birds such as golden plover, dunlin, curlew and snipe.

The work which is funded by Natural England through a Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) agreement started in April on Phase One which involved blocking drainage ditches and moving small pieces of sphagnum moss from ‘donor’ plots on the reserve to bare peat areas to prevent carbon loss and allow the land to hold more water.

For the second phase, teams are now preparing to mark out locations for the installation of coir dams which will reduce down-stream flooding and produce better habitat for wading birds.

The team were dubious as to whether the sphagnum moss would have survived the dry spell in spring/early summer, but were pleasantly surprised to see that a considerable amount is growing well, which is great news for the project.

The site, which is National Nature Reserve, Site of Specific Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Special Area for Conservation (SAC) was bought by Northumberland Wildlife Trust in 1999, following a public appeal and assistance from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and was declared a National Nature Reserve by English Nature in 2001.

The heather moorland and blanket bog are home to birds such as red grouse, merlin, peregrine falcon, whinchat, skylark, stonechat, meadow pipit and ring ouzel. Insects such as the northern eggar moth and ringlet, small heath and green veined white butterflies are seen in the summer

Also on the reserve, a herd of wild goats can sometimes been seen on the border with Kielderhead - no strangers to the area, they are from domestic stock but have been left to roam wild for many centuries.