Bamburgh Castle free to bloom

Volunteers from the ‘Coast Care’ initiative have just completed one of the initiative’s biggest projects - clearing a section of ivy Hedera helix from the ramparts outside Bamburgh Castle.
Bamburgh Castle - Becky Waring

Bamburgh Castle.  Image by: Becky Waring.

Bamburgh Castle sits on a rocky plateau of Whin Sill, a hugely important geological feature in the region. It is a vast layer of dolerite rock extending from Holy Island to the North Pennines and is of ecological importance as it supports rare grassland habitats with a distinctive flora.

There has been considerable loss of this unique habitat, one of the main factors being the encroachment of scrub and invasive plant species, therefore, it is really important to protect and conserve areas where manageable.

The project to remove ivy from the castle ramparts was identified with the Bamburgh Estate, with an aim to clear a section to encourage the native Whin grassland to flourish in the future. Although ivy is native to the UK, it is an invasive species that spreads quickly, forming a dense monoculture which reduces biodiversity and consequently prevents the growth of native plants.

The Coast Care initiative is funded thanks to money raised by National Lottery players through a grant of £522,600 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund; it provides excellent opportunities enabling volunteers to contribute to the management, conservation and development of the region’s natural and cultural heritage.

Coast Care aims to work on projects within private and public land that have been identified as significantly linking in with the initiative’s heritage themes.  

In January 2018, the Coast Care Young Rangers kick-started the work, before passing the project over to Coast Care’s regular group of volunteers for them to continue the work outside of bird nesting season. The Young Rangers returned to the site last month to help finish off the job and remove the last few patches of ivy and roots.

Becky Bass, Coast Care Project Manager said: “The ivy removal at Bamburgh Castle has gained an amazing support from our volunteers as they have dedicated their time to this project over the last year. The team and volunteers are looking forward to seeing how the site flourishes over time and will revisit the site to complete ecological surveys to identify the presence of new plant species and we hope to start observing a variety of wildlife being attracted in too.

“The iconic location can be viewed at a distance and up close by the public and it will be wonderful to see this area blooming in the future”.

Thanking Coast Care for their help on this project, William Watson-Armstrong said: "On behalf of Bamburgh and Cragside Estate, and the Watson-Armstrong family, I would like to wholeheartedly thank Coast Care and the volunteers for all their hard work and contributions over the winter.

“We are delighted to be working with coast care to help look after to important landscape that the Castle dominates. The drive and motivation of the volunteers is inspiring, turning out in the worst of weather Northumberland has to offer to see the job through. Thank you for everything, we look forward to continuing to work with you in the future."

For more details on Coast Care and its other conservation projects and how you to get involved, visit: www.coast-care.co.uk and follow it on Facebook www.facebook.com/Coast-Care-Northumberland.

The ‘Coast Care’ initiative area is the coastal landscape from Amble in the south, to Berwick in the north, stretching west as far as Lowick, Belford and Alnwick. It supports, trains and resources volunteers so that local people, communities and visitors are able to contribute to the management, conservation and development of our amazing natural and cultural heritage.

Volunteers look after the sweeping sandy beaches, rolling dunes, historic buildings, village greens and community spaces, farmlands and grasslands that make up our stunning coastal environment.

Based at Seahouses, the initiative is managed by Northumberland Wildlife Trust, the Northumberland Coast AONB partnership and Seahouses Development Trust.