Do you ‘Catch my Drift’?

A Northumberland Wildlife Trust conservation project has received initial support* for National Lottery funding to develop detailed plans to improve the land and habitat for people and wildlife on its East Chevington nature reserve on Druridge Bay.
East Chevington Nature Reserve - Steven Morris

East Chevington Nature Reserve. Image by: Steven Morris.

The project, aptly titled ‘Catch my Drift’ is a nod to the reserve’s history as it was once the East Chevington Drift Mine (1882 - 1962) and East Chevington Opencast Coal Site from 1982 - 1994.

Thanks to National Lottery players, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has awarded the project a £90,000 development grant to develop the plans and apply for a full grant of £415,800 in the future.

Following on from the success of its National Lottery funded Dynamic Druridge Project, which included the creation of the new Hauxley Wildlife Discovery Centre, the wildlife charity has now set its sights on improving biodiversity and reconnecting people with nature at the East Chevington site with the ‘Catch my Drift’ project being the next step towards creating a connected mosaic of habitats throughout Druridge Bay.

The 185-hectare site passed to Northumberland Wildlife Trust in 2003 and now contains lakes, ponds, reed beds, woodland, pasture and arable farming that are homes to nationally significant species such as marsh harrier, red squirrels and great crested newts. It is also important to the local communities who use the site as an area for walking and access to the beach and it is estimated (in its current state) 10,000 visitors go onto the site each year.

Currently, the reed beds around the two main ponds are at risk of being lost due to silting up of the water, leading to the development of willow scrub and eventually carr woodland.

The plantation woodland that was put in place as part of opencast restoration is dominated by closely compacted Scots pine that needs partial removal to open up the woodland canopy allowing more light onto the woodland floor to encourage the growth of woodland plants and flowers.

In addition, the 9 hectares of meadow are now of a poor quality, but should the development phase of the project lead to a designated project with further support from National Lottery players, there will be the opportunity to turn the 9 hectares and a further 20 hectares of pasture into species-rich meadow which will have a positive impact on bees and butterflies which are in decline.

The year-long Development Phase, which the £90,000 National Lottery funding is supporting, is essential for the wildlife charity to finalise the details of the project, further analyse risks and continue consulting with local communities, visitors and project partners.

Project development tasks will include the appointment of a Catch my Drift project assistant, the creation of a masterplan that includes new habitats, access routes and update of the sites management plan. There will also be a hydrological (water) study of the site to ascertain where the water is on the site and were it comes form and, just as importantly, where it goes and how water levels change throughout the year.

As part of the project, staff will be consulting with regular users of the site, local communities, project partners and visitors on why the reserve is important to them and feeding their responses into the design of its master plan to ensure the creation of a fabulous site for wildlife and humans alike.

For many people visiting the site to watch wildlife, the existing watching facilities (or hides) are unwelcoming, noisy metal boxes so an architectural brief has been included in the development phase of the project, which will see the Trust applying the construction skills learnt during the construction of its Hauxley Wildlife Discovery Centre to facilities at East Chevington. 

Speaking about the award of the £90,000 Development Grant, Elaine More, Northumberland Wildlife Trust’s Druridge Bay Development Manager said: “Our East Chevington reserve has the potential to be an amazing site for people and wildlife, but work has to be done first to plan how this could be made possible, which is why the £90,000 from players of the National Lottery, via a grant from Heritage Lottery Fund is so invaluable to us.”

Anybody wishing to get involved with the project whether it is volunteering or wanting to have an input into how the project is developed can contact catchmydrift@northwt.org.uk.

*Heritage Grants (HG) applications are assessed in two rounds. Catch My Drift has initially been granted round one development funding of £90,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund, allowing it to progress with its plans. Detailed proposals are then considered by HLF at second round, where a final decision is made on the full funding award of £415,800.