Wildlife charity delight at two conservation awards

Northumberland Wildlife Trust is delighted that two of its projects triumphed in the Coast or Countryside project category at the recent LOVE Northumberland awards at Alnwick Gardens, when the Duchess of Northumberland helped celebrate the very best in community and voluntary environment work across the county.
Coast Care Award

Left to right: Duchess of Northumberland, Mandy Crowley and John Everitt (Coast Care Volunteers), Becky Waring (Coast Care Project Manager) and Kristian Purchase (Coast Care Project Assistant). Image by: Andrew Bryson / Northumberland County Council.

The ‘Restoring Ratty’ water vole reintroduction partnership project (between Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust, Northumberland Wildlife Trust, Forestry England and Tyne Rivers Trust), took first place and a £250 prize.

Accepting the award, Kelly Hollings ‘Restoring Ratty’ Project Officer said: “Who would have thought that when we captured the first batch of water voles from the Pennines for our captive breeding programme that we would be standing here with such a wonderful award.”

Now in its fourth year, the project is committed to the reintroduction of water voles to the Kielder Water and Forest Park area of Northumberland and has all been made possible by National Lottery players through a grant of £421,000 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The project has allowed many people from urban areas to experience some of the most remote areas of Northumberland and offer project activities free of charge or at a low cost with the chance to see water voles in open access areas. It has also engaged with locals from the Kielder area and tourists, adding to the tourist offer in Kielder.

Following up the rear, and just as exciting, is the joint runner-up award and £100 prize money presented to the ‘Coast Care’ coastal conservation initiative which looks after the landscape from Amble in the south, to Berwick in the north, stretching west as far as Lowick, Belford and Alnwick.

‘Coast Care’ volunteers spend hours looking after the sweeping sandy beaches, rolling dunes, historic buildings, village greens and community spaces, farmlands and grasslands that make up our stunning coastal environment which is the coastal landscape from Amble in the south, to Berwick in the north, stretching west as far as Lowick, Belford and Alnwick.

Speaking about the award, Becky Waring, ‘Coast Care’ Manager said: “This award is indeed testament to the dedication and commitment of our volunteers, some of whom have been involved in the initiative since 2017. Over 1100 volunteers to date have worked tirelessly over 19,900 hours to conserve and protect such a wonderful part of the UK, without them and the funding from National Lottery Heritage Fund, this initiative would not have been possible.”

The initiative has delivered 257 group activity sessions since late 2017 and aims to engage with up to 2000 people by April 2020.

So far over 5550 hours of volunteer time alone has been invested in practical conservation such as beach cleans, removing invasive species, habitat management and improving accessibility, all with the aim of improving local ownership and community pride to safeguard the landscape for the future. 

Over 2995 hours have been spent on wildlife surveying including monitoring and recording on a variety of species including; winter and breeding farmland bird surveys on ten farms, shorebird monitoring and protection plus cetaceans, red squirrels, bat, bumblebee and butterflies surveys plus barn owls nest box making,

Volunteers are currently recording and removing pirri pirri, a non-native invasive plant on the new England Coastal Path to prevent its spreading to other areas of the coast.

The Coast Care team is based at Seahouses and initiative is supported thanks to money raised by National Lottery players through a grant of £522,600 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and is organised by Northumberland Wildlife Trust, the Northumberland Coast AONB partnership and Seahouses Development Trust.