Wildlife charity’s Benshaw dream becomes a reality

Northumberland Wildlife Trust has realised its dream of purchasing the 600 acre Benshaw Moor in Redesdale to save its important wildlife and habitats including peatland and limestone springs. The Trust was keen to buy to site which was at risk of intensive commercial forestry or the installation of wind turbines which could have damaged the sensitive areas.
Benshaw Moor - Duncan Hutt

Benshaw Moor. Image by: Duncan Hutt.

The purchase follows its month long public appeal in April which raised over £75,000 and which was added to a considerable amount of money from charitable trusts, businesses, private donations and a bequest by the late George Swan, emeritus professor of organic chemistry at Newcastle University. The bequest was specified for use in buying a site of botanical importance.

Benshaw Moor, near Elsdon, is all about big skies and magnificent vistas; there are burns, springs and even a limestone-stepped waterfall. It is home to otters, dragonflies, butterflies and adders. Curlews, skylark and meadow pipit nest and visitors to the site can catch a glimpse of short-eared owls as they hunt over the moorland. 

The abundance of plants found on the moor is stunning and include bogbean, butterwort, limestone-bedstraw, grass of Parnassus, and bog species such as cranberry, sphagnum mosses and round-leaved sundew.

Plans to restore the site are ambitious with the first steps for the wildlife charity’s Estates Team staff and volunteers including surveys to understand the site better and so guide the future management of the site. 

Options for management being considered include areas of native woodland, and suitable levels of conservation grazing. Work to remove self-seeded Sitka Spruce has already been carried out and blocking a few peatland drains will be undertaken. We hope to discuss management with a range of others, including local people, over the next few months, which will include ideas for improving access for visitors to the site.  

Duncan Hutt, Northumberland Wildlife Trust’s Head of Living Landscapes and Conservation says: “This amazing piece of land is a paradise for botanists and probably the Trust’s most exciting and important acquisition in the last 15 years. It would not have been possible without the support from our very generous members and members of the public and is a great example of how, if we all unite for wildlife, we can make something happen.”