News July 2017

July walk: 7pm, Tues 11th July: Thorngrafton Common.

Meet at road/ lane junction at western end of Haresby Lonnen. Grid ref: 790661
Just turn up, no need to book. We'll be on tarmac most of the time and aim to finish by 9pm. Any queries, please get in touch with Lesley Silvera, 01434 607988

Lesley reported 'I had two people on the walk last night; we found fen bedstraw which was great and saw quite a few plant species but didn't make a list due to heavy rain and quite a cold wind too. We spent most of the time mooching in the quarry so not technically a verge walk but very interesting all the same'.

Several of the regular verge walk crew (including me) checked the weather and took the wimp's option, choosing to spend the evening in the cosy village hall at Bardon Mill where David Hirst regaled us with tales about pioneering, if eccentric, early naturalists. Do look out for the Cafe Scientifique program in the autumn as several of the lectures cover natural science topics. Let's hope for better weather on July 11th.

Local Verge Management
Steve Mitchinson, Operations Engineer for RoadLink (A69) has contacted me recently to confirm that RoadLink has suspended spraying operations, save for essential maintenance of filter drains and around signs and other critical infrastructure, along the length of the A69 on a trial basis this year. They will review results at the end of the year and if successful the trial will be extended for a second year. At some point in the future it maybe necessary to reintroduce herbicide spraying however, with continuous monitoring, they hope be able to limit this to selected areas only.

Meanwhile on the county's roads...
The Hexham Courant, 24th June, reported 'An extensive program of verge cutting and weed spraying is getting underway as Northumberland gears up for the main tourist season'. Councillor Glen Sanderson, cabinet member for environment and local services, promised to reverse the cuts of the previous administration and ensure that 'streets and highways are well maintained, both for safety and the overall look of the place'. I wrote to Councillor Sanderson to let him know that not everyone wanted to see manicured nature, I mentioned the value of verges as a resource for pollinators and a reservoir of biodiversity. I received a prompt reply thanking me for my interesting message, he would be meeting with others with ecological concerns, but pernicious weeds such as cleavers are an issue... I think it would be good for him to know that lots of us don't want herbicides used on road verges. His email is

Building new homes - nesting habitat in short supply
The BBC recently reported on new research on species decline. Ecologists believe that competition for nesting sites could explain why some birds and bumblebees are declining faster than others. Research suggests that animals that build their nests in early spring may win the fight for available habitat at the expense of late breeders. Conservation efforts should focus on ensuring rare species have enough places to nest, say the scientists. For example, areas could be left to grow wild between spring and summer to help bumblebees establish nests. Habitats such as hedgerows and hay meadows are being lost in many countries, meaning that fewer nesting sites are available. Full article:

"This is the place of my song-dream, the place the music played to me,' whispered the Rat, as if in a trance.' Here, in this holy place, here if anywhere, surely".
Kenneth Grahame, Wind in the Willows.

Good news indeed from the Tyne Rivers Trust, the Forestry Commission and Northumberland Wildlife Trust whose Heritage Lottery funded 'Restoring Ratty' project sees the reintroduction of the water vole to the North Tyne after an absence of 30 years. The 325 water voles released in late June will be joined by another 350 in August. Given the work that has been undertaken to prepare the habitat for them it is hoped that these two releases will enable the species to reestablish a genetically diverse sustainable population around Kielder Water and Forest Park, eventually linking to the existing water vole populations in the Scottish Borders.

Campaign to Open Gilsland Station AGM
7 pm on Wednesday 19th July at Gilsland Village Hall.

The short formal business will be followed by a presentation by Alex Carrington of Network Rail. Alex is Associate Sponsor at Network Rail and he is the contact with the company for the Gilsland project. Refreshments. All welcome.

The campaign to Save Druridge Bay from Open Cast mining has a crowd funding appeal to cover essential legal costs.

South Tyne Sustainability aims to reduce the impact of the community of Haltwhistle and surrounding villages on our environment. This will help individuals, families and our community save money and resources and ensure a more sustainable future for us all.

To join STS contact Sue Seymour, 016977 47359