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Chalking up a success in Prudhoe

Wildlife is blooming in a corner of Prudhoe thanks to a group being supported by Northumberland County Council and Northumberland Wildlife Trust.

The Spetchells Conservation Interest Group (SCIG) have been working hard over the past year to ensure a rosier future for the rare wildlife on the chalk hills at Tyne Riverside Country Park in Prudhoe, known as The Spetchells.

The group has raised over £5,000 and put in countless volunteer hours to remove invasive cotoneaster shrubs from the top of the hill, making the land once more ideal for solitary mining bees and the dingy skipper butterfly, as well as a range of specialist chalkland plants such as wall rocket and dyer’s greenweed.

Funding has come from a range of supporters, including Northumberland County Council’s Community Trust, Greggs, SCA, Thompson’s of Prudhoe, Jewson’s, Waitrose and Northumberland Wildlife Trust. This has enabled the group to buy information boards, training and tools to enable work to take place.

The County Council’s Green Spaces team and Northumberland Wildlife Trust enabled the project to go ahead and also ensured the volunteer work was supported with logistics and tool storage.

The Spetchells are an artificial landscape of chalk, created as a by product of the old ICI factory that was on the site SCA now occupies. The area is unique in the north east of England and now hosts the biggest chalk grassland habitat in the region. Many unusual species of plants and animals are found there, and SCIG formed last year to tackle some of the issues on site that now threaten them.

Councillor Glen Sanderson, Northumberland County Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment and Local Services, said: "We’re delighted at the finished work on the signs and the ongoing support of the very knowledgeable volunteers of SCIG, which have enabled huge progress on site through their efforts.

“The site is a real asset to the local community and is already attracting a variety of endangered species.”

Dr Keith Shaw, who has spearheaded the group, said: "The area is a popular beauty spot, but there were real concerns for the botany and insect life which needed huge effort to overcome.

"We are so pleased to now offer signage to help people understand the site better, and with all the support we have had in returning this site to favourable condition, although there are further challenges ahead."

Naomi Waite, Magnificent Meadows officer for Northumberland Wildlife Trust, said: "This site had been designated a special Local Wildlife Site many years ago for its populations of Dingy Skipper butterflies, but the whole site is important. It’s great so many people have helped reclaim our wildlife on site, it’s already making a big difference in 2017."

The group will continue to meet to improve the grassland, offer talks to the public and monitor the wildlife. For more information contact countryside@northumberland.gov.uk

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