Finding my feet in Co Durham!

And finally a blog from The Grasslands Trust’s newest staff member!!   Hi, I’m Paul Evans and I have recently taken on the role of Conservation Officer for the North East of England, looking after a suite of eight grassland sites located across Co. Durham and Northumberland.  It’s early days for me up here, and winter is probably not the best time to introduce myself to some of what I am told are wonderfully species-rich  grassland sites, but even amongst the brown and frosted grassland swards there is a hint of what is to come.  Masses of seed heads from last year’s flowers still last stand upright amongst the taller grown grassland areas, and looking closer at ground level there are signs of a few herb species just started to emerge.

So what of the weeks ahead.  Well my predecessor Claire has been very busy organising works across most of our sites –helping to restore and enhance the grassland interest.  Volunteers and contractors have been cutting and bashing away encroaching scrub and several kilometres of stockproof fencing have also been erected.  Plans are also in place to install water supplies to two of the sites.

Gorse Removal at Cross Gill Durham Coast

And all of this means that over the course of this year we will be re-introducing grazing animals to two SSSI grasslands that have not seen sight of livestock for many many years.  And today maybe I have lost that title of The Grassland Trust newest staff member – as we welcome the first of our ‘grazing team’ to Arcot Hall Grasslands. Two Exmoor ponies!

Exmoor Ponies

Working with  our local conservation grazing scheme, and with help from the Northumberland Wildlife Trust we are now in a position to implement a programme of grazing regime on this site.  Over the next few weeks, these two ponies will be joined by several others, and then a small herd of Highland cattle will also move in.  The Arcot Hall Grasslands are in dire need of grazing as there is a lot of encroaching scrub, and the grassland itself is very rank. The plan is to graze quite hard over the coming year to remove some of the built up ‘litter layer’, but at this stage we are not being overly prescriptive about stock numbers.  As time goes on we will get a better feel about the grazing regime we need, and we will definitely be learning as we go along.  But it’s great to be getting this started.

Anyhow enough from me for the moment.  In future blogs I will introduce you to more of The Grasslands Trust sites up here in the North East, and some of the issues we face in managing the grasslands.

And a day like today, it definitely isn’t ‘grim up north’!  Bright blue skies and a definite hint of spring in the air!

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About grasslandstrust

The Grasslands Trust is the only national UK charity that focuses entirely on saving grasslands that are valuable because they are rich in wildlife, history, or for other reasons.
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