Thousands of new saplings are beginning to take root in the new community wildlife area being created as part of the operations of the Bradley surface mine in County Durham after North East employer Banks Mining completed the first phase of tree planting at the site.
Around 3,500 trees including oak, birch, rowan, bird cherry, alder, holly, hawthorn, hazel and crab apple have been planted onto an initial 3.2 hectares of land in the north west corner of the site as part of Banks’ progressive landscaping work at Bradley.
The new trees are between 40cm and 60cm tall, which is the optimum size at which they can become established in the soil and grow quickly, and the species that have been chosen to replicate the area’s existing woodland mix.
The edge of the new woodland has also been shaped in a ‘scalloped’ fashion, which maximises the most diverse “edge” habitat, helps to provide a varied structure for different insects, birds and mammals and thus encourages local biodiversity.
Around 10,500 trees in total will be planted at the Bradley surface coal mine during the creation of the new wildlife reserve, which is due to be completed by August 2021.
Banks Mining has planted more than 1.2 million trees across all the 113 surface mine sites it has restored across Scotland and northern England over the last four decades.
As well as a mixture of a new woodlands, the final landscaping of the Bradley site will contain a diverse range of ecological habitats including wildflower grassland, species rich hedgerows with hedgerow trees, ponds and footpaths alongside agricultural land.
Mark Simmons, landscape architect at Banks Mining, says: “Tree planting is an essential part of all our surface mine landscaping schemes. Trees give structure and pattern to the landscape and can be designed with different structures and species to provide a great diversity of wildlife habitats along with valuable recreational spaces.
“Scalloping the edges of the woodland, rather than having a sharply-defined boundary, creates a series of graduated zones between the trees and the neighbouring open area, with different species of wildlife able to make use of different parts of this edge habitat.
“This new tree and shrub planting is the first part of landscaping works for the creation of the new wildlife area at Bradley. The trees can be establishing now so they’re more mature by the time the main site is progressively landscaped as our operations progress and we’ll be planting thousands more trees as work on site progresses.”
Forty-five jobs are currently being directly supported at the Bradley site, alongside others in the local supply chain, and the coal that Banks produces is supplied to a diverse range of customers around the UK.
Mark Dowdall, environment and community director at The Banks Group, adds: “We have a long track record of creating successful new landscapes for people to enjoy at the surface mines we’ve worked.
“As well as providing local employment and contract opportunities, and contributing positively to the UK’s balance of payments, Bradley and our other North East mining sites are helping to meet the UK’s continuing need for industrial coal and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport to our customers throughout the UK.
“Our country still needs coal for a range of essential industrial uses, such as steel, cement, horticulture, breweries, paper mills, brickworks, food production, household coal and briquette manufacturers and heritage railways, and an increasing recent shortfall in domestic supply has meant that this need has increasingly had to be met through coal imports from distant locations such as the US, Colombia and most especially Russia.
“Russian coal import volumes doubled between 2016 and 2018, yet the amount of greenhouse gas emissions generated by just the transportation of these imports is between five and seven times higher than the equivalent figure for transporting coal mined in the north east of England to our customers in the UK.
“We can both mine and transport the coal from our surface mines in North East England to industrial customers in the UK with significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions than are released from just transporting these coal imports over thousands of miles.”
Founded in County Durham in 1976, Banks Mining has so far operated and restored 111 surface mines across Scotland and northern England.
Alongside its Bradley workforce, it also employs around 170 people at its Shotton and Brenkley Lane surface mines near Cramlington in Northumberland.
For further information on the Bradley surface mine project, please visit www.banksgroup.co.uk/projects/mining/bradley