A group of passionate volunteers who have given up their time to bring a neglected wildlife habitat back to life have been recognised with a Caring for Your Environment award.

Over the last two years, Jim Wood and his colleagues Paul Brown, Graham Smith and Gary Hammond – all of whom work at Caterpillar in Peterlee – have dedicated their free time to restoring a stretch of Wapping Burn at Peterlee Industrial Estate.

As well as improving 300 metres of previously damaged channel, their work has led to a new wetland habitat for water voles as well as more diverse vegetation.

The County Durham Environment Partnership, of which Durham County Council is a leading partner, presents Caring for Your Environment awards to individuals and groups who are committed to protecting and improving their local environment.

Niall Benson, principal heritage coast officer at Durham County Council, said: “Recognising the dedication of these wonderfully passionate volunteers is the least we can do and their work raises awareness within our wider community that real change is possible.

“The work they have done has also reduced the risk of local flooding and this stretch is now likely to become designated as a Local Wildlife Site as a result of these improvements.”

Since 2014, The Castle Eden Catchment Improvement Project has been co-ordinated through the Coastal Streams Partnership and has seen local businesses get involved in improving the burn.

It is now hoping more businesses and volunteers will get involved to help manage the newly restored sites and deliver further improvements to other sections downstream.

They propose to host a series of monthly team building sessions for local businesses to help carry out weed control, litter picks, wetland and tree planting and vegetation management to continue the rehabilitation of the wildlife corridor in the heart of Peterlee Industrial Estate.

Volunteer Jim Wood said: “It’s great to see all of the hard work coming together since I first got involved with the design stage of the project.

“The work being delivered on the burn is going to make a huge difference to the local environment and we all need to pull together and do our bit to keep it clean and tidy.”

The project has received funding from the Environment Agency, East Durham Area Action Partnership and Northumbrian Water and delivered by the Wear Rivers Trust, with significant in kind help from Natural England and Durham Wildlife Trust and officers from Durham County Council.

Any local businesses who want to get involved should contact Steve Hudson of Wear Rivers Trust on 07880189231 or email steve.hudson@wear-rivers-trust.org.uk. No long term commitment is required.

For more details on the award or the work of the County Durham Environment Partnership, go to www.countydurhampartnership.co.uk or follow #altogethergreener on social media.