• Tue. Jul 16th, 2024

North East Connected

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Milkwellburn

Visitors to a Gateshead nature reserve are benefiting from improvements made thanks to funding from an innovative programme run by Northumbrian Water.

The water company’s Bluespaces initiative donated £10,000 to the improvements at Milkwellburn Wood, in the Derwent Valley, which were carried out in partnership with Durham Wildlife Trust who own the nature reserve.

The overall project cost £11,300 and Northumbrian Water’s funding was secured through the team that carried out water network upgrades in nearby Hamsterley Mill.

Work was carried out to reduce flood risk within and downstream of the wood, caused by consistently high rainfall, and drainage infrastructure that was not fit for extreme weather events.  Improvements were also made to footpaths and signage.

The project has seen the application of nature-based solutions, including:

  • Leaky woody dams to help slow the flow of watercourses, reduce blockages from woody debris, and alleviate flood risk downstream. Historically, artificial infrastructure such as concrete has been used to reduce flood risk across the UK, but this low-impact natural solution can also contribute whilst creating new microhabitats for wildlife and using only wood harvested from site.
  • Willow fences to protect bankside erosion. Again, instead of using man-made materials to protect or reinforce eroding banks, the volunteers have created willow fences, all gathered from Durham Wildlife Trust nature reserves. The willow stems will re-root and continue growing, creating a very sustainable, long-lived protective barrier.

Eleven volunteering sessions have been held, helping to create the nature-based solutions and improving footpaths, with more than 548 hours of volunteer time given.

A total of 3.8km of blue spaces have been improved. These are areas around water that are freely accessible to the public via road, footpath, bridleway, or other public right of way, or directly from areas such as country parks or beaches.

Brian Hardy, who was Project Manager for the work at Hamsterley Mill, said: “When we were working in Hamsterley Mill, renewing 3.4km of water mains, the opportunity arose through our Bluespaces initiative to fund Durham Wildlife Trust’s work at Milkwellburn Wood. It was a great opportunity to add real value to the area and the environment, leaving something that will really last and enhance a fantastic amenity for the people who live in and visit the area.”

Ruby Merriman of Durham Wildlife Trust, said: “This project has really helped to shine a light on Milkwellburn Wood, its hydrology and the role of nature-based solutions. There have been numerous indirect benefits of the project, like new skills and experience for our volunteer task force.

“Looking at the hydrology as a whole has helped us identify hidden culvert blockages that were leading to flooding of paths, and identify footpaths and drainage channels in need of repair from water damage. The funding has also enabled us to vastly improve the visitor experience through better signage, footpath improvements and new infrastructure to enhance accessibility. It’s made a huge difference to the site and has improved our management of it going forward.”

By NWater