Student conservation societies from two of the UK’s leading universities have been getting stuck in at Northumberland National Park.
National Park rangers welcomed the volunteer groups from Newcastle and Leeds Universities, who joined in with conservation projects at sites across the Park to get some practical work experience.
The Newcastle University Conservation Society got hands-on helping the rangers to thin a woodland area at Walltown Country Park.
The site of a former industrial quarry, Northumberland National Park Authority has spent almost 20 years restoring Walltown Country Park back to nature, working hard to re-establish natural woodland and habitats.
The conservation value of the work carried out by the volunteers is twofold. Thinning the woodland helps to establish more sustainable habitats for wildlife, while also helping to improve public access for leisure and recreational purposes.
Students from Leeds University took part in a residential weekend of conservation activities. They joined National Park rangers at Pundershaw blanket bog, an internationally important, 6000-year old peat bog near Kielder Forest. The group removed Sitka Spruce saplings to prevent the peat from drying out and damaging the habitat’s unique water and carbon capturing abilities.
The students were also taken on a guided walk on the Hadrian’s Wall National Trail with a National Park volunteer to show them the diversity of the Northumbrian landscape and the important role of conservation in preserving the area for future generations.
Dave Richardson, volunteer and apprenticeships development officer at Northumberland National Park Authority, said:
“Engaging with groups of young people and teaching them how to care for the environment is an important part of our conservation work, as only through education can we ensure the longevity of the National Park.
“Many people have the misconception that volunteering is only for the older generations, but we actively encourage people of all ages to come and have a go through our various volunteer schemes and young ranger opportunities.
“We were delighted to welcome the student groups from Newcastle and Leeds universities to the National Park and I’d like to thank both groups for their hard work and enthusiasm.
“For the group from Newcastle University in particular, on the day they came to carry out the work at Walltown, the weather was absolutely foul, torrential rain and sleet, so we owe them an even bigger thank you for their efforts in helping us.
“We hope they’ll return for another visit in the spring when fingers crossed, we might have some better weather!”
Northumberland National Park Authority is keen to engage more young people in its volunteering activities. The Park is now recruiting for its spring 2018 Young Volunteer Ranger programme. If you’re aged between 16 and 25 and interested in this placement scheme, visit www.nnpa.org.uk/placements for more details.
Laura Melrose, president of Newcastle University Conservation Society, said:
“Having the opportunity to come and volunteer with the National Park is a real privilege, as we not only have the chance to help protect and conserve the environment first hand, but also develop vital skills we can use in our future careers.
“The Newcastle University Conservation Society looks forward to getting involved with the National Park again soon.”