The rain-drenched lowlands of County Durham offer perfect conditions for the formation of wetlands.
These places where water and dry land meet are home to a wide range of species, from dragonflies and damselflies to wading curlew and snipe; from carnivorous plants to flitting butterflies.
Over time wetlands can change their character, from wet grassland to carrs (Viking for ‘boggy woods’)
However, the traditional management of wetlands stopped this process, allowing species that live in these areas to flourish and thrive.
In the past our ancestors began to change the character of our wetlands by harvesting sedge and reed for thatch, and cutting and drying peat for fuel.
Our water consumption means less water for nature. Wetland loss and pollution has intensified a water crisis threatening all life:
Here’s a not-so-fun fact:
Nearly 90% of the world’s wetlands lost since 1700’s, those remaining are disappearing three times faster than forests.
In more recent years, the traditional management of wetlands has been replaced by industrial-scale use throughout the world. Raised bogs especially have been (and in some places still are being) destroyed or degraded through industrial peat-cutting for fuel or use in gardens.
Wetlands vary greatly. Some wetlands are very extensive, such as blanket bog, while others are naturally more localised, such as upland spring and flush. In other cases, particularly in the lowlands, drainage and industrial-scale peat-cutting has reduced or destroyed many wetlands. Areas of raised bog, fen and reedbed are now a fraction of what they once were.
Some types of wetlands are now legally protected, but many are still not in good condition.
The Discover Brightwater Landscape Project is a National Lottery Heritage Fund supported project that aims to reveal, restore and celebrate the heritage of the Brightwater area. This includes its built, natural and cultural heritage.
Our four-year project is already making a big difference to local water quality, following work with Tees Rivers Trust and teams of volunteers to remove some of the weeds, knock back some of the invasive vegetation and install flow deflectors and new gravel to help improve the river’s flow and to make the gravel beds more welcoming to the trout and other fish in the river.
Brightwater has a target of creating 50 ha of restored or created wetland habitat and habitat improvements to 10 km of the River Skerne
Sightings of otters in the water at Darlington and further up at Brafferton are promising signs that our improved wetland and the cleaner river is already having a positive impact on our environment.
Our flagship project is the creation of a new wetland nature reserve, Bishops Fen, just to the north of Hardwick Park, which will be created and managed by Durham Wildlife Trust.
This project will contribute to the restoration of an enhanced wildlife corridor along the River Skerne linked to other sites.
We are also charged with establishing the feasible Great North Fen as a legacy project.
The Great North Fen will be a patchwork of approximately 400 ha of connected restored in-river, ponds, fens and carrs habitats surrounding the River Skerne.
This will form part of our Skerne Nature Recovery 25 year master plan.
Some of our projects have been put on hold due to the current Covid-19 restrictions however we hope there will be lots of new volunteer opportunities later this year.
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