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Friday, September 30, 2011

Schools help village get back to nature at new wildlife reserve

Daniel Hadfield , Mrs Emma Wilson ,Grace Lambert , Olivia Marrion
Kyle Roberts and Joe Burrel
A NEW nature reserve has been opened in Ponteland after the stunning transformation of a pond.
Students and staff from Ponteland High and Middle Schools took action to clean up the neglected site, which was full of rubbish, in 2009 and after an exciting discovery other organisations came on board.
The reserve was unveiled yesterday at a public opening ceremony and it is hoped that even more wildlife will regularly visit the pond and surrounding woodland, which are within the grounds shared by the two schools.
The area was being misused by small groups of youths engaged in anti-social behaviour, such as vandalism and littering, so it was given extra attention by police and community wardens.
Once these problems had been substantially reduced, students, school staff and Chairman of Governors Mike Brown joined forces to tidy up the area, prune trees and clear the pond.
Pupil Hannah Patterson spotted a number of tiny amphibians in the pond's murky waters and Northumberland Wildlife Trust Officer Steve Lowe confirmed they were great crested newts — a protected species whose numbers are dwindling nationally due to the loss of their wetland habitat.
A project to create a nature reserve was then formed.
Outside funding and partner organisations were secured by Ponteland High's Business Manager Gordon Baldwin and Ponteland West county councillor Veronica Jones.
Additional support for the scheme came from Northumberland County Council's Local Multi-Agency Problem Solving group, as well as other schools and community agencies.
A focus group was set up and organised actions such as fencing, footpaths and habitat management. Litter sweeps were also conducted by the Community Payback Team from Northumberland Probation Service.
EcoNorth, the ecological consultancy for Northumberland Wildlife Trust, recently installed an interpretation board, nest boxes and a pond-dipping platform for use by students.
Ponteland High School Headteacher Stephen Prandle said: "This project is a prime example of the excellent results that can be achieved when students take the initiative and collaborate closely with agencies and the wider community.
"Everyone involved deserves the highest praise for their initiative and hard work."
The pond and woodland are a magnet for several breeds of birds, insects, and other amphibians such as frogs.
The project was named runner-up in this year's county council-backed Love Northumberland awards.
Part of the prize that the schools received were 50 broad-leaved woodland trees, which will be planted in January.
There are also plans to install some countryside seats to benefit the local community.