August 19, 2008

Appeal Launched to Save Region’s Vital Grasslands

SOME of the region's wildlife-rich fields are in danger of being lost forever.

Over the past 60 years, a staggering 97% of Britain's wildflower grasslands and meadows have been destroyed. One in five of the nation's wild plants are on the verge of extinction and species- rich grasslands are becoming increasingly rare.

In response to this crisis, Northumberland Wildlife Trust has launched an appeal aimed at protecting one of Northumberland's most threatened and exceptional landscape features for current and future generations to enjoy.

Two years ago the Trust surveyed the rare whin grassland which is only found in Northumberland and limited to areas along the Great Whin Sill. A number of historical sites including Hadrian's Wall and the coastal castles of Bamburgh and Holy Island are also situated on the whin sill.

The results of the survey were quite alarming. A number of the sites which were originally surveyed in 1980 have completely disappeared and those that remain are under imminent threat from scrub, neglect or over-grazing.

Calaminarian grasslands, more popularly known as heavy metal grasslands, are also poised to disappear. These grasslands, found amongst the river shingles of the Tyne at places such as Beltingham and Close House host a number of rare species including spring sandwort, Young's helleborine and alpine pennycress, making them internationally important.

Steve Lowe, Head of Conservation at Northumberland Wildlife Trust, said: "This is our last chance to conserve the natural heritage of the area. Now only a handful of whin grasslands, such as Gunnerton, are in good condition. Once they disappear they will be gone forever and for those under immediate threat it will take years to restore them to their original condition. I would really urge people to support our appeal to ensure that these beautiful areas can be enjoyed by future generations."

Anybody requiring further information on how they can support the appeal or become a conservation volunteer working on the grasslands project can log on at or call (0191) 284-6884.

I would urge people to support our appeal to ensure these areas can be enjoyed by future generations

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