Conservation efforts aim to preserve the beauty of the Northumberland coast

Efforts to stamp out an invasive plant on the Northumberland coast are being stepped up.

By ian smith
Tuesday, 25 June, 2019, 16:50
Efforts are being made to stamp out the pirri-pirri bur on the Northumberland coast, as shown by Coast Care project assistant Kristian Purchase.

The fight against the pirri-pirri bur is just one of the projects being tackled by Coast Care, the initiative working to protect the coast between Berwick and Amble.

The group is perhaps best known for co-ordinating regular beach cleans but of equal importance is its conservation work, including practical tasks and raising awareness of issues.

Last week its focus was on Bamburgh where Coast Care workers, supported by volunteers, were hard at work in the extensive duneland around the castle.

Kristian Purchase, Coast Care project assistant (training and conservation), said: “Natural England have funded the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) to create an app so pirri-pirri can be surveyed, managed and controlled.

“It’s an invasive plant which came to this country in imported wool from New Zealand in the late 19th and early 20th century.

“It established a foothold on Holy Island, in particular, but it has spread due to more people walking along the coast path, especially dog walkers. The burs sometimes get attached to the dog and the seeds disperse.

“It’s going to become more and more of an issue so whenever we find it in this area, we report it and get it removed.

“An important part of our role is also raising awareness of it so we tell our volunteers, they pass the knowledge on to their friends and so on.”

Work has also been undertaken, with the permission of Bamburgh Castle Estates, to remove sycamore saplings which are not native to the duneland ecosystem.

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“They have self-seeded over time but if we allowed them to keep growing they will start to scrup up and the dunes would disappear and become woodland,” explained Kristian.

“The dunes are a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) precisely because of that habitat so if we left the trees to scrup up we would lose the reason for the SSSI and the protection it gives the area.

“We’re controlling their spread by removing them or cutting them down and taking away the leaf litter so they do not re-seed and spread.”

Coast Care has also teamed up with the Northumberland Coast AONB as part of its Accessing Aidan project, a new National Lottery Heritage Fund project which will focus on the remarkable Anglo-Saxon heritage of Bamburgh.

The project is centred around the Bamburgh Ossuary in the crypt of St Aidan's church, making the crypt accessible to the general public once again and creating engaging interactive interpretation.

In advance of creating the new access to the crypt, the team has been cleaning, weeding and preparing the external space around the sub-terranean crypt for the new stairs.

Of course, the team and its volunteer helpers also had time for a beach clean on their visit to Bamburgh last week and picked up 27kg of waste material from the dunes, including glass, plastic bottles, bin bags, dog poo bags, fishing gear and even picnic items.

Coast Care is a partnership delivered by the Northumberland Wildlife Trust, the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Seahouses Development Trust. The project is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Extra volunteers are always welcome. Visit http://www.coast-care.co.uk/ for more information.