The volunteers of the Clara Vale Conservation Group (CVCG) look after the Clara Vale Nature Reserve, adjacent to the village of Clara Vale, near Gateshead, Tyne and Wear. The 7.5 acre Local Nature Reserve is a haven for a rich variety of resident and visiting wildlife, flora and fauna. Here you can find out about what we do, what you can see and how we can all help ensure the Reserve thrives for future visitors to enjoy.

Stanner, or Stannar House – gone but not forgotten

Helen McGuinness, a former childhood resident of Clara Vale, got in touch recently to shed some light on Stannar House, long since demolished, which was situated at the eastern edge of the village on what is now the Orchard:

‘I lived in Clara Vale in the mid 1950’s as a child with my siblings and parents (Syd and Grace Walker). My father worked in the pit. We lived in Stannar House (please note that is how we always knew it as, StannAR and not StannER). We moved out in 1964 shortly before it was demolished. It was a fantastic big old house. At the start of it’s life it was one large farmhouse but over time it was turned into two semi detached houses – each house was very large. We were lucky to have the barns at our side and as children we loved to play in them. We used to hang onto the mesh fence waving to the trains as they went past. I still have dreams about Stannar House. I often go back to have a look around Clara Vale but always hang around where Stannar House used to be. I have very many happy memories of there.’

Helen has kindly found some old photos that her father Sydney Walker took in the mid-50’s, reproduced with her kind permission below. And below that, are two map sections, the first is from the late 1800’s, showing ‘Stanner House’ was in place before the Maryside and Tyne View houses were built, and another section from 1962, just a few years before the pit closed and the house was demolished. It is also interesting to see the development of the pit and village in the mapping detail, over a period of around 60 years.

Click on any image to enlarge:

Big Garden Birdwatch 2018 – Result and pictures

We were delighted with the turnout for this community event in the nature reserve on Sunday 28th January.

Conservation Group members set up a stall in the Reserve, offering free refreshments, cake and biscuits, which seemed to be a good incentive for visitors to come and take part in observing the birds in the reserve at both the hides.  There was a steady stream of families, and children enjoyed making their own bird feeders using very sticky lard and peanut butter, mmmm…. (see images below).  There was some storytelling too.

Despite the blustery conditions, there was a good bird count, the highlight being a group of 11 Yellowhammers who swooped down to feed in front of the Woodland hide.

Full results for the RSPB one hour bird count are below and have been submitted to their database. But first, take a look at a few of the images from a super community morning gathering, click on any image to enlarge and scroll:



Final count for the Big Garden Birdwatch, Clara Vale Nature Reserve:

Tree sparrow – 15
Blue tit – 5
Great tit – 3
Long tailed tit – 1
Coal tit – 1
Robin – 3
Blackbird 2
Bullfinch – 2
Chaffinch – 6
Pheasant – 6
Mallard – 7
Nuthatch – 2
Magpie – 1
Moorhen – 3
Kingfisher – 1
Yellowhammer – 11
Wren – 1
Dunnock – 2

These are combined for the 2 hides with the maximum numbers taken  so we’ve not double counted.   Also 3 roe deer seen.

We’d also like to thank those people who donated a total of £16.60 to our funds.

Clara Vale Nature Reserve shortlisted for Countryfile Magazine Award

Now in their seventh year, the BBC Countryfile Magazine Awards 2018 are a celebration of the British countryside and its people, from mighty landmarks and outstanding national parks to the best nature reserves and finest rural pubs.

The Clara Vale Nature Reserve has been nominated by readers of the BBC Countryfile Magazine for the Nature Reserve of the Year 2018 category, then shortlisted by the Countryfile panel of experts, gathered to review all of the submissions, and whittle the nominees down to five in each category.

Countryfile Magazine Judge Phoebe Smith says: “It’s a very small site that was saved by the local community rallying together to save it from being developed. It shows the dedication from the community and how you can be small and still effective.”

Voting commences on Friday January 19 until Monday 5 March. Votes can be cast here

You know what to do, thank you for your vote!

Winners will be announced mid-March in an online ceremony and will appear in the May issue of the magazine, which goes on sale 13 April.

The Shortlist – Nature Reserve of the Year 2018:
RSPB Ham Wall, Somerset
Rodley NNR, Leeds
RSPB Arne, Dorset
Clara Vale, Tyne and Wear
Loch Druidibeg, South Uist

RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch 2018

Join in with us at the Clara Vale Nature Reserve, as once again  we take part in the this national birdwatching event on Sunday 28th January 2018 between 10:30am and 12:00 noon.

The idea is to count the maximum number of each species seen in exactly one hour and submit the results to the RSPB. This helps them build a national picture of trends in the UK bird population. More information about what they do with the data here.

  • We will be offering free refreshments in the bird hides for those interested in taking part, come along and help us record the number of birds seen;
  • Learn more about the birds you see, with help from birdwatchers and guides;
  • Free children’s activities based on birds and pondlife in the Reserve.





Winter News Roundup

Its been a very busy Autumn and early Winter for the Conservation Group.  As we near the festive season and look forward to putting out feet up, here’s a summary with photos of everything that’s been going on, click on any photo to enlarge –

Reserve Pathways and Bridges
This substantial project, aided by the Tyne and Wear Community Foundation was completed at the end of November. Contractors with heavy equipment cut the pathways, laying stone and topping with fine chippings before machine rolling. This surface will continue to harden over the winter for a lasting result, more usable by those with buggies and wheelchairs than the old muddy paths. The new pathways are a long-awaited improvement to the Reserve:

The large bridge over the pond was dismantled and refurbished, while a new small bridge was also built for the lower pond. Both bridges are wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs and buggies. The lower pond area has also been dredged and extended to create a larger shallow pond that will have a dipping platform, ideal for future educational events. This should be built and in place by Spring 2018.

Thanks to all the volunteers who helped us on the bridge building days, it was fantastic to see people turn out to help:


Charcoal Burning
Our new charcoal burner was commissioned on 25th November, when we burnt a batch of willow, coppiced from the Reserve earlier this year. Under expert guidance we prepared, loaded and lit the burner. After a substantial amount of smoke initially, the furnace settled down and after a few hours we had a batch of usable charcoal, ideal for art, or we may use some for a future BBQ event. Willow charcoal burns quite quickly and we may make some hardwood charcoal to sell in the future, but we’re happy with our first attempt:


Exmoor Ponies
We have two Exmoor Ponies on loan from the Moorland Mousie Trust for the next few weeks. They are doing a great job of munching through all the scrub, helping to leave an environment which will encourage meadow plants in the Spring. They are very well tempered, but please keep dogs at a safe distance and on a lead as you wander through the Reserve.


Building Bridges on the Reserve

Come along Saturday 11th November10am to help build a new bridge and repair an old one!

As part of the project, funded by Tyne and Wear Community Foundation, to improve access for everyone in the nature reserve, the new path has been put in and we will be building a new bridge and widening the old bridge by the pond. So come along and share your skills or learn new ones and help make the nature reserve a place everyone can explore and enjoy.

Reserve Pathworks Under Way

Contractors are due to start work in the Reserve any day now, cutting pathways and dredging ponds. Please be aware of and keep a safe distance from machinery and work in progress. This could take place over several days.

Grant aid only pays for part of this large project and the Conservation Group will be recruiting volunteers to assist with its completion, to include bridge and jetty building, over one or more Community days, most likely during November.

Keep an eye on the website and notice board for updates, come and be part of it!

Apple Day – A Sweet Success

The Conservation Group were delighted with the turnout and support for Apple Day on Sunday 15th October, which this year saw an extended range of activities aimed to broaden the appeal of our community orchard.  Having secured funding for new equipment including an apple crusher/press from the Community Foundation, this was our first opportunity to engage the community by taking part in making apple juice.

In the Orchard, the steady production of juice proved to be great fun, with lots of participants collecting, chopping, mashing, pressing and bottling!  Children especially loved turning the masher wheel and seeing the apple pieces drop into the bucket below, while those a little stronger could turn the press to extract the juice.  

We were also fortunate to have on hand local experts Tom and Peter from Wylam Community Orchard and Jon from the 69 Orchard, who shared their expertise in identification of varieties, tree husbandry and apple juice production.

In the autumn sunshine, families with younger children enjoyed interactive storytelling and apple art activities, while at the Village Hall, tree rents were paid and delicious homemade cakes devoured alongside refreshments.

The Conservation Group would sincerely like to thank everyone who contributed to make the event such a success, including the cake bakers, kitchen volunteers, tree rent takers, John and Tom who gave their time, expertise and loaned equipment, Malcolm the storyteller, Veronika for childrens’ art, Karen for the silk painting. Special mention to Steve ‘Scrumpy’ Hilton, who put in hours of preparation work behind the scenes, which included making the successful grant funding application for the apple press and new equipment.

Below is a gallery of photos taken from the event to enjoy, just click to enlarge:


Summer Pruning Day

There was a great turnout at the summer pruning day on 3rd September.

Local fruit tree expert Tom Gledhill from Wylam shared his expertise and advised us on the summer pruning method to increase next year’s crop. After a morning’s work we all enjoyed a delicious picnic lunch.

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Our community orchard events this year have gone from strength to strength and when our apple press arrives soon, we expect even more folk will be keen to get involved.

Our community orchard Apple Day event is scheduled for Sunday 15th October, when the Conservation Group will be putting on a range of apple-themed activities and taking tree rents for 2017/18.