Officially a Reserve!
After many weeks of uncertainty, to the delight and relief of all supporting the conservation area proposal, the Inspector agreed with the Conservation Group and recommended the Pit Yard site should become a Local Nature Reserve. Indeed, he went further and recommended that the whole village, including the adjacent Bog Wood, should become a Conservation Area. His main reason for this was that Clara Vale was one of the very few colliery villages in the old Durham coalfields to retain most of its original layout. It had not expanded nor had it been swallowed up by surrounding development.
Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council (GMBC), owners of the iste, accepted all of the Inspector’s recommendations and the village, Pit Yard and Bog Wood became a Conservation Area in February 1989. The ageing Sycamores in the Pit Yard were now protected.
With support from GMBC and their reclamation grant, the first priorities were to remove remaining buildings, apply new topsoil and fence in the Reserve site, to protect and encourage habitats for a variety of plants and animals. A pond was created, with a bridge built over the stream feeding into it and the outfall diverted to create a small marshland. Grassland areas were managed, boundary hedges planted and additional patches of woodland added.
Later came the creation of further ponds with bird-friendly habitats, on the site of disused tennis courts and a bowling green within the Conservation area. Two bird hides were built.
Officially granted Local Nature Reserve status in 1995, today the Reserve and bird sanctuary attract a wide range of wildlife for all to enjoy – a superb testament to the dedication of the early volunteer campaigners who worked tirelessly, not just to win the argument, but then to go out and make their vision a reality; doing the spadework, managing the Reserve year after year, helping nature transform the former industrial landscape into an accessible opportunity for people to observe a rich variety of wildlife, flora and fauna in a relatively compact, yet natural environment.
In recent times the Conservation Group have applied for and been awarded grant funding for projects aimed at maintaining the site for future generations, including structural items like new fencing, pathways and bridges, improving access for those less able-bodied and the purchase of tools and equipment for educational incentives.
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