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Students plant ideas for their future with the help of Follingsby Max
People in the picture (left to right) Mark Dinning - Head of Conservation DWT, Adam Crolla, Lecturer East Durham College, Councillor Linda Green

This month Follingsby Max welcomed the students from East Durham College to showcase the work and on-going land management by Durham Wildlife Trust and WL Straughan towards biodiversity on the 100 acre site located adjacent to Follingsby Park in Gateshead.

27 students from the college’s Houghall Campus, based in Durham were invited along as part of the community engagement event headed up by Durham Wildlife Trust. Durham Wildlife Trust will be collaborating with East Durham College Land and Wildlife students to preserve the site and show what can be achieved if developers place value on the preservation and maintenance of natural wildlife and ecology.

The event promotes an understanding to the students of the need for habitat management and conservation from the initial development stage of a site, and how to use their skills and training to work in the commercial sector, designing and managing landscapes. The students were encouraged to take part in planting the banks of some of the smaller ponds to encourage breeding of the one of the sites recorded and protected species, the great crested newt. WL Straughan assisted with the cutting and placing of the rocks in preparation to build the hibernacula’s, to provide shelter over the winter months.

Discussing the event, Adam Crolla, Lecturer of Land and Wildlife, East Durham College said:

This is a great real-life example of the environmental benefits introduced by Highgrove Group and what they have done above and beyond to increase biodiversity. We have been able to show students the future of the industry and what opportunities they could have to work in the commercial sector alongside charities like Durham Wildlife Trust and environmentally focused developers. The event has opened up their minds and aspirations in their career path and where their passion for ecology could take them.”

Also commenting, Mark Dinning, Head of Conservation, DWT said:

Durham Wildlife Trust has agreed a long-term collaboration on the green infrastructure zone at Follingsby Max. The students from East Durham College were invited along to see what can be achieved on a commercial development in terms of bio-diversity gain from the initial planning stages when all parties are aligned on the same vision. The students learned about the different habitats that exist in and around the site; how these habitats will be maintained, cared for and monitored to ensure wildlife can flourish before, during and long after the site developments are established.”

Further comments from two of the students at East Durham College who took part in the event.

Grace Lawton, year 2 student studying Land & Wildlife Management level 3 Diploma at East Durham College said:

The highlight for me was seeing how they have introduced habitat to encourage wildlife back to the area. It’s really impressive to see the level of work undertaken to the River Don to restore the sites natural ecology.”

James Goddard, year 2 student studying Land & Wildlife Management level 3 Diploma at East Durham College said:

So much work has been done to the outer edges of the site including the bat boxes and creation of the hibernacula’s. The commitment and investment from the developers to encourage wildlife and new species on site is impressive. Seeing this site has opened up my career aspirations of working within the commercial sector to realise biodiversity.”

Speaking about the event, Dave Price Operations Director, Highgrove Group said:

We were keen to showcase the site and what has been achieved through a shared vision and commitment to biodiversity. The scheme has already seen the naturalisation of over a kilometre of The River Don using specialist restoration techniques together with planting of 22,000 trees, pond creation and a variety of environmental improvements. These events helps students to see first-hand how landscape design is essential to ensure wildlife and habitats can thrive on a commercial site.”

In addition, 40 bird nesting boxes have been installed, mainly in the woodland areas. Yet, this is only the start, as more plans are underway to ensure the overall maintenance and development of the green infrastructure zone will encourage and support natural wildlife habitats on site. The site will be monitored over the next five years to ensure biodiversity is being increased, not just maintained.

The collaboration on Follingsby Max promotes an understanding of the need for habitat management and conservation from the initial development stage. Highgrove Group has spearheaded the idea from the outset back in 2017, working with the Council to understand how to bring this forward with their commitment to the on-going management of this new green initiative.