Revitalising Redesdale | Lydia Speakman
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Author: Lydia Speakman

Redesdale supports many habitats and species of local, national and international importance but good quality data on these is often missing. Many widespread species are often under-recorded and many areas of semi-natural habitat have not been properly classified and mapped. This problem affects the entire valley but is particularly obvious in land outside of the Northumberland National Park, where in the past there has been less impetus to collect environmental data. The lack of data for the area causes practical problems for conservation activity within Redesdale and presents a threat to the valley’s natural heritage. If the locations of key species...

This project aims to promote a series of walking and cycling routes around Redesdale predominately using the existing rights of way network for the benefit of local people, but also to establish Redesdale as a place to enjoy a range of good walks and cycle rides, which links fantastic cultural and natural heritage within a special landscape setting. Walking A series of circular walks around the main villages in the valley (12-15 routes in total) that will be designed to link into other projects being developed under Revitalising Redesdale such as the restoration of the Ridsdale Ironworks and the Mill and Whiskershiel...

The Pennine Way National Trail cuts across the western edge of Redesdale. There are a number of sections of the Pennine Way which are very boggy and wet underfoot. The 2.68 km section around Gibshiel and Padon Hill is in a particularly poor state, forcing many walkers to use a lower parallel route along a local road and forest track which means that they miss out on stunning views across Redesdale from both Padon Hill and Brownrigg Head. A second section north of Byrness is also being surveyed to establish the cost of improvements of the route through the forest to...

Whitelee National Nature Reserves is one of Britain's most important upland nature reserves, of European conservation importance due to its active blanket bog and heather heaths. The blanket bog is home to a variety of plants including sphagnum moss, cloudberry, bog asphodel and cotton grass. On the lower slopes the heather moorland is home to birds such as red grouse, and birds of prey including merlin, buzzard, peregrine falcon and hen harrier. One of the moor's most striking insects is the day-flying northern eggar moth and butterflies such as ringlet, small heath and green-veined white are seen in summer. Skylark,...

Broadleaf woodland is primarily confined to the sides of the river Rede and its tributaries within incised cleughs, but there are also areas of ancient semi-natural woodland such as Tod Law Wood, near Rochester which contains oaks, birch and alder, remnants of the ancient Royal Hunting forest of Redesdale. A number of hedgerows also contain mature trees and are an important resource for pollinating insects. The River Rede Improvement study has identified a number of areas where there would be benefit in extending tree planting near the river to stabilise embankments, but there are also other areas where it would...

Over 150 potential meadows have been identified within Redesdale which have the potential to be significantly enhanced botanically to create species rich hay meadows, with iconic species such as wood cranesbill, hawkbit and greater burnet. Hay meadow management is also an important part of upland stock farm management to provide winter forage. This project aims to increase the floral diversity of hay meadows and the network for pollinators in Redesdale focusing on meadows, greenspaces within village hubs and along verges and lay-bys. There are number of meadows in Redesdale in stewardship schemes, but the farmers don’t have access to the relevant...

Much of the River Rede catchment flows from the blanket bogs on the high hills around the valley. These peatlands help regulate the flow of the river and provide a source of water through the year, even in times of drought. Damage to these peatlands through past practices including inappropriate grazing, drainage and burning has resulted in degraded areas of peat. These often drain more quickly than a pristine bog and the erosion complexes allow water to pick up brown colouration and particles of peat. Increased silt in the rivers results in poorer water quality making it less suitable for...

The remains of the Roman Fort at High Rochester were for two centuries the northernmost fort of the Roman Empire, one of the best preserved archaeological sites within Northumberland National Park. The complete walled circuit is accessible, including west gate and interval tower. It sits within a landscape of Temporary Camps, the remarkable Petty Knowes Roman cemetery and the major route of Dere Street. It also commands a high point in the valley and existed within a wider landscape of “native” Romano-British settlements and farmsteads. The Fort may have been sited on a previous Iron Age settlement. The project The principal aim...

The battle of Otterburn was fought on the 19th August 1388 between the young Harry ‘Hotspur’ Percy and the Earl of Douglas. Today the site of the battlefield is marked by Percy’s Cross. It is designated by Historic England as a Registered Battlefield. For further details of the battle of Otterburn can be found on this link to the Battlefields Trust.  The battle of Otterburn The project The battle of Otterburn is one of the best documented medieval battles thanks to the accounts of the medieval historian Jean Froissart. We plan to work with landscape and battlefield archaeologists to reconstruct the medieval...

The remains of the engine house at Ridsdale are a visible and enigmatic reminder of Northumberland’s industrial past, a short lived venture yet with a lasting legacy.  The construction of the Ridsdale Ironworks saw the creation of the settlement of Ridsdale to house workers brought into this remote area and produced pig iron for the construction of Robert Stephenson’s High Level Bridge in Newcastle. The engine house, although generally sound, is a Scheduled Monument at Risk, with serious structural issues at a number of locations requiring attention to remove this important monument from the Heritage at Risk Register. It is the principal aim of the project to save this locally important monument for current and future generations, but to do so in a manner which will realise the benefits of this important part of Redesdale’s heritage at a local and regional level. The main outcomes of the project will be:
  • The engine house will be saved from further deterioration and collapse, and removed from the Heritage at Risk register;
  • Better public access to the site, with a linked walking trail;
  • Better on and off-site interpretation to communicate the story of the ironworks and its relevance to the history of iron production in Northumberland and in the context of the 19th century iron industry in England;
  • Development of an app with audio commentary to tell the story of the ironworks, the people who worked there and the involvement of Lord Armstrong;
  • Opportunity for a community history project.