Whin grasslands are closely associated with the Great Whin Sill upon which Hadrian’s Wall is located. The thin soils found there are base-rich but nutrient poor and prone to drought, which has led to the development of a species-rich sward with a distinctive flora.
Calaminarian grassland is found on alluvial shingle deposits that were contaminated by waste from the historic mining of lead, silver, zinc, barium and fluorspar. A short, open grassland has developed that is dominated by species that are tolerant of toxic metals, low nutrient levels, drought and grazing. The River Tyne and South Tyne valleys contain globally significant calaminarian grasslands as a result of the region’s lead mining heritage, but there has been a considerable loss of these unusual habitats over the last fifty years due largely to encroachment by gorse and other species.
Northumberland Wildlife Trust are the lead Save Our Magnificent Meadows partner in Northumberland and the project sites are:
We’ve now added 2 extra sites to the project; Embleton Quarry (a whin quarry) and the Spetchells (the only bit of chalk grassland in Northumberland). Here we’ve started removing non-native invasive cotoneasters to re-establish the grassland flora.
Across all the calaminarian sites we have been completing our soil stripping to provide new habitat for the key calaminarian species. To give them a helping hand we’ve grown on these species as plug plants from locally sourced seed. We are continuing to control the scrub and non-native species that threaten these habitats.
Scrub and invasive species removal has continued on the whin grassland sites. We’ve soil stripped areas to re-expose the whin stone beneath and planted out the rare whin species across crags and slabs.
Lots of conservation work has been taking place over the winter including clearance of birch and willow trees at Walltown Quarry, which is helping to secure the future of the newly discovered wild chive population on site as well as other rare species such as common cudweed.
In Northumberland, Magnificent Meadows is delivered with support from the Community Foundation for Tyne & Wear and Northumberland, National Trust, National History Society of Northumbria, North Penines AONB and Northumberland National Park Authority.