Author: Sue Antrobus

Wildlife Recorders Conference 2017

Wildlife enthusiasts and got together for the fourth annual Tees Valley Wildlife Recorders Conference at Preston Park on Sunday 24th September.

This event is a partnership between ERIC NE and the Tees Valley Wildlife Trust with the aim of promoting the recording and monitoring of wildlife in the Tees Valley.

Here are copies of the presentations

Why your wildlife records matter – Paul Stevens – Presentation

Capturing our Coast – Jacqui Pocklington- Presentation

Could you be an invertebrate champion?- Malcolm Birtle- Presentation

How are our bees and pollinators doing? – Jim Turnball –  Presentation

A year in the life of the oak tree  – Sue Antrobus  –Presentation

How volunteer groups are monitoring the health of our rivers and streams- Sara Cox –Presentation

Lady BlueBell Beckons you to an adventure!

The sun shone on us, on Thursday 13th July, at Blue Bell Beck as we installed 5 AMAZING sculptures, created by Steve Iredale and funded by Tesco Bags of Help.
A big shout out to the Friends of Blue Bell Beck for all their work in the run up to the day and to the One Planet Pioneers apprentices who assisted the friends on the day. Teamwork makes the dream work!
The trail aims to attract visitors to the beck and take them on an imagination fueling adventure as the explore the site.
They are all installed in positions that aren’t immediately obvious from far away, to enhance the feeling of discovery as they are revealed as you walk around a corner or cross a bridge. You’ll also need to get up close, or even walk around them to see all they have to offer!
As you look through the gallery, wonder to yourself who each character could be and what’s their relationship with their immediate environment. Hmmmm….
These mysterious characters of the beck are waiting to be discovered but on the 11th August we’ll be officially opening the trail in style, as the Beautiful Butterflies and Marvellous Moths roadshow will be there! Check out our events page for full details.


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‘Lord of the Bins’ descended on Roseworth for Spring Clean

As part of the national “Great British Spring Clean”  weekend  the Tees Valley Wild Green places Project worked with the Roseworth Community Project to lead an anti-littering campaign.

To give the campaign a boost  the Wildlife Trust called in the “Lord of the Bins” duo.  During the week they performed promotional assemblies in Rosebrook Primary School and St, Gregory’s Academy.

The assemblies, as well as being very entertaining, got across serious messages about the effects of litter on wildlife and the cost of clearing up litter and rubbish. Children were encouraged to continue their enthusiasm for the day by entering the ‘litter poster’ competition with prizes donated by McDonalds and the Wildlife Trust. The dynamic duo also popped along to McDonalds and did a walk around the Redhill shop, engaging people in litter related banter and conversations.

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We had over 50 fantastic colourful entries to choose from.

 These are being made into permanent laminated signs to go on lampposts around Roseworth by Stockton Borough Council.


 Blakeston Court clean up

Volunteers from Thirteen Housing and McDonalds joined forces with us to give the fence and hedge line near Blakeston Court a good clean up.

The big Roseworth Saturday clean up

Roseworth residents and volunteers from Tescos took part in a jam-packed day of fantastic family fun as the Lord of the Bins and the Funky Junk Workshop arrived in Roseworth on Saturday 4th March. As you can see from the rubbish volunteers worked hard to collect all this in two hours from the beck woodland near Rhondda Avenue.  Not only were cans and crisp packets found, but  also car tyres,  garden waste, nappies, Christmas trees and 8  items of underwear! All the rubbish was taken away by Stockton Borough Council’s Care for your Area.

The litter pick was followed by a Funky Junk Workshop and refreshments, donated by Tesco, in SS Peter and Paul Church Hall.

Roseworth Councillors, Jim Beall and Barbara Inman both took part, they said “We are delighted to add our support to this event. It not only brings people together but will tidy up some of the wonderful green spaces in our area. By involving local schoolchildren, we would hope that they will be more conscious about looking after their environment.”

Photographer/Byline Dave Charnley Photography

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Water voles, kingfishers and newts all set to benefit at Drinkfield Marsh from Tesco carrier bag award money 

The Tees Valley Wildlife Trust and the Friends of Drinkfield Marsh are delighted to announce it has bagged the maximum grant award of £12,000 from a Tesco funding scheme for their project to restore wetland habitats at the Drinkfield Marsh in Darlington.

Water voles, amphibians and kingfishers are all set to benefit from the restoration work that will now take place at the popular Drinkfield Marsh Nature Reserve in Darlington. The work will restore a beck that has become overgrown with reeds, replace two old weirs and bring back to life two small ponds by removing silt.  A new viewing platform will be built enabling visitors to the nature reserve to observe wildlife.


Tesco teamed up with Groundwork to launch the second round of its Bags of Help funding initiative, which sees grants of £12,000, £10,000 and £8,000 – all raised from the 5p bag levy – being awarded to local outdoor community projects. Millions of shoppers voted in stores up and down the country. And it can now be revealed that Drinkfield Marsh project has been awarded the top prize of £12,000. Funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Darlington Borough Council will also be invested into the initiative.

Roger Crowther, chairman of the Friends of Drinkfield volunteer group said: “We are chuffed to bits by the outcome. Thanks go to all the people who took the trouble to visit Tesco and voted. This is a magnificent example of the community coming together to make a difference and we have been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and support shown for the project. Now the hard work begins to make a significant improvement to Drinkfield Marsh Nature Reserve for wildlife.”

Dr Sue Antrobus of Tees Valley Wildlife Trust said: “Winning of the competition reflects how much local people enjoy visiting this tranquil urban green oasis in Darlington. We will be organising wildlife watching events once the restoration work has been completed so that people can learn about its special wildlife.”

Councillor Nick Wallis, Darlington Borough Council’s Cabinet member for Leisure and the Local Environment, added: “We’re delighted that so many local residents supported the bid for funding by voting and look forward to working with the Friends and Tees Valley Wildlife Trust to improve this popular nature reserve.”

Photographs by Pat Blewitt

About Drinkfield Marsh

Drinkfield Marsh is a peaceful wildlife haven surrounded by housing and industry and is located to the north of Darlington. The 8 hectare (20 acre) site managed as a local nature reserve. The Friends of Drinkfield Marsh are a friendly and active volunteer group of local people who work hard to ensure that the Nature Reserve remains an important, attractive and well managed place for all ages to safely visit. The group has members of all ages who take part in conservation tasks, litter picks and monitoring the site. More info here

Apples, pears and plums for Tinkers Yard

On Sunday 4th December the Tees Valley Wild Green Places Project joined forces with the Crooksbarn and Station Road residents associations to plant a mini community Orchard at Tinkers Yard in Norton.


As you can see form the photographs we had a great day, with 78 people taking part. As well as planting the fruit trees, volunteers planted wild flowers (red campion, primrose, selfheal and St John’s wort) around the trees.

Folk also enjoyed sampling thirteen different varieties of apples that we had found in supermarkets and the orchards at Larchfield and the former Nature’s World site in Middlesbrough. They varied a lot in size, colour, shape, texture and taste. Many families made bird feeders from windfall apples for their gardens and the children made badges and wooden pendants.

Apple themed refreshments included apple gingerbread, apple spiced muffins, apple curd on scones and various apple chutneys to accompany cheese and crackers. Being a December morning the hot mulled apple juice was popular!

In Victorian times there were a number of small commercial orchards in Norton that supplied fruit- mainly apples to the growing towns of Teesside and Darlington. These are clearly marked on old OS maps of 1857 but they had all disappeared by the 1914 OS Map.

Copies of maps can be down loaded here os-maps-showing-Norton-orchards-compared-to-modern-maps.

Tinkers Yard was once a brick yard and we certainly saw a lot of evidence of this digging holes for the trees. There was a thick layer of bricks below the subsoil. We were pleased to have a lot of determining volunteers to help dig. The trees were purchased with funding through the Tees Valley Wild Green Places Project and purchased from the specialist fruit and rose nursery – R V Rogers of Pickering.

We are grateful to Middlesbrough Environment City, Larchfield, Martin Allen and Rogers Nursery for all the information and advice they provided on apple varieties and historical information on Orchards in the Tees Valley. Here is an information sheet on all the species that were planted information-on-apples-tinkers-yard-nov-2016.

We are planning an information panel about the fruit trees and the orchard growing heritage of the local area.

Sue Antrobus, Wild Places Manger says “It was a fabulous day, the two residents groups worked so hard in ensuring the event ran smoothly. It was brilliant to have so people of all ages working together and enjoying themselves the atmosphere was really friendly and lively.”

Paul Card of Crookbarn Residents association said “Thank you to everyone for your help in bringing our community together and we look forward to seeing the fruits of labour (pun intended!) in the years to come”.

Andrée from the Station Road Residents Association said “A fantastic turnout from local residents, and it was great to see people of all ages participating. I heard lots of positive feedback and people are looking forward to attending the next nature / community event in Tinkers Yard next year. A number of people asked for your recipes for the spicy apple pickle, muffins and ginger cake so could you email those or upload on to your community facebook page when you get chance to?”.

In response to Andrée’s request here is the link to the two books that the recipes were taken from, and the recipe for the spiced apple.

The Apple Cookbook (it has savoury recipes as well).

Muffins Fast and Fantastic (great for giving kids a healthy treat, and all so easy).

The apple punch is simply 4 parts apple juice (clear not cloudy type) to 1 part water. Add  2 oz  brown sugar, chopped lemon or lime or both, a whole cinnamon stick, (not powder) 5 whole cloves and if liked a grating of fresh ginger. Bring  to boil, simmer for 10 minutes and strain through sieve (hopefully without making a stick mess in the kitchen).

Community Launch Event for Maelor’s Wood

On the 28th October, the Wild Green Places project and the Friends of Stainton and Thornton Green Spaces celebrated the great work that has been done at Maelor’s Wood, that has been funded by The Heritage Lottery and Tesco Bags of Help.

We were joined by 40 local people and representatives from Tees Valley Wildlife Trust, Tesco and Grandwork, for a grand reveal of 4 carved oak sculptures and the first try nature themed rubbings trail.

One of the highlights of the day was the palpable excitement in the children in the build up to each reveal and they wasted no time in getting to know the new residents; a magnificent owl, a family of cheeky hedgehogs, a group of squirrels being stalked by a sneeky fox, and two badgers who make a great seat!

Steve Iredale is the local sculptor who created the larger than life animals and the brass rubbings trail, which has pictures of wild animals, birds, trees and fungi, was adapted from drawings from the Stainton Art Society and local families by international comic artist Nigel Dobbyn who lives in Guisborough.

Paul Bamber of Tees Valley Wildlife Trust says “We are delighted with the new artworks, which will give visitors, especially children, an opportunity to enjoy exploring the wood and learn about wildlife whilst making their own art works from the brass rubbing posts. “

The Villagers renamed the Wood from Stanton Wood to Maelor’s Wood earlier this year in recognition of the great public service that Cllr Maelor Williams did for the local natural environment, until his death in 2015.

Alan Liddle, retired postmaster of the Stainton post office and Chair of the Friends groups says “We have watched the wood grow over the last 20 years and are sure that Maelor would approve of how we are caring for and developing the woodland as a place for the whole community to enjoy.”


Tees Valley Wildlife recorders have a great conference

The Tees Valley Wild Green Places Project joined forces with ERIC (North East Environment Records Information Centre) to host their second annual Wildlife Recording Conference in the Tees Valley. This was held on Sunday 18th September at Preston Hall Museum.


Katherine Pinnock started the day with an update on the importance of the records that volunteers collect on the natural environment, what Eric does with the data and some statistics on data requests they receive.  This was followed by a presentation by Ian Bond from INCA on the seal monitoring in Teesside that he coordinates. He was assisted by a puppet seal.   Alan Ockenden gave an informative update on tree diseases affecting the north east, especially ash die back and details of ways that volunteers can send in their observations to the Forestry Commission.   Mike Leakey gave an comprehensive overview of long term monitoring of birds in the Tees Estuary which depends on a team of volunteers that carry out monthly surveys. The data reveals a complex picture of losses and gains depending on the species.  Martin Allen’s talk on the project to photograph the flora of the East Cleveland Coast was a pictorial delight.

Everyone enjoyed an excellent buffet lunch, and it was a great opportunity to meet volunteers and naturalists from other groups. Lunch was followed by talk by Susan Antrobus on how data from several national citizen science projects has revealed an alarming picture of decline in Hedgehogs. This was followed by a presentation from Geoff Barber on the many challenges that face INCAs project to assist this bird in the Tees Valley. Finally Kate Bartram spoke about her new project at the Tees Valley Wildlife Trust on collecting people’s childhood wildlife memories of East Cleveland.

Thank your to our excellent speakers and everyone who participated.
Below is the programme and copies of presentations.








The adventures of Lucinda Ladybird in the Tees Valley

It’s been a hectic summer for the Tees Valley Wild Green Places team delivering our Lucinda Ladybird roadshow of family wildlife events in parks and green spaces across the Tees Valley.

We held ten events in partnership with 11 different Friend/community group and two libraries with the help of 38 volunteers. 650 people visited us so it is not surprising that our craft activities used around 800 paper plates, 400 split pins, 800 wiggle eyes, several thousand coloured sticky spots and several tubes of coloured stick.

A big thank you to all the volunteers from Friends groups and the Tees Valley Wildlife Trust that helped make the events a success. From help with publicity and promotion, registering volunteers to assisting with badge making, crafts and minibeast hunts.

The aim of the roadshow was to encourage families to explore their local greenspaces and to provide a fun way to learn about wildlife as well as an opportunity to meet other families interested in wildlife. The events also provided great opportunities for people to learn about the work of the various friends group and get the know the volunteers who help care for their parks and green spaces.

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Mini-beast hunts

Searching was minibeasts was the most popular activities, with full use being made of nets, magnifying glasses and pooters. The meadow at the Whinnies (Middleton St George) was probably the richest, with an amazing array of bugs, beetles and spiders. Stripy cinnabar moth caterpillars fascinated the children and quite a number of small frogs were captured! The shady environment of Linthorpe Cemetery resulted in very different minibeasts, mainly spiders but also the beautiful Orange ladybird. This ladybird is vegetarian and loved on the mildew on sycamore and ash leaves. The area around the ponds at Seaton Park in Hartlepool  were rich in insect life, a lovely 14 spot ladybirds were found here but it was a giant spider that proved most popular (well unpopular with some). At Errington woods we found earwigs in large number and finally a solitary 7 spot ladybird. Minibeasts were thin on the ground at Ward Jackson Park but a 4 year old girl discovered a large and attractive leopard slug and a tribe of woodlice kept us all entranced. Shield bugs were found in abundance along with several 7 spot ladybirds and a 22 spot at Tinkers Yard in Norton whilst  the  beckside vegetation at Ouslton was alive with shoulder beetles and  long thin  striped green bugs.

Ladybird crafts

Great fun was had making ladybird crafts, especially our ladybird plates. Children decided on if the wanted to be a red, yellow or black ladybird and then chose the colour six and number of spots. Some children aimed to create real ladybird species, with 7 spot and 22 spot being popular whilst others created ““new species” which were had multi-coloured or glittery spots! Badge making, masks and finger puppets were also popular.

Here are some of the craft template, colouring sheets and word searches if you want to make at home.

The Ladybird Trail

Matching pictures of ladybirds that were hidden around each site with a spotter sheet was surprising popular. It gave children an opportunity for a run around the site and it was a great way to learn about the great variety of ladybirds. Here is the spotter sheet that we made.

ladybird trail jpeg

Finding out more about ladybirds

Ladybirds are fascinating insects. Here are some links to some great websites to find out more about them and how to get involved in surveys. Here are some links to some websites and identification guides;

UK Ladybird survey

BBC Nature (lovely video clips)

Field Studies Council fold out chart (highly recommended)

Here is a copy of our own fact sheet pdf of fact sheet (pdf).

More family wildlife Fun

If you came along to one of the Lucinda Ladybird events and are looking for more ideas to enjoy nature with your family here are some ideas

Join us – Family membership of the Tees Valley Wildlife Trust which includes membership of our junior WATCH. Details here If you live in Darlington you can join the Durham Wildlife Trust Here is the Wildlife WATCH page

Get some wildlife exploring kits

Explore the Nature Detectives website for ideas

Photographs from the events

The Whinnies

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Maidendale with the Friends of Maidendale and the Darlington and Teesdale Naturalists
(sorry we deleted photos of the day by accident and only have two left)

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Errington Woods with the Friends of Errington Woods

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Ward Jackson with the Friends of Ward Jackson

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Roseworth  with Roseworth Library

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Linthorpe Cemetery with the Friends of Linthorpe Cemetery

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Seaton Park with the Friends of Seaton Park and Seaton Library

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Bluebell Beck with the  Friends of Bluebell Beck

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Tinkers Yard with the Station Road and Cooksbarn Residents Associations 

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Oulston Road green space

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Exciting new wildlife trail and sculptures at Maelor’s Wood

The Tees Valley Wild Green Places Project has secured a grant from Tescos to improve visitor facilities at St Maleor’s Wood in Stainton, Middlesbrough.. Working in partnership with the Friends of Stainton and Thornton Green Spaces group  we are working to install a brass rubbings trail and  animal  play structures  which will compliment work that has been carried out to thin the wood and  ongoing work to improve  footpaths.

As part of the project  the following event. has ben organised

For more information you can contact Paul Bamber on 01287 63638

FREE FAMILY WOODLAND DISCOVERY ADVENTURE AT MAELOR’S WOOD 2nd SEPTEMBER 10.30 a.m.- 12 NOONCome and explore Maelor’s Wood (previously known as Stainton Wood ) through an exciting range of FREE activities such as scavenger hunts, nature trails, minibeast hunts and sketching. A fun way to get out of the house and discover the amazing nature on your doorstep.

There is also an exciting opportunity to do a nature drawing that could see YOUR drawing become one of the 10 rubbing plaques that will make up a brand new rubbings trail that will be installed around the woodland later this year.

This event is being run by Tees Valley Wildlife Trust and the Friends of Stainton & Thornton Green Spaces as part of their Wildlife Adventure project funded by the TESCO ‘Bags of Help’ grant that you all helped us win by voting for us in Tesco stores in the spring. As well as the rubbings trail, this project will bring 3 big wooden animal sculptures, that will be great for climbing on, new benches and interpretation boards.

The wood has several entrances, via Low Lane, Stainton Way, Rose Cottage Farm and the High Rifts field. We will set up the tables and gazebo’s  at the Low Lane entrance, where you can collect everything you need to have a great morning.
If you come by car there is plenty of space to park on the grass verge at the Low Lane entrance to Maelor’s Wood. Walking to the event is encouraged but not essential as there will be plenty of walking round the wood.