Students' Work Is Invaluable

The Parks and Countryside section are responsible for the management of Local Nature Reserves, Parks, Recreation Grounds, Allotments and Rights of Way in Hartlepool.

East Durham College students have worked with the Countryside Warden’s, Rights of Way and Summerhill on various projects including:

* North Hart Circular – An easy access project which involved disability improvements to Rights of Way around Hart Village and included installation of self-closing gates and fencing improvements

* Board walk construction at Greatham Village

* Erection of boundary fencing at Seaton Common

* Revetment works, kissing gate installation, drainage works and anti-vandal fencing on footpaths at the Fens Estate, Hartlepool

* Hedge laying in Family Wood, Hartlepool

* Improvements to the bird feeder station at Summerhill

* Improvements to a Reed bed filter system and introduction of aquatic vegetation to ponds at Summerhill

The work carried out is always carried out quickly and efficiently and to a very high standard.  The students are always friendly and keen to learn new skills and work really well with our volunteers and staff.

The work the students carry out provides an invaluable service to our section.  Many of the projects they have worked on would not have possible without their help.

The benefits to communities are extensive, especially through the many Rights of Way improvements they have delivered.  Wildlife benefits have been achieved through hedgerow improvements, pond enhancement and development of the bird feeder station which has led to habitat improvements and an increase in the biodiversity of species.

We are always looking for projects that will benefit our service and provide opportunities for the students to practice new skills.  The students will be working on Sea buckthorn clearance on Seaton Dunes during 2009, and we are excited about working with them to improve the water vole habitat in Family Wood.

Fran Mudd, Countryside Ranger, Gateshead Council:

The Countryside Management Team owns 14 sites across the Borough of Gateshead, managing them for both wildlife and people.  We run an extensive environmental education programme that aims to engage schools, community groups, whole communities and individuals in nature conservation and the environment.

Working on Ryton Willows Local Nature Reserve, the students greatly improved access to the Site of Special Scientific Interest for the local community by constructing a boardwalk and solving drainage issues along the nature trail.

The work the students carried out was great! The boardwalk looks particularly professional and the drainage works continue to keep the footpaths mud-free.

Materials were re-used and recycled wherever possible meaning even more work could be carried out using the remaining funds.

We have had nothing but positive comments from the local community: dog walkers are particularly enthusiastic about the project as they are once again able to access all areas of their woodland.  Visitor numbers to the woodland have significantly increased due to the hard work of the students.

Due to the inaccessibility of the work site, this project could not have been completed without a dedicated team of people – thank you Houghall.

Houghall College students are welcome back any time! Hopefully I will see them again next year!

Steve Cooper, Environment Officer, Great Aycliffe Town Council:

Great Aycliffe Town Council is a Local Authority that serves the population of Newton Aycliffe and the surrounding villages. They manage and maintain several key services including local parks, allotments, green spaces, cemeteries and pre schools amongst other services.

East Durham College have assisted Great Aycliffe Town Council in maintaining the numerous ponds around the local area, without their assistance much of the work could not be carried out to improve these habitats for the future.

The work that was carried out by the students was to a very high standard. All the instructions were followed and the site was left in a very tidy state once they had completed the task.

The students conducted themselves in a professional manner and were very knowledgeable about why and how the work was being completed.

Encroaching vegetation has been removed which has produced a more suitable habitat for many aquatic species. It is hoped that with East Durham College’s assistance the pond will become a suitable habitat for species such as the Great Crested Newt. Without the students assistance the pond’s dipping platform would have also become useless, as the area around the platform was becoming silted up.

Great Aycliffe Town Council plan to work with the college in the near future on several new projects. It is hoped that with the assistance of the East Durham College students a length of hedge can be laid to maintain a traditional feature of the local landscape.

The courses are also taught in a very professional and knowledgeable manner, which promotes confidence in the students and equips them well for a future in the conservation field.