Wilding conference a huge success for wildlife charity

5th April 2023

Northumberland Wildlife Trust’s first rewilding conference has been hailed a resounding success.

Spurred on by the need to act against climate change and need for greater efforts to protect the environment, the wildlife charity gathered together over 100 academics, farmers, businesses, ecologists and conservationists at its Wilding Networks for the North Conference.

Sponsored by the Reece Foundation and chaired by BBC Look North’s Adrian Pitches, the conference was held over two days at The Common Room of the Great North in the centre of Newcastle and its West Chevington site in Northumberland.

As a venue, The Common Room has a unique heritage that celebrate the region’s engineering and is a building where future ground-breaking discoveries were discussed, so it was only fitting that the first day of the conference discussing the environmental future of the region was held there.

The first day of the conference saw eight speakers highlighting topics and projects such as farming practices on estates in the region, climate change, projects at Hadrian’s Wall and Wallington reserve together with host Northumberland Wildlife Trust’s rewilding plans for its West Chevington site and an update on its rewilding projects at Kielder and Benshaw Moor in Northumberland.

The conference also offered the audience the opportunity to ask questions at three question and answer sessions and a BBC Question Time style panel debate which broached diverse topics as the reintroduction of beavers and lynx to the region and government farming regulations.

Everybody in attendance was united in how inspirational and thought provoking all the speakers were and recognised that there was so much to do to protect wildlife and stop the march of climate change, but also, that the region has come a long way from the days when coal when king – a nod to the historic conference venue.

The second day of the conference was a visit to the wildlife charity’s West Chevington site at Druridge Bay.

Sitting atop a former opencast coalmine, like a number of the Trust’s other reserves in the area, West Chevington is already showcasing how nature can recover in a manufactured landscape and was the inspiration for the two day event.

The 327-hectare piece of land was purchased at the start of 2021 thanks to a £2million donation from the Reece Foundation. There are big plans for the site including the installation of new ponds, conservation grazing of farm land, the new technique of drone mapping and the possible reintroduction of beavers, water voles and harvest mice.

Mike Pratt, Northumberland Wildlife Trust Chief Executive says:

“The conference was a landmark event for us and provided a great opportunity for us to highlight our plans to make bigger better joined up places where wildlife can thrive and repopulate the land, from the city to the wild uplands.

“It was exciting and inspiring to see the extent of progress on rewilding work at the Wallington, Hepple and Middleton North Estates and at our very own West Chevington site which is already rewilding itself and where we are helping nature recover. 

“The future for Northumberland’s wild places seems assured with funders such as The Reece Foundation on our side – it’s going to be very exciting.”

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