A South Tyneside nature reserve has been selected to become a “flagship” meadow for Tyne and Wear.
Marsden Old Quarry, which has wildflower-rich magnesian limestone grassland, will also be used to create a new meadow under the Coronation Meadows Project, which seeks to create at least one new meadow in every county in Britain.
Work started this week on the creation of the new meadow, with excavators currently on site at an area of the reserve which is dominated by course grasses. An acre of soil is being removed to expose the geologically significant bedrock underneath. The remaining thin soil on exposed bedrock will be sown with seeds collected from an existing magnesian limestone grassland within the old quarry site.
A similar project was carried out 11 years ago at the nature reserve by soil stripping and seeding as part of the MAGical Meadows project, which proved very successful. That area is now dominated by rare magnesian limestone grassland plants.
The creation of the new meadow, off Coast Road, will cost about £9,000 and the majority will be paid for by the Coronation Meadows Project.
Coun Tracey Dixon, lead member for area management and community safety said: “This is fantastic news. These grasslands are nationally important and support a unique and diverse array of beautiful wildflowers such as cowslips, rockrose, wild thyme and harebell. The site is also home to a host of other wildlife such as the common blue butterfly, nesting yellowhammers and linnets.
“The creation of another meadow will go some way towards protecting the habitat for these species.
“Being the flagship meadow for the whole of Tyne and Wear is also another feather in our cap and a real accolade for the borough.”
The total area of magnesian limestone grassland in the whole of Britain is only twice the area of Cleadon Village and includes two more of South Tyneside’s Local Nature Reserves: Harton Downhill (Blackberry Hills) and Cleadon Hills.
The creation work is expected to be complete by next month and the grassland will slowly develop over subsequent years.