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Restoring wildflower meadows on the Durham Coast

Wildflowers on a cliff slope at Beacon Point on the Durham Coast, with beach below.
Wildflowers growing on the Durham Coast | © National Trust Images/Joe Cornish

The Durham Coast supports a diverse range of flora and fauna, including the rare Durham argus butterfly. Learn how National Trust rangers and volunteers have been working to restore and conserve the landscape and wildlife habitats along this unique stretch of coast.

Why the project was needed

This special area features some extremely rare magnesian limestone habitat and it’s the only place in the world where you find this geology on the coast. This, in turn, supports an unusually diverse range of wildflowers and insect life. Some meadows are home to up to 50 species of plant life in a square metre and we wanted to extend these areas.

Getting to work

Beginning in 2018, we've been working on a £40,000 project to restore rich meadows and grasslands along a 5-mile stretch of the Durham Coast. The project has involved creating 50 hectares of wildflower meadows between Hawthorn Dene and Cotsford Field in Horden, benefitting wildlife including a variety of plants, birds and insects.

The project has focused on removing species such as bracken and Himalayan balsam, which were outcompeting native species in some areas. We then worked to improve and manage the grassland through a programme of cattle grazing and grass cutting.

Benefits of cattle grazing

Cattle grazing encourages wildflower growth. The cattle crop the grass and turn over the soil, creating good growing conditions for meadow flowers such as wild thyme, bird’s-foot trefoil and bloody cranesbill. It also aids the common rock rose, which is the favoured plant of the larvae of the rare Durham argus butterfly.

When areas are fenced off for grazing this also reduces disturbance to ground-nesting birds including the skylark, lapwing and grey partridge.

A skylark standing on coastal grassland
A skylark on coastal grassland | © National Trust Images/Nick Upton

Thanks to the People’s Postcode Lottery

The National Trust is working with its tenants and partners to reverse the alarming decline in UK wildlife, aiming to restore 25,000 hectares of wildlife-rich habitats by 2025.

This project was made possible thanks to £750,000 of funding donated to the National Trust by players of People’s Postcode Lottery. This generous donation has also supported several other National Trust projects. These include a project in Exmoor and Devon to save the high brown fritillary, the UK’s most endangered butterfly, and work to restore chalk grasslands at the White Cliffs of Dover.

‘We are delighted to see players’ funding supporting significant conservation activity across England and Wales to improve a range of priority habitats, from coastal slopes and chalk grasslands to woodland pasture, and to safeguard species that call these places home.’

– Clara Govier, Head of Charities, People’s Postcode Lottery

Flora on the clifftops and a tranquil beach on the Durham Coast, County Durham


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