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Cemex UK restores Northumberland quarry into a nature conservation area

World Cement,

A Cemex UK sand and gravel quarry in Branton, Nr Powburn in Northumberland has been progressively restored and transformed into a stunning 29 hectare nature conservation area, attracting over 50 species of birds including some red listed breeds such as Spotted Flycatcher and Lapwing.

The new Branton Nature Conservation Area is located in an area of beautiful open countryside designated as an Area of Great Landscape Value close to the hamlet of Branton and the Northumberland National Park. Prior to extraction the land, which lies within the flood plain of the River Breamish, was used for agriculture.

The site has been restored to enhance and complement the surrounding rural area and extraction provided an opportunity of transforming an intensively farmed landscape into a wildlife haven and local community amenity.

Dr Darren Moorcroft, Head of Conservation Delivery at the RSPB said: “We congratulate Cemex UK on the new conservation area at Branton. This provides much needed space for nature, and is an excellent example of what can be achieved by the quarry industry for wildlife and for local communities to enjoy. The RSPB are pleased to have helped with the restoration through our partnership with Cemex UK, but equally are delighted with the involvement of local people, and with the opportunities it provides for involving school children in learning about their environment.”

The main area of the site has been developed into two lakes, one with a nesting island.  Around the lakes, a limited number of footpaths have been created to give access to walkers, but with some areas left secluded for wildlife to live, thrive and breed. Different wildlife habitats have been provided, such as owl nesting boxes, wet woodland and reedbeds to encourage a diversity of wildlife.

A bird hide has been erected by the western lake, donated by Northumberland National Park Authority, and frequently used by the North Northumberland Bird Group, and local enthusiasts monitor the type and number of breeds of bird that live and visit the site.  To date, 55 species of birds such as Kingfishers, Grey Heron, Barn Owl and more endangered species such as Lapwings and Spotted Flycatcher have been seen.

In addition to the bird species, 14 of mammals; 5 of reptiles and amphibians, 21 of butterflies and moths and 7 of dragonflies and damselflies have also been reported on the reserve. In the recent warm weather, an adder was spotted in the undergrowth and otters are believed to be in the area.

An integral part of the restoration was the development of a ‘mini’ nature reserve with dipping pond especially created for the adjoining Branton Community First School. Pupils access their reserve by a specially built bridge, and walkways are cut around the pond area so children can view the insects and birdlife.

Sand and gravel extraction has taken place in the Breamish Valley since the 1920s when gravel was taken from the riverbed for road surfacing. Extraction started at this quarry site in 1996 and over 1.66 million tonnes of sand and gravel has been produced for local construction projects.   The company also extracted minerals  from the land north of the river and restored the area back to agricultural land.

A case study of Branton Nature conservation area can be found at

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