A PROJECT to create a better nesting habitat for the decreasing wading bird population is underway.

That’s after Allen Valleys farmers joined forces with the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership (AONB Partnership) and the RSPB.

The North Pennines AONB is of critical importance to wading birds, such as curlew and lapwing, whose numbers are in sharp decline across the country.

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Sweeping pastures and meadows between the moorland and valleys provide excellent sheltered habitat for these ground-nesting birds to rear their chicks.

A small amount of rush provides shelter, but too much rush quickly reduces the open ground required for feeding and means that the birds are unable to spot approaching danger.

Through its Allen Valleys Landscape Partnership Scheme, which has been supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the North Pennines AONB Partnership has provided 20 farms with a 50 per cent grant to remove rush and as a result, 400 hectares of new habitat in the Allen Valleys has been created for wading birds. Curlew, snipe, lapwing and redshank will all benefit from these improvements, as will black grouse and other ground-nesting birds.

Janet Fairclough, RSPB Conservation Adviser for the North Pennines, said: “It has been brilliant working with farmers in the Allen Valleys this autumn to restore rushy fields so that there will be more suitable breeding habitat for threatened birds like lapwings and curlews next spring.”