A TEAM of volunteers has been working to improve a wildlife pond on the site of a North-East sewage treatment works.

Durham Wildlife Trust, which is working with site owner Northumbrian Water, views Newton Aycliffe Sewage Treatment Works as an example of the vital pockets of wildlife-friendly sites that exist in urban areas.

Newton Aycliffe Sewage Treatment Works is situated on Newton Aycliffe Industrial Estate, just off the busy A167, and Northumbrian Water and Durham Wildlife Trust’s Heart of Durham Project are improving the site to offer a habitat for a wide range of flora and fauna.

The area being improved includes a pond supplied by surface run-off from the canteen’s roof, a small area of grassland and an area of scrub.

The pond, which was dug some years ago, is now home to newts and plants including water forget–me-not, water mint, bog bean, purple loosestrife and common reed.

It was cleared out last winter by Durham Wildlife Trust’s Young Volunteer Group, who also constructed a compost bin and a reptile hibernacula, and now a Heart of Durham team has planted a hedge of hawthorn, hazel, holly and guelder rose. Several crab apple trees dotted along the hedge, which will provide blossom in the spring.

The volunteer team also set about clearing the scrub and coppicing the hazel to allow light in and space for new young trees. Once the scrub had been cleared, the area was replanted with crab apple trees along with holly, hawthorn and hazel. Three new bird boxes were also erected.

This year should also the emergence of wildflowers and yellow rattle sown last October, which should attract insects and butterflies to the site.

Anne Porter, Heart of Durham Project Officer, said: “Sites like the sewage works are important for wildlife. A constant and increasing demand on land for houses and industrial development highlights the importance of these kinds of pockets of land surrounding water treatment and sewage works owned by Northumbrian Water.”

Treatment Works Manager Frank Errington said: “It’s fantastic that the Durham Wildlife Trust volunteers have been working to help nature thrive at our Newton Aycliffe Sewage Treatment Works.

"People might not think of a sewage treatment site as somewhere that wildlife could flourish, but we take care to look after the environment in and around our sites and working with partners like the Trust enables us to do even more to protect the flora and fauna.”

Aycliffe treats the wastewater from the Aycliffe, Shildon and Woodham catchment, a large portion of which is derived from industrial businesses within the Aycliffe industrial estate.

The site was established in the 1930s and has changed dramatically since that point. The current site is built over a World War Two ordnance factory so any invasive work requiring excavations requires carefully planned site investigation work.