THE international importance of wildlife in Weardale is to be highlighted in a new project.

Between now and next spring, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) will be running a Working with Waders scheme around the village of Rookhope, to show people in Weardale the significance of wildlife across the North Pennines.

Local Government Minister Hilary Armstrong and children from Rookhope Primary School helped the scheme by planting junipers and other native trees in school grounds.

The North Pennines is an important stronghold for juniper, and English Nature, which donated the saplings, is working to restore juniper woodlands across the North Pennines.

In the coming months, pupils at Rookhope Primary School will be learning about the upland birds that nest on the moors of Weardale, and meeting people whose work influences the local environment.

The project, which is also funded by the Countryside Agency, the North Pennines Leader programme and English Nature, works with local communities and farmers to demonstrate how important wildlife and habitats in the North Pennines can be safeguarded.

Project officer Heather McCarty has planned a busy programme of activities with children in the next few months.

She said: "This wildlife of the North Pennines is of national and even international importance. It can be easy to assume that everyone else has the kind of fabulous flora and fauna found here, but this is a unique and very special place.

"Sadly, the North Pennines are now one of the last refuges in England for many rare and threatened species, and it's vital to ensure that this area continues to be of high conservation importance."