VOLUNTEERS who help look after a special upland environment are raising money to make it easier for people to access the wild.

The Friends of Moor House Upper Teesdale National Nature Reserve formed in 2017 to support Natural England with the area's conservation and management.

Most members of the group – also known as the Friends of Upper Teesdale (FoUT) – were already involved with work such as maintaining footpaths, managing vegetation and helping out at events such as birdwatching and archaeology days.

They formed the group in a bid to pull in money to enhance and protect the reserve which is one of the UK's largest and most remote and features upland habitats typical of the North Pennines from hay meadows, rough grazing and juniper woods to limestone grasslands, blanket bog and the high fells.

Now, it has launched a £12,000 fundraising campaign for its first major project – Cow Green Better Access for All.

The project aims to make it easier for a wide range of people including those with disabilities, families with young children and anyone dependent on wheeled support to use an existing trail next to Cow Green Reservoir.

Improvements would include resurfacing the car park and designating areas for disabled visitors, route signing for mobility impaired users and access to the toilets, gateways, picnic area and interpretation facilities will all be made easier.

Godfrey Williams, chairman of FoUT, said: "It is a very special area – very few places are so high over such a large area, few have the same swings in extreme weather which can be severe and it harbours rare plants like spring gentian and plants that aren't often found together.

"We want to bring in extra resources to help Natural England and to encourage more awareness in people, local and visitors, about the special nature of the the place and give people the opportunity to see and understand it.

"There is already a path at the reservoir which can be used by wheelchairs and buggies but we'd like to improve the surface and increase access for more people."

To get kick-start the fundraising, volunteers are urging people to support the campaign whilst stocking their cupboards.

FoUT has been chosen to benefit from the Co-op Local Community Fund.

When Co-op members buy selected products or services from the Co-op they can earn a five per cent reward for themselves and a further one per cent for a good cause.

Mr Williams is appealing to existing Co-op members to select the Cow Green project to receive a donation and for shoppers to consider joining so they can do the same. Do so here.

He said: "We're delighted to have been chosen to benefit from the Co-op Local Community Fund and we'll be relying on Co-op members to help.

"We really hope that people will visit the website and choose to support us.

"When a community comes together we're able to achieve great things so we hope people who live in or visit or have an affinity with Teesdale will help support and promote our project."