A coal mine at Ashington is the unlikely setting for a wildflower renaissance

PUBLISHED: 14:55 23 March 2012 | UPDATED: 21:13 20 February 2013

Ian Dixon with a tray of wildflower seeds

Ian Dixon with a tray of wildflower seeds

A coal mine at Ashington is the unlikely setting for a wildflower renaissance

Coal mines arent often thought of as areas of outstanding beauty or as important sites for flora and fauna, but a project at Ashington could be about to change all that.

Staff at Potland Burn surface mine are helping to preserve some of the most threatened plant, herb and flower species and to restore a grassland meadow.

They are harvesting seeds from species such as Burnet saxifrage, Dyers Greenweed, Bitter vetch and Devils bit scabious as part of a long-term project to restore land where more than two million tonnes of coal are being mined.

Ian Dixon, the assistant land rehabilitation manager for UK Coal, who run the mine, said: We are passionate about the work we are doing, which will ensure the protection of some of the UKs most threatened species and create new meadowlands. By increasing the diversity of our countryside, UK Coal is supporting endangered wildlife and providing a rich environment that will benefit generations to come.

Part of the restored site will be planted out with the declining plant species and by 2015 31 hectares will also be put to good use by farmers for grazing. The majority of the remaining land will be used to generate new woodland and fields which will be surrounded by new hedges. Already, more than two kilometres of hedge has been planted around the site because it attracts wildlife and is a food source for many birds and mammals.

UK Coal land rehabilitation manager Trevor Hind said: The diversity of the species growing there developed by the influence of soil activity following land settlement that was the legacy of pillar and stall and longwall mining.

The labour-intensive, growing-on of hand-gathered seed and cutting green hay from the area of ecological importance and using that to spread onto the restored area is an effective way of re-colonising hay meadows. It will be an outstanding example of how surface mining can provide an area of significant and natural beauty, instead of being considered an unnecessary blot on the landscape.

The print version of this article appeared in the April 2012 issue of North East Life

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