Battling nature

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YOUNG volunteers have been working together to complete the first stage of this year’s work to preserve a 10,000-year-old local beauty spot.

The Dene Team group of volunteers have helped to start this year’s vital conservation work at Castle Eden Dene National Nature Reserve, near Peterlee, by cutting and burning the invasive rhododendron which was planted during the Victorian era because of its beautiful flowers.

The shrub originated in Asia and was introduced into Britain around 200 years ago.

Dene chiefs say the plant has no place in the reserve’s ancient woodland and needs to be removed to prevent it from taking over.

The Dene Team is an award-winning youth volunteer group whose members give up their free time to help Natural England perform vital conservation work at Castle Eden Dene, which is off Stanhope Chase, Peterlee.

The reserve is the largest area of semi-natural woodland in North East England, renowned for yew trees.

The tangled landscape is a survivor of the wildwood that once covered most of Britain and Natural England helps it stay as near natural as possible.

Joe Davies, Natural England’s outreach advisor, said: “Natural England aims to inspire people of all ages to value and conserve the natural environment and this vital work is the first step in a packed annual programme.

“It is fantastic to see a group of young people who freely volunteer their time and with such a strong commitment towards the natural environment.”

In addition to the extensive work the children do at the dene, the team also helps to support conservation efforts at neighbouring reserves and designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Castle Eden Dene is managed by Natural England in partnership with Peterlee Town Council.

For more information about the reserve and its activities, or to find out about joining the Dene Team, call (0191) 5860004.