District Former City of Durham
Grid Reference NZ 285424
O S Map No NZ 24 SE
Area 30 hectares
Altitude 40 to 85 metres
Land Use Public amenity
Adjacent Land Uses University College, housing, allotments and agriculture
Owner Durham County Council
An ancient woodland containing mixed deciduous woodland occupying the steep slopes of the valley alongside the River Wear and a glaciated dene in the heart of Durham City. The woodland, mainly of oak, beech and sycamore, is reasonably well structured although the shrub layer is not particularly well developed. The site also includes adjoining areas: The Rabbit Banks contains acid grassland with gorse and broom. The Batts is part of the flood plain of the River Wear; part of the Batts has been planted with native trees. The Old Hockey Field has been planted with native trees but retains an open area of grassland. A detailed description of all parts of the site is contained in the ecological survey below. Part of the site was designated as a County Wildlife Site. The site is owned by Durham County Council who are the highway authority responsible for footpaths and safety.
The Friends of Pelaw Wood
A voluntary group, the Friends of Pelaw Wood, was formed in September 2003 to work to develop the area – through maintenance of footpaths, sustainable forestry, and development and maintenance of habitats – as a natural local resource for the people of Durham to use. Some of the group had come together a year earlier in a working half-day to remove an excess of litter from the Wood and it seemed right to take more responsibility for this beautiful resource for the benefit of the community at large. An informal agreement with the Council has been in place for many years with regular meetings between the group and the Chief Forester.
The group has met regularly over the last five years, at weekends or on summer evenings, at least once a month for a three hours period of work on paths, rubbish removal, clearing Himalayan balsam, planting trees. There are currently eleven active volunteers who turn out regularly and a further twelve who come more occasionally.
The group is affiliated to and insured through BTCV. We have been supported by County Durham Ranger Service on several occasions.
Some of the Friends’ achievements are:
• Completing ecological survey
• Public Information Board for Pelaw Wood designed and erected with young people from Gilesgate Community and Sports College.
• Opening up an ancient path of over 500 metres in conjunction with volunteers from Durham Countryside Rangers, Northumbria Water and Business in the Community on Make a Difference Day.
• Third place in 2006 North East Community Forestry Community Awards
• Establishing a website – www.pelaw-wood.org.uk.
• Putting in new steps in steep pathways and putting in road planings to reinforce paths.
• Planting new trees – aspen, ash and oak
• Having a competition with local primary schools to design a logo for us – 248 entries and 12 prizes and the logo appended adopted.
• Guided walks on Heritage Open Days and organising plant and birdsong expeditions.
• Removing rubbish and litter
• Working with school pupils at Gilesgate Sports College planting and caring for trees, controlling vegetation and managing drainage.
• Engaging with students from University of Durham Environmental group to assist with works.
• Conducting initial specialist survey on proposed wetland area
• Gaining financial support from Parish Paths Partnership and CDENT
• The site contains a variety of habitat types: deciduous woodland, acid grassland, gorse and broom scrub, meadow type grassland. This variety sustains a diverse bird population.
• The woodland should be maintained by thinning young trees where they grow too densely and planting where space needs to be filled. The natural expansion of the woodland by colonization can be assisted by planting trees in the Old Hockey Field and in the Batts. To increase the understorey there can be planting of native shrubs, such as hazel, dogwood, privet, guelder rose and buckthorn. Wood anemones and bluebells are profuse in some areas but they could be encouraged to spread further. Himalayan balsam is very widespread; co-ordinated action to control it has been partially successful.
• The creation of wetland in Pelaw Wood Beck Dene would increase the range of habitat types. This could be done with a small amount of excavation, creating scrapes, and planting willow and alder carr. Suppression of Himalayan balsam would be necessary.
• The development of meadow vegetation in the Old Hockey Field has been encouraged by sowing locally sourced wild flower seed and this should continue.
• The acid grassland on the Rabbit Banks is vulnerable; it has been eroded by the use of motorcycles. It is also subject to encroachment by rose bay willowherb and brambles.
• The use of motorcycles has caused damage to the site and should be prevented.
• Despite such anti-social activity, the site is well used and appreciated by the public. The site is easily accessible to local residents and tourists. Footpaths should be maintained and information boards installed. The site has been used as a resource by local schools. Links with schools should be continued.
Pelaw Wood is
• recognised as an important contributor to Durham’s green spaces; with residents and visitors regularly using the Wood for recreation and the footpaths for walking.
• designated as a Local Nature Reserve for its ecological value
• To protect and enhance the biodiversity of the area
• To secure the long term future of the area
• To raise awareness and to increase understanding of the area’s natural heritage
• To encourage participation and partnership working
• To establish the use of the area as an educational resource.
• To provide an opportunity for physical exercise
• To conserve and enhance habitats
• To conserve species
• To promote public enjoyment
• To deal with potential conflicts
These objectives are translated into specific tasks in the appended action plan.