News Archive

December 4 2016


Some fruits of our labour.

The last Sunday meet of the year saw a good turn-out and much activity in the woods. Leaves were cleared from paths and the silverlink bridge, and in the old hockey field undergrowth was strimmed and placed into large piles to rot down for the winter. These have the added bonus of providing habitat for invertebrates and small mammals.




December 1 2016


Northumbrian Water have begun work on extending and improving the culvert / sewer at the bottom of Pelaw beck. See this link for more details.


November 6 2016


Friends of Pelaw Wood again drew on excellent support from the Durham University Conservation Volunteers in clearing brambles from the old hockey field. Despite the cold and damp morning, great success was enjoyed in the fight against the invasive brambles.




After this busy day we were invited to a bonfire party at Old Durham where all enjoyed hot dogs, baked potatoes and grilled marshmallows, washed down with mulled wine. Thanks are due to our Chairman Tony Ewin for once again organising this excellent yearly event.


October 2 2016


A fine early autumn morning found a group of 10 Friends clearing paths and steps in anticipation of the re-opening of the paths blocked by the landslip since 2013.

Drinks and pizza were enjoyed at the Woodman Inn, Gilesgate after our labours.



September 4 2016

DSC03113A small but determined band of Friends met for our September work party in the woods. After a hard but enjoyable couple of hours we had removed many large items of litter including a mattress, corrugated iron, a car tyre, a traffic cone, a shopping trolley and an old window frame.




As usual, we retired later to the Queen’s Head for much-needed liquid refreshment.


Thanks to Durham County Council who have collected the rubbish.



August 14 2016 – Bat Walk

A warm Sunday evening found 10 members of Friends of Pelaw Wood and the Durham Bat Group exploring the wood for evidence of bat activity.


Licensed bat-handler checking a bat box.

Our bat boxes were somewhat disappointing as there were no householders in residence.

The walk, however, was to grow more exciting as a roost of Noctule bats was discovered deep in the woods  from their social calls to each other (these calls are of relatively low frequency and therefore audible to the human ear). A total of 51 Noctules was counted, leaving the roost to go feeding on insects.



Bat box maintenance.

After observing this, we used bat detectors (which pick up the bats’ echolocation calls) to locate bats on the wing. Five bat species were definitely identified – Noctule, Common Pipistrelle, Soprano Pipistrelle, Daubenton’s and a Myotis species (probably Whiskered). We moved to the riverside and watched Daubenton’s bats skimming the surface for insects, as well as Pipistrelles flitting around our heads! A memorable evening, many thanks to the Durham Bat Group for making it possible.


August 12 2016



Northumbrian Water have been carrying out maintenance work to sewer pipes close to the north side of the Silverlink bridge.




August 7 2016

Our latest session in the woods saw an enjoyable workout removing invasive brambles from around our young trees in the old hockey field at Old Durham. Later we retired to the garden of the Queen’s Head pub. An excellent turn-out, special thanks to our new members.


The old hockey field was a hive of activity in the sunshine.


We admired the beautiful new bench by Graeme Hopper, above the landslip.









July 3 2016


One of many piles of the invasive Himalayan Balsam we have been removing to give our native woodland plants a foothold.


Friends of Pelaw Wood enjoyed a fine summer morning

of Himalayan Balsam pulling and excess Bracken removal at our regular meeting on the first Sunday of the month. Our next session will be on August 7 2016 at the usual meeting place of St Giles Close.


May 1 2016

May Day saw the Friends once more joined by the Durham University Conservation Society for some much-needed help in the hockey field to cut back brambles that were encroaching around the edges. There was also some litter picking, strimming and removal of ivy from trees. Tony kindly brought hot drinks and biscuits, which went down very well!


April 24 2016 – Dawn Chorus Walk

DSC02543An excellent group of 11, including walk leader Milja braved the alarm clock at 0430 on a cool but fine Sunday morning. First song (the Robin) was heard at around 0435, while we were setting off for the Silverlink bridge. Five minutes later we heard the first Blackbird, followed by Wood Pigeon, Song Thrush, Great Tit and Wren.

A highlight of the walk came soon afterwards when we listened to at least two Tawny Owls close by, hooting at one another. Shortly after this a large brown bird crossed our path; it was probably one of the owls, judging by alarm calls from other birds.

In total we saw (or heard) 22 species of bird: Robin, Blackbird, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Song Thrush, Wren, Chaffinch, Blackcap, Tree Sparrow, Tawny Owl, Pheasant, Grey Partridge, Pied Wagtail, Nuthatch, Chiffchaff, Herring Gull, Carrion Crow, Magpie, Hedge Sparrow, Goldfinch, Greenfinch.

Surprising absentees were the Treecreeper, Willow Warbler, Long-tailed Tit, Bullfinch, Jackdaw, Starling. The Great Spotted Woodpecker has been absent from the wood for the last few years.

After this rewarding walk, we retired to the Truly Inspirational Cafe at the Vane Tempest Hall for a well-earned and tasty breakfast.

3 April 2016


The co-operation between the Friends of Pelaw Wood and the Durham Bat Group continues apace, as new bat boxes are installed.

This morning’s work session also included extensive litter-picking and bramble-clearing, followed by chips and a drink at the Queens’s Head.


6 March 2016

This morning we again enjoyed the company of the Durham University Conservation Volunteers (who once again gave sterling service and muscle-power), along with a member of the Durham Bat Group, who gave interesting and useful advice on bat life in the woods. Bat boxes are due to be deployed in strategic positions.


7 February 2016

We again enjoyed the help of the Durham University Conservation Volunteers, along with the more dubious help of Spark the dog.DSCN9135

Today’s task needed the extra muscle-power as it entailed (no pun intended) the filling-in of large hole in the steep bank of Pelaw Beck, made by diggers searching for antique bottles.




It’s important this work was carried out as the holes were deep and dangerous, and they risked a catastrophic and expensive landslip of the spoil heap into Pelaw Beck below.





Many hands made light work; our thanks are due once more to the Conservation Volunteers of Durham University.

We also found time for some litter-picking and gravelling of muddy paths.




3 January 2016

fopw jan 16 005 (800x600)

The first Sunday of the year saw the Friends of Pelaw Wood in much-needed clearing  of mud and leaf mulch on paths and steps. New gravel was added to paths where necessary.




fopw jan 16 006 (800x600)

After that hard work-out we retired to the Queen’s Head for our Annual General  Meeting. We look forward to meeting new (and old) friends during 2016.





1 January 2016

A fine turn-out of ten participants (plus Holly the dog) brought in the new year with a walk from St Giles Close through Pelaw Wood, the riverbank, and on to Maiden Castle. winter 2015 019 (800x600)


We returned to the hospitality of the Queen’s Head, after making some new equine friends at the top of Whinney Hill.



6 December 2015

Our last work session of the year included path and step repairs, leaf clearing and the removal of a small tree brought down in the gales.


25 November 2015

Work is progressing on the landslip. The official word is that

the cause of the landslip was silty sand lying on top of impervious clay with the silty material becoming saturated and then liquid.

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1 November 2015

november paths2

Friends of Pelaw Wood once again teamed up with members of the Durham University Conservation Society for our November work session which involved some more footpath resurfacing.





4 October 2015

News from our October work session – the middle path and steps were cleared, the old hockey field was strimmed and path cleared, and cowslips were planted.


Planting cowslips

Planting cowslips


6 September 2015

Strimming, Bracken and Himalayan Balsam removal, as well as path repairs took place in our September session in the woods. As you can see, it was a beautiful morning for some work in the outdoors.

Many thanks are due to Martin for his efforts with the website over the past years.

9 August 2015

Another morning of crushing bracken, cutting back undergrowth from the paths and litter-picking.

Clearing bracken from the gate to the Bridge

Clearing bracken from the gate to the Bridge

We have heard that clearing the riverside path and stabilising the landslip should start in September.


My last workday in the Wood and posting here after about thirteen years of enjoying the company of all my colleagues in the Friends. Best wishes to all.

Last day in the Wood

Last day in the Wood






View from the escarpment

View from the escarpment







12 April 2015

Continuing to lay planings on the muddy sections of paths; some tree pruning; and litter-picking.15 03 10 escarpment path




1 February 2015

We repaired a step, picked lots of litter and, with massive help from the University

15 02 01 path hardening 515 02 01 path hardening 615 02 01 path hardening 8Conservation  Society’s volunteers, laid planings on two very muddy paths. Brilliant work everyone!

And the Council have also laid planings all the way down from the sports field behind laurel Avenue School.

New step coming up from the river

New step coming up from the river







17 January 2015

As we report below. in early 2013 a large landslip took place in Pelaw Wood, leading to the closure of both the “middle” and the riverside paths. The damage was extensive.

Durham County Council commissioned a geotechnical survey and the resulting report recommended 2 options – a more expensive soil nail slope stabilisation proposal (approx. £750,000) and a simpler, but still costly (approx. £250,000) re-grading with more limited stabilisation works.

Clearly this is a significant amount of money, and in the current financial climate it will be very hard for the council to find. It is therefore likely to be some time before the proposed work could begin.

The Friends of Pelaw Wood would like to work with others to try to find a low-cost, pragmatic solution to reopen the riverside path as soon as possible.

Sunday 4 January 2015

Lovely sunny but cold day with: more strimming of brambles away from the trees we 15 01 04 path hardening 115 01 04 path hardening 3planted in the old hockey field;  extending the the hardcore up the path from the Silver Link Bridge – encouraged by this robin finding something to eat in the pile of planings!; and digging out the drain at the top of the steps down to the glade. Followed by our AGM in the Queen’s Head.

2015 New Year’s Day

A small group of us enjoyed the Wood followed by refreshments in the Queen’s Head

New Year's Day 2015

New Year’s Day 2015

New Year's Day 2015

New Year’s Day 2015










Sunday 7 December 2014

It was a crisp cold day when we 
– cleared leaves from the paths and the Silver Link Bridge
– strimmed brambles in the hockey field
– And Richard barrowed planings onto the quagmire of a path beyond the Bridge

Planings laid by Richard

Planings laid by Richard

Best wishes for Christmas and 2015

Sunday 2 November 2014

Path work with DUCS 2/11/14

Path work with DUCS 2/11/14








We were pleased to welcome students again from the University’s Conservation Society who with our members did sterling work barrowing and laying planings on the paths close to Old Durham, replacing steps, collecting fly-tipping and clearing leaves from the Silver Link Bridge. We finished at 3.00 pm and returned to Tony’s later for a bonfire with mulled wine, hot-dogs and potatoes. Many thanks Barbara and Tony for your hospitality again.

Renewing steps to the glade 2/11/14

Renewing steps to the glade 2/11/14

Some of the DUCS workers 2/11/14

Some of the DUCS workers 2/11/14

There has been a lot of fly-tipping in the Wood and nearby; hopefully our local councilors will get this issue resolved soon. The Council will also be clearing the Beck culvert and installing some means of preventing debris from being washed into it.

Our next meeting will be on Sunday 7 December.

Tony's Bonfire 2/11/14

October 2014 Moth Watch 

22:10:14 mothwatch2Several of us enjoyed another evening with Dave telling us about the moths attracted to his light. A bit late in the year but several examples of five species including red & green carpet and sallows. We’ll hold another next year in the late spring when there should be a much great ‘haul’.









7 September 2014

Replacing steps down to the glade 7/9/14

Replacing steps down to the glade 7/9/14

A good morning clearing vegetation from footpaths, scraping rotting leaves off the Silver Link Bridge, replacing three steps down to the main glade and litter picking — followed by a pint of Doom Bar.

Clearing the path from St Giles Close 7/9/14

Clearing the path from St Giles Close 7/9/14










Landslip update: 

February 2015 At our request the Council have now hardened the path from the sports field behind Laurel Avenue School and past the Silver Link Bridge. We continue to barrow planings onto other sections that are muddy due to all the extra traffic by-passing the landslide.

January 2015 We are also supporting a Facebook page for those wanting to find a way to reopen the riverside path through Pelaw Wood.

December: The lines of the paths by the Silver Link Bridge have, as predicted, turned into a quagmire of mud. Despite our representations the Council do not want to lay  hardcore to give a solid surface until the all the work is done – our guess is that’s unlikely before 2016!

In October we heard that despite representations from us there are no plans to restore the paths destroyed by the contractors until the landslip is resolved. They are already muddy and can be expected to deteriorate rapidly as winter draws on.

In September Audrey Christie, the County’s Senior Rights of Way Officer wrote:

‘Despite our best efforts to get to a solution as soon as possible it is taking longer than anticipated but please be assured we are working our way to a result. As the landslide is significant and it requires the spending of substantial amounts of public money the process of reaching the solution is protracted and we ask for everyone’s continued patience.   The question of timeframe is one that I can’t easily answer but assuming that funding is secured I would hope that works would begin within the next 6 to 12 months.  We realise that this is much delayed to what we have previously thought.’ 

The geotechnical report suggested two options for remedial works — re-grading the toe of the landslide is the the most attractive but still very expensive option – about £250,000. It  suggested the cause as  high ground water pressure arose from prolonged rainfall and  poor drainage from the blocked culvert in Pelaw Wood Beck.  However the report is not conclusive about this. Old maps of the area show some evidence for previous landslips. Despite having been cleared earlier in the year, the culvert is now virtually blocked with debris washed down the Beck.

Audrey also said, ‘In terms of paths and public access… we would be expecting the re-instatement of the riverside path, improvement of the main east-west path through Pelaw Wood (the one subjected to vehicles during the monitoring works over the winter), a re-opening of the terrace path (although this may end up with a dip as it may not be feasible to be able to build it up again in the vicinity of the landslip), and the replacement of the seat with the cathedral view.   …We will be appointing a geotechnical designer to come up with detailed designs and estimates of costs for the repair work…to secure funds from the County Reserve and  for procurement’.

Top glade after strimming & bracken crushing

Top glade after strimming & bracken crushing

3 August Members were out strimming bracken, nettles and H. balsam in the glades. Earlier in the week pupils from Belmont School did a great job of crushing balsam in the top glade – photo.

Landslip news – August 

We suggested additional works to be included in the restoration budget – hardening all the paths – tree planting – replacing the seat the contractors destroyed – and restoring the ‘middle path’.


1 June 2014   Cleared a load of rubbish from the Beck and paths around the Wood; repaired the ‘rustic’ steps;  moved  hard core ready for path improvements near Old Durham; and took down video tape caught in the trees. The pint & chips in the Queen’s Head garden went down very well.

Silver Link Bridge from the BeckHauling litter out of the Beck

1 June 2014 work party

1 June 2014 work party

Dawn chorus walk












11 May  2014  A very enjoyable dawn chorus walk. A couple of kingfishers spotted on the river, whitethroats and many others. Bacon & sausage butties were welcomed afterwards.

April 2013 


You may have already seen the massive landslide – more a mudflow – which brought down yet another large beech tree.

The middle path has slipped 3-4 metres down the hillside;  the riverside path is covered with mud –  with  water seeping out of the hillside; and the slippage extends above the middle path. Possibly more will be come down. The County had started to instal drainage and boulders to retain the bank after those trees came down earlier in the year but they’ve been swept away. The current plan is to let the hillside stabilise and in the meantime the County have engaged geotechnical  consultants to investigate the problem and to consider possible long term  solutions.

IMGP2948The paths are closed but you can walk up through the Wood and then drop back down again to the river, bypassing the slide see  map.

Several beech trees have been felled because they are infected with Meripilis giganteus fungus in the roots making them liable to fall unexpectedly.

There are more photos  on  Facebook

The County have postponed publishing the official notice for Pelaw Wood to become aLocal Nature Reserve until the landslide is resolved.

And finally – we have discussed the motor- & quad-bike problems with Durham Police. They are sympathetic to the issue, a County wide problem, and had some successes in Esh Winning and Ludworth when intelligence has been gathered to enable action to be taken against riders and some crushing of bikes.

You can assist by: Reporting immediately by calling 101 if you see bikes in or going to or from Wood and you can give the police a good description of the bike and/or rider – what they’re wearing – and especially if you know where they came from. If just noise of bikes in the distance call Sherburn Road police station.


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