Fears over 'wildlife corridor' habitat
By Martin Paul - Senior Reporter
A WARNING has been sounded that work to upgrade a railway path to bridleway in Barnard Castle is destroying valuable habitat for rare birds
Zoology graduate Cameron Sharp says the route between TCR Hub and Dent Gate Lane has the highest density of nesting birds listed as endangered by the RSPB in the dale, but this is at risk if further upgrading of the path takes place.
In April, county officers installed a ramp and widened access to the footpath, removing a tree which provided nesting for blue tits.
But officers say they have no plans for further work on the route.
Mr Sharp, who graduated from Bangor University this year, has been monitoring the route for about four years.
He said: “Although many listed bird species can be found in Teesdale, the high density of listed, and most importantly confirmed breeding species, across a relatively small area along that particular section of the old railway line is significant to warrant concerns over the potential increase in disturbance caused by major development.
“That particular section of the railway acts as a wildlife corridor, which is otherwise surrounded on both sides by predominantly monoculture agricultural land which lacks the botanical diversity the migrant bird species need to breed and feed from.”
He said he was worried that increased numbers of people using the route will create disturbance for the birds.
Mr Sharp said: “The wildlife on the railway line can cope with regular disturbance from users at the current rate, but combine the disruption of the path development with the potential for an increase in use, and it could potentially drive away nesting birds for good.”
However, officers say the work they carried out in April was simply to improve access, and no further work is planned.
The county’s access and rights of way team leader Mike Ogden said: “Public safety and protecting biodiversity are always key considerations when creating new footpaths and public bridleways.
“When an order was created to convert a section of the former railway route between the TCR Hub and Dent Gate Lane into a bridleway, we did originally receive an objection.
“However, this was withdrawn after we explained we were only formalising a route already used by the public and making it safer and more accessible by installing a ramp.
“With no remaining objections, work to establish the bridleway began as planned when coronavirus restrictions allowed and has since been completed.
“No further works are planned, and any vegetation clearance that does take place will be minimal and for maintenance purposes only. The site investigation vans seen at the location were not related to the creation of the public bridleway.
“Feedback from residents, visitors and wildlife experts is always appreciated. We welcome Mr Sharp’s offer to monitor the route and are happy to remain in touch with him on these matters.”