The castle is built on the Whin Sill, a hugely important geological feature in the North East. It is a vast layer of dolerite rock which spreads from Teesdale all the way up to Berwick. Lindisfarne and Dunstanburgh Castles are also built on it, and the most easterly point forms the Farne Islands. It’s really important ecologically too, as it supports very particular grassland habitats with a unique collection of plants. Sadly, much of this has been lost or degraded so it’s really important to protect what’s left.
Although Ivy is native to the UK it is an invasive species which forms dense, shade-tolerant ground cover. This causes problems because it spreads quickly and smothers native species, forming a monoculture with very little biodiversity. It had covered a huge area at Bamburgh Castle, so Coast Care wanted to clear it to allow other species to return. Photos from the early 19th Century show that there was very little ivy cover along the rock face. Returning the site to its former glory will allow species lying dormant in the soil seedbank to grow once more, including those plants that we’d expect in Whin Sill grassland.
Before we started to clear the ivy
Work gets underway
Since Coast Care began clearing the ivy at Bamburgh Castle last winter the plant diversity has already increased. This really shows the positive impact that this work has had. We ran a plant ID session on 19th August, when we surveyed the area and found 24 plant species on the ramparts that previously were not present. Without our volunteers hard work ivy would still be dominating the area and out-competing all the other species that now call the site home. This is fantastic news for the ecological health of the site. The increased plant diversity of plant will have important knock-on effects for the soil health, number of pollinators and the sites birdlife. For example, very few earthworms have been observed on the site in recent years, which is a sign of poor nutrient levels in the soil. Increasing the plant diversity and soil health will help earthworms to recolonise the area, which will provide food for birds such as Robins and Blackbirds.
Our progress so far... can you help us to continue this project?
If you’d like to be a part of this project, we’ll be returning to continue our work at Bamburgh on Thursday 19th and 26th September from 10am until 2pm. For more info, go to http://www.coast-care.co.uk/activities/upcoming-activities/bamburgh-castle-ivy-removal/. To book your place to attend please contact the team on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks to Bamburgh Castle Estate and the Armstrong family for allowing us to go ahead with this work, and to all the volunteers who have worked so hard!