SUEZ declares the Path Head nature trail ‘open’
On Saturday 21 May 2022 SUEZ and Blaydon MP, Liz Twist, officially declared the nature trail open to the public. Located between the A695 and the Hexham Old Road, the site was once a quarry and then a landfill before being restored to nature. The area is now a hub of biodiversity, full of wildflowers and wildlife and is a wonderful place for the local community to come and enjoy nature.
The site has an interesting history. It operated as a quarry in the 1980s and ‘90s, providing sand, gravel and coal to the construction industry before closing in 1992. The space left after quarrying was then filled with residual waste from local homes and businesses left over after recycling. As recycling increased and the ways of dealing with residual waste improved, demand for landfill decreased and Path Head Landfill accepted its last delivery of waste in 2017.
SUEZ immediately began the important job of returning the site to nature whilst continuing to manage the gas extraction and electricity generation on-site. The waste was carefully buried within a special lining and capping system. As the waste breaks down it creates gases that are captured and used to generate electricity. The Path Head site continues to generate enough electricity to power 5000 homes.
Today, it’s a beautiful nature trail buzzing with biodiversity. Returning a former landfill to nature takes many years and must be done in a sensitive and carefully managed way. The restoration was completed within a year of closure of the landfill. This was then followed by several years of seeding with a carefully selected mix of native grasses and wildflowers, creating over 12 hectares of native grassland.
The site attracts a wide range of wildlife, one of the most popular is the Sand Martin. After migrating south to warmer weather, they return to Path Head in the Spring. Whilst a landfill site SUEZ created temporary sand faces to attract them back year after year. In 2019, this was replaced with a permanent habitat and they took no time to move in and make themselves at home. View a video of them in their new home.
Low fertility soils from the quarry excavation were purposely used as they provide the best growing conditions for wildflowers over cultivated plants. However, patience is required as it can take many years to establish but it’s worth the wait. In Summer the wildflowers will be in full bloom and provide a haven for insects, butterflies, birds and other wildlife. The grassland also provides the perfect nesting conditions for the Skylark that has been in decline in recent years. Frogs also now have a perfect home as the pond on-site has been cleared and replanted. The pond is also important to the neighbouring and much-loved Path Head Watermill. As the water flows down from the pond it turns the large wheel at the mill, helping to keep the long and proud history of the mill alive for visitors.
Liz Twist, MP and Chair of the Path Head Community Liaison Group, said: “It was great to be at the opening of the Path Head Nature Trail. Now that the landfill has closed and been returned to nature, I’m pleased that residents can come here and enjoy this brilliant stroll through some unique habitats. SUEZ have ensured that the restored site is in harmony with the environment around it and that everyone can come and enjoy the area.”
Victoria Pritchard, SUEZ’s Regional Manager, said: “It has taken many years of investment, careful restoration and patience to return this site to its natural and beautiful state. It has performed an important public service as a quarry and then a landfill, but I am beyond delighted to see it now providing not just the perfect habitat for so much wildlife but also a wonderful open space for the local community to enjoy.”