A NEW project aims to boost farmland birds and enhance the landscape in a “forgotten” part of Teesdale.

The three-year Birds and Farm Landscapes Project will concentrate on midTeesdale – an area covering Barnard Castle and the parishes of Eggleston, Gainford, Barningham and Bowes.

Jennie Stafford, who was farm conservation adviser with the former Tyne Tees Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group for six years, has been appointed the parttime project officer.

She will carry out farmland conservation surveys and manage a small grants scheme.

The aim is to improve habitat and feeding conditions for threatened farmland birds such as grey partridge, tree sparrows, yellow hammers, and barn owls.

The grants scheme will encourage farmers to create wild bird seed mix plots, hedgerow restoration and establishment, and re-wilding field margins.

Part of the aim is to encourage wild bird seed mixes with smaller seeds to benefit the smaller birds, while planting oak, Scots pine, hawthorn and holly will benefit black grouse.

Miss Stafford, who runs her own rural advisory services business from her home in Bowes, said: “Turner, Dickens, Constable and others used this part of the world for their inspiration, but it is ‘forgotten’ as it borders the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.”

Although the landscape is still attractive and bird life is fairly healthy Miss Stafford hopes to work with farmers to secure and enhance both.

Free tree planting, by volunteers from Trees for Cotherstone, can range from two or three parkland or field boundary trees to small copses and larger numbers with stock protection.

Farmers have already shown interest – tree planting has begun at Gilmonby and another farmer who has seen barn owls flying over his land is eagerly waiting for some barn owl nesting boxes.

Durham Bird Club will supply and erect bird boxes for farmers who request them.

Ian Moorhouse, trustee of the Mid Teesdale Project Partnership, said: “I am very much looking forward to getting going with the project, in Jennie we have exactly the right person for the role.”

William Weston, chairman of the Heart of Teesdale Landscape Partnership, said: “I am delighted Jennie has been appointed to deliver the Birds and Farm Landscapes Project, she has a wealth of knowledge and experience relating to conservation and farming which will be invaluable to this project and the partnership as a whole.”

The project is a part of the £3m Heart of Teesdale Landscape Partnership’s programme which is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Durham County Council and is supported by the Barnard Castle Vision Regeneration Partnership.

Farmers interested in finding out more can contact Miss Stafford on 01833 628 443; 07866 235 307; or email jennie@jenniestafford.co.uk.