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Teesdale School visit cropped N Bell .jpeg

Plants on the Edge

The Trust's Plants on the Edge project worked in partnership with Natural England and Northern Heartlands to address the steady decline of the Teesdale flora through:
• Surveying the populations and distribution of the rare species
• Trialling practical management actions for species recovery
• Engaging more people in the challenge to protect the rare plants of Upper Teesdale.

The project was funded by the Green Recovery Challenge Fund and contributions from other donors, including Strathmore and Raby Estates between 2021-2023 .

Plants on the Edge final evaluation report

100m surveyors L Sharp

Surveying the distribution of the rare species

Surveying the rare plants in Upper Teesdale is slow, painstaking work.  Much of the surveying is completed by John O’Riley.

Here John explains his process for surveying the flora.

As a result of the surveying that has already taken place on both Widdybank Fell and Cronkley Fell, we have a greater understanding of the differences between the rare plant habitats on the two fells. This will help us know what kind of land management works best for ensuring the survival of the special plants in the future.

John’s highlight from 2022 was finding two bushes of dwarf birch on Cronkley Fell towards the end of the summer. This species is very rare in England and had never been found south of the Tees before.

Additional surveying lower down the dale is carried out by volunteers from Upper Teesdale Botany Group, following training through Plants on the Edge.

100m surveyors L Sharp
Martin Furness

Trialling practical management actions

Field trials set up in 2021 and 2022 are ongoing and are exploring the viability of a variety of techniques to reverse declines in the Teesdale Assemblage including:

  • cutting of taller and more vigorous vegetation;

  • the creation of suitable habitat by localised soil stripping/exposure close to existing populations of rare plants;

  • mechanical scarification and a trial which simulated poaching by cattle hooves on Widdybank Meadow. (Poaching in this case refers to trampling of the ground by animals.)

Image of Natural England team field trials (photo M.Furness)


young people visited the rare flora habitats accompanied by volunteer botanists.



artists worked with students and others to learn about the plants and to create art for 7 exhibitions and events. This includes an animation,

Monstrous Mollis: The Troublesome Alchemilla



seats were filled at 5 public talks by local and national speakers, demonstrating an appetite  for such events.



training programme has been developed and trialled - A Bit of Botany. UTBG members can now progress right up to Species Champion, monitoring an individual species in depth.



walks led by volunteer botanists for members of the public ranging from serious botanists, interested locals and visitors, including those who have arrived in County Durham as refugees.



audio trails created, which provide an opportunity to learn about the plants and habitats of Upper Teesdale alongside botanists and others who work in the area.


different training courses provided for volunteers to faciliated continued work to address the decline of the rare plants of Upper Teesdale.


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