Druridge Bay, an eight mile arc of sand running north from Cresswell to the harbour of Amble in Northumberland, strewn with wetlands. From lagoons stained the deepest green by summer algae to flooded tyre ruts, glinting water in the arable fields. This blog is a snapshot of research at the University of Northumbria as we explore this pondscape forged between northern sea and sky.
The summer of 2012 has been unusually wet, the rains filling out the subsidence ponds which dot the southern landscape of Druridge Bay. Around Blakemoor Farm and Ellington the fields jostle, their boundaries mis-matched as if some chinese puzzle has been abandoned by bored giants. The land is also prone to dip and rise over the ten seams of Ellington's abandoned coal mine, the last deep mine to close in Northumberland. The hollows and troughs create a dense scatter of subsidence ponds. Some ponds are expansive pools obvious amongst the cereal or oil seed rape. Others are more subtle, the water collecting in tyre ruts or track ways. The wet summer topped up tyre-rut pools amongst the oil seed rape in fields north of Ellington. Most ruts managed a half hearted mix of amphibious grasses and toad rush, Juncus buffonius, along with figure-of-eight wiggling bloodworms which are not worms at all but the larva of midges, their bodies rich in haemoglobin to make the best of what little oxygen there is in the pools. One rut though had a more unexpected fauna; sticklebacks. Right in amongst the oil seed rape, no pond or stream nearby or ever connected yet here were adult sticklebacks in breeding red, cruising their minature pool with the same ominous dark silhouette as sharks might patrol a beach of seals. I do not know how they got there. The ruts were new this year. The fish seemed conjured from the clay, both out of place but also a compelling example of how animals get about the Bay. The photo shows one of the sticklebacks along with its temporary domain. The ruts had been ploughed out now, following the harvest but there will be sticklebacks somewhere nearby. We cannot protect every last puddle and pool, but a landscape with enough pools and ruts, somewhere, sometime, is what the wildlife needs and then the toad rush and sticklebacks can find their own way. Allowing landscapes to change is as much part of conservation as resisting the damaging changes we inflict.