DORMICE from the most northerly colony in England are being given a helping hand.
Pupils at Shaftoe Trust First School in Haydon Bridge in Northumberland have built and decorated 22 dormouse boxes.
They are installing the boxes at the National Trust’s Allen Banks and Staward Gorge estate in the county in time for the dormouse breeding season.
It is hoped the nesting boxes will boost numbers in the area. It will also make it easier for the National Trust to survey and monitor dormice on the estate.
The school has been working closely with trust wardens Sarah Bennett, Nathanael Wilkins and Kevin Shepherd as part of the conservation charity’s guardianship scheme.
Sarah said: “It is extremely important for us to manage our sites for wildlife and enthuse others to care for these special sites.
“The guardianship programme helps us do both of these by linking with a local school to educate future conservationists.
“We are thrilled that the staff and children have taken so much out of this project, from learning crafts to mentoring local wildlife.
“The efforts of the children to help boost the dormouse population in this area will make a real difference. Without this sort of help, dormice will be yet another creature that will be spoken about in the past tense. We don’t want to be in the position where in the future children’s only knowledge of the dormouse is gleaned from reading Alice in Wonderland.”
Headteacher Audrey Cox said: “The work the children have been doing is extremely important on all levels. It is helping them see themselves as being part of the community and also educating them about having a certain responsibility for the community they live in.
“We also hope the children will become more involved in the countryside and think more about species that are endangered and the importance of preserving what we have.”
Meanwhile, Northumberland Wildlife Trust has received 20 dormouse nesting boxes and 100 plastic research tubes from The People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) to aid its search for dormice in Northumberland.
The London-based charity is so concerned at the decline of dormice that it has earmarked the boxes and research tubes for use at Northumberland Wildlife Trust’s reserves. The tubes will be inspected for traces of dormouse hair.