Visitors to a historic hall were invited to go nuts for nature.
Earlier this year the Friends of Washington Old Hall in Tyne and Wear won a £54,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant for a three-year programme to develop the nature interest in the grounds of the National Trust property.
Yesterday the Friends held their first major public event to highlight the progress so far of their In a Nutshell project.
One aim is to create wildlife habitats in the Old Hall’s Nuttery, an area of land planted with nut trees such as hazel, filbert and almond.
The Nuttery is used by visiting schoolchildren for activities such as harvesting the nuts and using them to make biscuits.
The hall gardens and nuttery merge with the surrounding woodland of the Washington Village Conservation Area and walks yesterday explored the changing human and natural landscape.
Other activities included willow weaving, natural food foraging, honey extraction from the hall’s hives, and apple pressing to make juice. The hall has an orchard with 20 varieties of English apples.
Monitoring has shown there are regular visits to the hall grounds by over 30 species of birds.
Future plans include creating medieval garden features in The Mead area of the hall’s grounds and creating a tranquil area in the middle of urban Washington.
Lying immediately adjacent to the 800 year-old hall – the ancestral home of first American president George Washington - the Mead may prove to be of archaeological importance.
A donation of £1,500 by the Daughters of the American Revolution will allow the Friends to survey the area for evidence of former buildings before any development within the project takes place.
Ivor Crowther, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund North East, said: “This is an engaging project which will involve people in our natural heritage.”
Project officer Sarah Murray said: “This is a brilliant project which will create many opportunities for individuals, school and community groups to become involved with nature conservation”.