The Friends of Pelaw Wood, assisted by Durham University students, are a voluntary group working with Durham County Council in the care of Pelaw Wood on the northern bank of the River Wear.
In the heart of the Wood is Silverlink Bridge, a steel footbridge built in 1938, with a span of almost 200ft over the Pelaw Beck. The northern abutment of the bridge, leading to Gilesgate, is onto land with former industrial use – a soft drinks factory had for many years used the site as a tip for unwanted bottles, some of which are now highly-prized and valuable.
The consequent illicit bottle-mining into the bank at high level, apart from constituting a danger to children, has led to a number of trees becoming destabilised, particularly those in close proximity to the bridge.
Attempts by Police, Council and volunteers to prevent the mining have largely failed, due to a significant section of the land having no registered ownership.
For safety of the bridge and general public it became imperative that the unregistered land be clearly delineated and that subsequently it should become vested in Durham County Council and managed by the Friends of Pelaw Wood, under the Council’s supervision.
Ian Zass-Ogilvie, a Research Fellow of Policy & Practice, is carrying this project forward on behalf of the local community.