Red army is back on the march

Sue Mitchell (bottom of pic) and Kate Weightman who have started a new group-Morpeth ands District Red Squirrels.
Sue Mitchell (bottom of pic) and Kate Weightman who have started a new group-Morpeth ands District Red Squirrels.

RESIDENTS have answered the rallying call for new volunteers to protect Northumberland’s threatened red squirrels.

More than 30 people went to a meeting at Longhirst Hall in December following the decision of Morpeth Red Squirrels founder Norris Atthey to close the organisation in frustration at a lack of support.

A second meeting was arranged for the New Year so they could fill the gap as soon as possible.

Now Morpeth and District Red Squirrels (MAD RS) has been formed. Led by joint group co-ordinators Sue Mitchell and Kate Weightman, the emphasis is on developing areas where the animal can thrive, as well as trapping greys.

Along with Morpeth, its members cover a range of towns and villages including Pegswood, Widdrington, Ashington and Hepscott. They are also forging links with umbrella groups such as Northern Red Squirrels, the Red Squirrels Northern England project, headed by Northumberland Wildlife Trust, and the county council.

Mrs Weightman said: “Many of us at the meeting before Christmas hadn’t met before because we were doing our own thing in our own locality so it was an extremely useful event.

“Some of us were willing to start up a new group and at the second meeting we discussed what would be included in our constitution.

“We have been overwhelmed with the positive response from the private landowners, other members of the public and organisations we have spoken to so far and it has given us confidence that we can make a difference in the area. We are getting posters done at the moment, but the interest has grown quite a bit in the last few weeks through word of mouth alone.

“Our aim is to protect and preserve native red squirrels in their environment. By getting a clear picture of where reds are in the area we cover, we can then take action to feed and support them.

“Anyone interested in red squirrel conservation can get in touch with us and if we’re not the right group, we will put them in touch with the appropriate body.”

MAD RS has already received some grants and fund-raising activities will begin shortly. A website for the group will be launched in the coming weeks.

Sally Hardy, one of the founders of Northern Red Squirrels and the co-ordinator of Ponteland Red Squirrels, said: “This new group is excellent news for the efforts to protect red squirrels in Morpeth and surrounding areas and the people involved are already going great guns.

“I’m sure it will be a success and once the public becomes aware of it, many people will either become members or support the group.”

For more information, or to report sightings of both red and grey squirrels, telephone 07570 897979 or email mad.redsquirrels@yahoo.co.uk