Business supports unique natural landscape with £11,000 donation

Prudhoe’s largest employer, Essity, has funded the resurfacing of a road through the Tyne Riverside Country Park improving access to a unique natural site that is popular with walkers and cyclists.

The Spetchells is Northumberland’s biggest area of chalk grassland and runs alongside the Essity tissue mill that backs onto the river.  It is formed of chalky waste products from the former ICI chemical plant that made fertiliser and explosives during World War 2. The factory operated on the site until the mid 1960s, when a tissue mill was built – originally for Kimberly-Clark and now operated by the Swedish-owned hygiene and health products company Essity.

Mill manager George Placogiannakis offered to fund the £11,000 resurfacing work after employees working on the site’s water intake pipes reported the gravel path was looking the worse for wear. “The new tarmac road has a barrier at one end and is used only occasionally by county council vehicles, or Essity engineers working on our water intake.  But it is a popular route with cyclists and dog-walkers and gives direct access to The Spetchells.

Essity’s George Placogiannakis and Councillor Glen Sanderson at Tyne Riverside Country ark

Essity’s George Placogiannakis and Councillor Glen Sanderson

“Home to a wide range of flora and fauna including rare butterflies and amazing mining bees, The Spetchells is a unique natural landscape that has developed over the last three quarters of a century on what was originally a factory spoil heap. Our employees have a great deal of affection for the site and we have supported local volunteers keen to preserve this community asset – with a dozen of our apprentices working alongside the Spetchells Conservation Interest Group last year to clear some of the dense undergrowth.”

The new stretch of road links the riverside park access at the front of the Northumberland County Council depot, behind the transport interchange, to the footpath along the river.  It is expected to be even more popular with cyclists and walkers now the newly refurbished Tyne Riverside Café and Land of Oak & Iron Heritage Centre has opened.

“Prudhoe is the northern gateway to the Land of Oak & Iron – an HLF-funded landscape partnership that conserves and celebrates the industrial heritage of the area,” added county councillor Glen Sanderson cabinet member for environment and local services.

“The county council is a key partner in this activity and this generous donation by Essity will help us improve public access to this fascinating site and hopefully encourage residents and visitors alike to explore other aspects of the surrounding area’s rich natural, industrial and cultural heritage.”

Prudhoe county councillors Ken Stow and Gordon Stewart attended the launch of the new track and Cllr Stewart added:  “This has provided a great improvement to a well-loved local park.  We are grateful to Essity for making this contribution, and hope that park users like cyclists and walkers will feel and enjoy the benefits.”