Double celebration at nature reserve

Wildlife and volunteers at Gosforth Park Nature Reserve are celebrating a new long-term lease and the opening of a new wildlife viewing hide.

The reserve in north Newcastle is owned by Newcastle Racecourse who has just agreed a new 30-year lease to the Natural History Society of Northumbria so that it can continue be managed for rare wildlife including Otters, Bitterns and Coral Root Orchids. The new lease should pave the way for more investment in the site to make it even better in the years ahead.

David Williamson, Executive Director of Newcastle Racecourse, said: “We are delighted to offer a new lease to the Natural History Society of Northumbria to help the nature reserve flourish. This is an exciting time for Newcastle Racecourse with a £12 million investment project planned to commence in the autumn. We look forward to continuing to improve our facilities for all our visitors and playing an active part of the community in the years ahead.”

Volunteers have given over 1,100 hours of work to build a new wildlife viewing hide and 400 metre boardwalk in the reserve. After working in mud, rain, snow and sun every week since September they celebrated their amazing achievement when the hide was officially opened on 13 May by Viscount Ridley.

The building is named in memory of the Viscount’s late father, Matthew Ridley, who was a naturalist and former President and supporter of the Natural History Society of Northumbria.

The project will give visitors and school groups the chance to spot the many birds and animals that live in the reserve’s reedbed and wetland and to go pond dipping for aquatic life. The hide will be open to the public for an open day on 11 July.

The £32,000 project has been made possible thanks to individual donations and combined funding from the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear Northumberland through the Roland Cookson Fund, Local Environmental Action Fund and Northern Powergrid Fund. The project is also supported by the Ridley Family Charity, Newcastle Council Parklands Ward Committee and the Gosforth branch of Co-op.

The designs for the hide were developed free by Christoph Oschatz at Kiosk Architecture & Design and Danial Mallo from ec-architects. Christoph said: “We think that the work the society does on the reserve is pretty amazing and we wanted to help.”

James Littlewood, Director of the Natural History Society of Northumbria, is delighted “its been a fantastic week for the reserve and its wildlife. The new long-term lease will give us the security to invest in the site. The volunteers have been amazing. Over 20 people have been cheerily toiling away every week in the mud and in all weathers. Some of them have been building parts in their garages and transporting them to the reserve. We are especially grateful to Tony Docharty, a retired joiner, who has been brilliant but we have to thank every one of them, it’s a fantastic achievement and the hide looks incredible”.

Tony Docharty, from Sunderland, one of the volunteers who helped build the hide said “I have really enjoyed it, it was a great experience and making the hide has been really rewarding – knowing that what you have built is going to last for years and years and be enjoyed by so many people”.

You can read an online article about this story in The Journal, click here.