A new visitor centre for a popular Northumberland nature reserve has taken a major step forward.
The previous centre at Northumberland Wildlife Trust’s Hauxley reserve on Druridge Bay was destroyed in an arson attack three years ago.
The trust mounted a fundraising campaign to replace the centre at the reserve, near Amble, and is still appealing for help.
But it has now appointed architect Henry Amos to work on designs for the new centre.
Mr Amos, who runs Brightblue Studio in the converted Ballard’s smokehouse on North Shields Fish Quay, specialises in sustainable design and the use of natural and recycled materials.
Mr Amos’s plans include using straw bale walls, with plaster on either side to provide high insulation and ease of construction which can be carried out by volunteers.
Clay floors and clay interior plaster will help control humidity.
The building will also have a number of viewpoints – including child-size apertures – from which visitors can observe the wildlife.
The design will also incorporate bird roosts. A meadowland roof will cap the design, using plants found on the reserve such as kidney vetch, viper’s bugloss, bloody cranesbill and northern marsh orchid.
Another idea is to provide a periscope so that visitors can observe wildlife activity on the roof.
Alex Lister, trust Druridge Bay estates officer, said: “The work of Henry Amos and his team fits the bill with their design for our new green visitor centre and I am particularly looking forward to the installation of the meadowland roof which will hopefully provide valuable habitat for wildlife.”
The coal mining history of the site has also provided a new wildlife feature.
As well as traditional underground mining, the site was also opencasted.
Five years ago a 12ft long crack appeared in an an area not open to the public.
The fissure was at the point between where land had been undisturbed and the “cliff edge” of the former opencast operation. The hole was capped but recently a 25ft long , 3ft wide crack re-opened. “There were big, inter-locking boulders with small gaps in between so nobody could fall in and in any case it was an a no-public acessarea of willow woodland,” said Mr Lister.
UK Coal stepped in to help and the area has now been capped and the land re-profiled to prevent a re-occurence.
The operation has also created a scrape area for wading birds to feed.
Plans are also progressing for the acquisition of land to provide a circular walk for the first time for visitors around the reserve.