Trust for the future

A wildlife body which hit financial trouble has appointed a new director as it plots a recovery path.

A wildlife body which hit financial trouble has appointed a new director as it plots a recovery path.

Jim Cokill, Durham Wildlife Trust conservation manager, takes over the top spot at the organisation, which has set a target or raising £75,000 to tackle a situation which saw six staff made redundant.

Another two jobs have now gone at the trust's visitor centres at Rainton Meadows and Low Barns.

Trust chairman Ian Findlay says: "There is no doubt that the trust is suffering from a serious financial problem and we have had to make some very hard decisions to ensure that the trust overcomes its present difficulties.

"It is unfortunately a case of the trust having overreached itself in terms of what it was trying to deliver. While measures put in place will ensure a sound financial footing in the long term, the trust requires financial support in the short term.

"The trust needs to raise £75,000 so that we can continue to operate effectively and maintain our status as the county's leading nature organisation."

Mr Cokill says: "We are on the path to recovery. We are definitely back on the up and it is business as usual."

A scheme has been introduced so that businesses can sponsor any of the trust's 26 nature reserves.

There is also the likelihood of two more reserves being added to the line-up soon.

Another aim is to increase the trust's 9,000 membership by widening its appeal and activities to attract a broader range of people.

That includes making the most of the interest of young children in the natural world and, through the youngsters, catching the attention of parents.

Mr Cokill's teacher wife Gayle runs a green club at Toner Avenue School in Hebburn, South Tyneside. "We want to raise membership as more and more people realise the importance of environmental issues and climate change," says Mr Cokill.

All trust visitor centres are to remain open. Rainton Meadows and Low Barns coffee shops will be open at weekends, with displays and toilet facilities available throughout the week.

Bowlees in Teesdale will be open as usual from now until the end of the summer.

Environmental education visits will continue at Low Barns and Rainton Meadows. A full programme of holiday activities and school visits will be available at Low Barns thanks to the Mineral Valleys Project led by Natural England and backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund. At Rainton Meadows there will be a programme of school visits.

A full range of events and guided walks will also take place at trust reserves throughout the year.

Trust reserves manager Mark Richardson takes on the post of deputy director.

This weekend, the trust will be working with Bede's World in Jarrow to install an artificial otter holt on the River Don.

The Don was once one of the most polluted rivers in the region but the scale of its recovery has been highlighted by the detection of the presence of otters.

The animals are now found on every river catchment area in County Durham.

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