£417,000 lottery boost for Northumberland bay's nature reserves

A cash award from the Heritage Lottery Fund gives the go ahead for a new visitor centre at Hauxley Nature Reserve at Druridge Bay

Computer generated image of the proposed Hauxley Nature Reserve visitor centre
Computer generated image of the proposed Hauxley Nature Reserve visitor centre

A lottery award has signalled the go ahead for a gateway visitor centre to a popular Northumberland bay.

Druridge Bay stretches for seven miles from Amble to Lynemouth and is visited by thousands of walkers every year.

More visit the five Northumberland Wildlife Trust nature reserves immediately behind the bay at Hauxley, Cresswell Pond and Foreshore, Druridge Pools, East Chevington and Linton Lane.

Now the £417,400 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund will see the launch of the trust’s Dynamic Druridge project .

At the forefront of the scheme will be a new visitor centre at the trust’s Hauxley nature reserve near Amble.

It will replace the previous centre which was destroyed in an arson attack in 2010.

It is claimed that the new centre, which will act as a gateway to the bay, will be one of the greenest buildings in the North East.

The project will also restore, recreate and reconnect habitats across the bay’s five reserves.

The centre will also tell the story of the constantly changing landscape of the bay and its hinterland over the centuries.

This was underlined by the recent Rescued From the Sea archaeological dig at a prehistoric cliff-edge burial site which was being lost to coastal erosion.

It revealed that the site was once a raised island amid a wetland area.

The story also includes the years of opencast mining which created the landform for Druridge Bay Country Park and the Hauxley and East Chevington reserves.

The reserves are now the most northerly nesting sites for little egrets and avocets, while marsh harriers are also regular breeders.

The construction of the visitor centre will tap into the enthusiasm of volunteers, with hundreds taking part in the bay dig.

The centre has been designed so that it can be largely built - after training - by volunteers with no mainstream building skills.

“This wonderful funding will see a large part of our ambitious plan to improve everyone’s experience of wildlife and nature on Druridge Bay finally being realised,” said Steve Lowe, trust head of conservation.

“As well as the wildlife discovery centre and other improvements at Hauxley, habitats and access will be enhanced at all our reserves along the bay.

“We hope this funding marks the first of several steps towards realising a vision of making Druridge Bay one of the best places in the North of England to see wildlife.

“It will help us bring together local communities, visitors and the wildlife of the bay.

“It is an extremely exciting project and I am sure we will learn a lot from it.”

The construction of the centre will see the Hauxley reserve closing after February half-term for at least nine months, although there will be monthly open days so people can view progress,

At the same time the trust will create the first circular walk around the reserve after a successful fundraising appeal allowed it to buy 5.26 hectares of adjoining farmland.

The new land will also allow the trust to fashion new habitats.

The centre has been designed by BrightBlue Studio at North Shields Fish Quay, which is run by architect Henry Amos.

Wherever possible, local materials will be used.

Henry said: “No concrete will be used because it is a high energy process to produce it.”

The foundations of the building will utilise gravel and a geotextile layer.

Gabions - wire cages filled with stones - will form one of the walls and also act as plinths for the other walls.

These walls will be built using straw bales, fixed with hazel stakes, and against which will be pinned a wooden frame.

The walls will be coated in lime and clay render, which naturally controls levels of moisture and humidity.

The centre will offer views across the reserve’s lakes and a periscope will allow visitor to see on to the building’s meadow-planted roof.

The gabion wall will include nesting niches for birds and bird boxes will be fixed into the building’s eaves.

Wall portholes will also allow visitors to observe birds using feeding stations at close quarters without disturbing them.

“Designing the building has been an adventure,” said Henry.

Ivor Crowther, head of Heritage Lottery Fund North East, said: “We are delighted to support the trust’s plans to build a robust and sustainable future for the Druridge Bay area.”

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