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A North East nature reserve is celebrating after completing the first phase of a large-scale refurbishment project thanks to a substantial funding injection.

So far, two viewing hides at RSPB Saltholme have been upgraded as part of the three-phase refurbishment project which will improve the reserve for birds and other wildlife, while also improving the viewing hide experience for visitors.

The two hides, Paddy’s and Wildlife Watchpoint, were completed in time for the start of the busy spring season. This included the return of the popular Lambing Live event which saw thousands of visitors experience nature at the much-loved reserve.

The £300,000 project was funded by the Teesside Environmental Trust (TET) earlier this year. The reserve team called on the skills of internationally-renowned Norwegian-based birding architecture specialists, Biotope on the innovative new project.

Improvements to the viewing hides include new wooden cladding inside and out,and new windows with a special coating to help repel dirt – a must to keep the landscapes as clear as possible for nature-lovers. The wildlife watchpoint also features new electric doors and a new entrance area making it even more accessible.

David Braithwaite, site manager, at RSPB Saltholme, said: “We’re thrilled to have completed the first phase of the project following the funding from our valued partners at Teesside Environmental Trust. The work would not have been possible without the additional funding and we’re extremely grateful for the Trust’s ongoing support.

“The upgraded hides look fantastic and we’ve had some great comments from our visitors who are already making use of the improved structures. They provide our visitors with an amazing view across the reserve. The windows – which repel dirt and water – allow completely open viewing which is perfect for those who want a clear view of the birds with their binoculars, telescopes or cameras. The hides have certainly improved the viewing experience for our visitors while providing a more natural environment for the wildlife.”

Phase two of the project includes a raised viewing area and habitat management to improve the wetland wildlife environment. This aspect is currently in planning and will begin in the coming months.

David Kitchen, Chair of Teesside Environmental Trust, said: “We’re extremely pleased to be able to continue to support RSPB Saltholme.

“Phase one of the upgrade project has been very successful. This has been confirmed by feedback from our visitors. The new look viewing structures look great, and improve wildlife viewing.  We hope visitors to Saltholme enjoy the ongoing improvements, make use of this regional treasure and introduce new people to Saltholme”

The hides were designed by international specialists Biotope. Alonza Garbett, architect at Biotope, said: “We were delighted to be given the opportunity to tackle the challenge set by the RSPB Saltholme team.

“Out of all of our projects we have been involved in, the project really underlines the reasons why we work in this field; bringing nature and people together where both can benefit, and it has been a pleasure to be a part of.”

For further information on RSPB Saltholme, visit rspb.org.uk/saltholme or follow the reserve team on Facebook or Twitter.

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