RSPB Saltholme has strengthened its offer to families while boosting its contribution to conservation with the launch of new water play equipment and other improvements, following significant investment from Northumbrian Water.

The £40,000 project, which has been funded by Northumbrian Water, has introduced new facilities for young visitors as well as improving access and creating better habitats for wildlife at the Teesside nature reserve.

Families visiting RSPB Saltholme’s Discovery Zone are now able to explore and interact with a bespoke water play feature which, as well as providing a fun activity for young visitors, will help people learn more about how water is used around the reserve.

The reserve play area has also welcomed the addition of a more challenging climbing frame aimed at older children and teenage visitors to the reserve.

Other improvements include a new tern raft and small interpretation model raft. The tern raft has been floated out onto RSPB Saltholme’s lake alongside the existing rafts which were funded by Teesside Environmental Trust (TET) and Teesmouth Bird Club. These rafts create a safe and secure area for the terns to nest and hatch their young – away from the dangers of other birds such as the black-headed gulls, as well as a variety of mammals.

Funding from Northumbrian Water has also provided two automatic access doors to the visitor centre, improving access, and the introduction of special anti-slip treatment on the pond dipping platforms, adding to the accessibility and overall safety of the reserve.

The money was released from legacy Landfill Tax funds and administered through the Tees Valley Community Foundation.

David Braithwaite, site manager at RSPB Saltholme, said: “We’re thrilled to have support from Northumbrian Water. As a result of their kind funding we’ve been able to make a real contribution to conservation especially as the common tern is now a noted species within the European designated area at Saltholme.

“The funding has also allowed us to make the reserve more accessible and bolster the facilities we have on offer for the thousands of families that visit our site each year. The new water play feature and improved adventure play area will be enjoyed by many children over the coming years and we’re thrilled with the end result.

“The feedback from families so far has been very positive and it’s lovely to see children enjoying themselves while learning about water management at the same time.”

Louise Hunter, Northumbrian Water’s Director of Corporate Affairs, said: “We are thrilled that the projects RSPB Saltholme has undertaken with our funding are now being enjoyed by visitors to the site.

“The money has funded such a great range of positive work that will bring enjoyment to children, benefit those with mobility difficulties and, not forgetting the birds, a place to nest for the very elegant terns that spend the wintertime off the west coast of Africa but summer in the Tees Valley. We are delighted to be associated with RSPB Saltholme, as we can see the real value it has for people and for wildlife in the Tees Valley.”

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