A new visitor centre could open next year at an environmental spot, as part of ambitious plans to transform it into a first-hand nature destination.
Northumberland Wildlife Trust (NWT) has set out its ambitious Vision for Hauxley Nature Reserve – a scheme costing just under £500,000.
The project includes extending the reserve, creating new habitat areas and a new gateway centre, after the previous visitor centre was destroyed by arsonists in 2010.
NWT wants to create a visitor facility unlike any other in Northumberland which will give a wider range of audiences first-hand experience of nature.
It hopes it will provide a gateway to the wider area for both wildlife and people and enhance the biodiversity value of the reserve itself.
Alex Lister, NWT’s estates officer, said: “I envisage this will be the best place to watch wildlife in Northumberland, in terms of facilities.
“We have already got some fantastic things on site, but with these improvements, that can only increase.
“We would also like to work with more user groups and make it more family-friendly.
“We hope it will increase the number of visitors to the reserve and have a knock-on effect on the towns and villages around the area too.”
The Trust wants to create a new environmentally-sound visitor centre with a large observation area, accessible toilets, shop and office space, costing £236,000 and with the aim of opening its doors in 2014.
The Trust also wants to purchase an adjoining area of land to extend the reserve by five hectares and create new wetland areas, as well as grazing meadows with vegetation.
Funding of £100,000 is needed and it is hoped the land can be secured this year.
Once the reserve has been extended, the Trust wants to create a new circular walk, costing £104,000, with viewing areas, benches and signs to help visitors enjoy their walk.
It is hoped this can be open in 2014 as a grass path and then surfaced in 2015 to make it fully accessible.
Later this year, the Trust is hoping to create new signage and a new viewing screen to enable people to discover a marsh area. This will cost £3,000,
Other targets for 2014/15 include a family picnic area (£24,000), a dipping pond with platforms to allow children to explore underwater habitats (£10,000) and improve/resurface the car park and create a safe and secure cycle storage (£11,400).
Some of the funding for the overall scheme has been secured through insurance money and a public appeal. Various funding bids have also been submitted.
Alex said: “We have 30 per cent of the funding for the overall project. Funding bids have gone in and I would be disappointed if we didn’t have the visitor centre open by Christmas next year. As long as we have started construction by next autumn, I will be happy.
“We hope to secure the land extension this year. Hopefully that will come first, but we wouldn’t open that until the visitor centre is open.”