A FORMER Cemex mineral extraction site at Branton was officially opened as a wildlife and nature reserve last week.
The 29-hectare restoration site incorporates two lakes, one of which includes a bird nesting island.
Northumberland National Park Authority has also donated a bird hide for use by the North Northumberland Bird Club and local bird-watching enthusiasts and, to date, more than 140 species of birds and wildlife have been observed on the restored site.
A special opening ceremony was held last Friday, attended by Lib Dem MP Sir Alan Beith and MEP Fiona Hall as well as children and staff from Branton Community First School, to unveil the new site officially.
Mineral extraction started at Branton in 1996 and has yielded in excess of 1.66million tonnes of sand and gravel.
The site was then operated by Ready Mixed Concrete (RMC) and the opening ceremony was a welcome return for former company employee, Chris Leese, now vice-president of Cemex.
He said: “It’s great to be back in north Northumberland and visit the Branton site now the restoration project has been completed. The area has been completely transformed.”
Branton Community First School, which only has six pupils, has been provided with its own designated mini-nature reserve and dipping pond. Pupils access their own exclusive area by a specially constructed bridge with walkways cut around the area to provide viewing of insects and wild birdlife.
The event was also attended by Tyne Tees news presenter Philippa Tomson who interviewed pupils and staff as well as presenting the local weekend weather forecast from the lakeside. The school’s facilities were also used for the opening ceremony and members of the public were informed of the ongoing commitment to the site by Cemex Planning Manager Keith Frost.
He said: “Cemex is committed to a five year aftercare programme and a 20 year management plan. We are hoping a voluntary group will be established in due course to help with the management of the nature reserve. The site also incorporates wild life habitats, owl nesting boxes, wet woodland and reed bed areas.”