TV presenter opens Wildlife Discovery Centre

Friday 7th July 2017

Simon King, photo Simon Greener Photography

Exactly seven years ago, staff at Northumberland Wildlife Trust were left devastated by an arson attack on its visitor centre at its 21-hectare Hauxley reserve near Amble in Northumberland.

It took firefighters an hour to put out the blaze, which had left the building, which catered for 10,000 visitors a year, a total ruin.

Following the blaze, the decision was taken to create an eco-friendly centre, which would be one of the greenest in the region and an attraction in its own right.

The design was such that the centre could be built largely by volunteers and now, after years of hard work, television presenter and wildlife cameraman Simon King OBE has officially opened the new centre.

Simon said: “From the flames has come a phoenix which is beautiful and stunning. It is a magnificent building - a jewel in the crown of reserves along the Northumberland coast.

“The centre sits harmoniously within the landscape and is a great testament to the concept, the architecture and the huge effort of the volunteers whose hard work put it all together.”

Now, just in time for summer, the reserve with its lake and islands has re-opened to the public after being closed for two years while construction work proceeded.

Once the decision had been taken to replace the destroyed centre, a funding drive was launched.

A membership and public appeal, plus donations from firms and grants, saw more than £30,000 raised in 18 months and, in 2013, a land appeal raised over £90,000 to buy 12 acres of adjoining land so that new habitats and a circular walk could be created.

The biggest cash boost came in 2015 from National Lottery players which resulted in a grant of £417,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund for the Trust’s Dynamic Druridge project which included the building of the new centre.

From May 2015, the Hauxley Volunteer Army of 112 volunteers clocked up 22,541 hours (the equivalent of 3,220 volunteering days) constructing the building which was designed by North Shields based architects Brigthblue Studio.

Mike Pratt, Northumberland Wildlife Trust Chief Executive said: “As a wildlife trust, we felt it was absolutely essential that the new Hauxley Wildlife Discovery Centre should be one of the most eco-friendly buildings in the North East; at the end of the centre’s life, it can all return to the earth or be re-used when de-constructed.

“The Trust owes a huge debt to volunteers who played such a massive part in the construction of the building. We now have an amazing building that we are all so proud of.”