Due to local lockdown restrictions (18/09/20), we ask that you please do not access the hides on our reserves at present as it is too difficult to ensure social distancing. We have locked our hides at Big Waters until local restrictions are eased. We're sorry for any inconvenience but it is to ensure public safety at this time. 

Big Waters features a mix of habitats including the largest subsidence pond (one of the largest bodies of open water in the region), providing home to diverse wildlife.


Just past Brunswick Village
Seaton Burn

OS Map Reference

NZ 227 734
A static map of Big Waters

Know before you go

25 hectares

Entry fee


Parking information

Car park for the City Council Country Park

Grazing animals

There are sometimes cows grazing the fields

Walking trails

A path and raised boardwalk leads to the members' hides, pond and feeding station. From the car park, a wide grass track leads along a field boundary before joining a broader track with a level, hard surface.


Access to the western section of the reserve is restricted to NWT members.  The entrance, which lies 300m west of the car park for Big Waters Country Park, is through two single-latch gates on a level path. Access around the reserve is mainly on raised boardwalk which is suitable for wheelchair and pushchair users. The terrain is mostly wide boardwalks, and is flat and easy. Please contact the Trust for further information on special access needs.


Guide dogs only
Guide/assistance dogs only


Bird hides

When to visit

Opening times


Best time to visit

All year round

About the reserve

The reserve is a lasting memory of the mining heritage in this area, as the pond formed over collapsed mine workings from the 1920s along the Hartley Burn. Most of the reserve is open water, reedbed and a skirting rim of wet woodland. The lake level varies significantly after rainfall and as a result many of the paths are on raised boardwalks.

The nature conservation interest of the reserve is enhanced by a variety of closely associated habitats including: fen and carr; a meadow with relic areas of rigg and furrow; and a maturing wood planted in the 1960's. Since 1982 volunteer wardens have helped to manage the reserve, maintaining its high profile as a site for birdwatchers and other visitors.

The reserve has one of the largest colonies of tree sparrows; great tit, blue tit and chaffinch are also regular users. Many of the more common water birds are visible, including great crested grebe, mute swan, coot, moorhen, heron and tufted duck. Occasionally, unusual visitors such as water rail and bittern can be spotted. The site is also important as a roost for large flocks of swallows on autumn migration, and also supports wintering wildfowl.

To the east of the reserve, the pond is managed by Newcastle City Council as public recreation area. Great crested newt along with a range of damselflies and dragonflies occur here, including large red and azure damselfly and common hawker. The lake and the quiet reedbeds provide a home to otters.

There are two locked hides (available only to NWT members for £10 – please contact the Trust), a bird feeding station and screens allow close observation of wildlife. Raised viewing platform and pond dipping platform available.

Contact us

Northumberland Wildlife Trust
Contact number: (0191) 284 6884
Contact email: mail@northwt.org.uk

Environmental designation

Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)