Wildlife charity’s fury at mindless vandalism on flagship reserve
In June 2010, the wildlife charity’s visitor centre on its Hauxley reserve at Druridge Bay was destroyed in an arson attack. This resulted in a huge public appeal which raised more than £30,000 in just over one year, £417,000 of support from players of the National Lottery, together with donations from charitable trusts, local businesses, collection buckets around the reserve, even cakes from the local WI.
From May 2015, the Hauxley Volunteer Army of 112 volunteers clocked up 22,541 hours (the equivalent of 3,220 volunteering days) constructing a new Hauxley Wildlife Discovery Centre, which was opened in June 2017. Since that date, the centre has won scores of design awards and attracted tens of thousands of visitors each year.
Now, on the site where so much effort was put into creating a haven for wildlife and people, vandals have struck again, this time smashing four of the wildlife-watching hides. The biggest hide, the Tern Hide has had the walls kicked, benches pulled out and hurled around inside and every window has been smashed.
In other hides windows have been broken, benches ripped up, a fence has been kicked over and further sections of hide wall kicked out. The trust is still assessing the damage but it is expected to cost £1000s to repair.
The Trust is working with the local police and schools in Amble to identify the culprits from CCTV footage and bring them to justice.
Within minutes of the Trust posting a video of the damage on social media, donations for the repairs started to flood in. The video can be viewed here and anybody wishing to donate should visit www.nwt.org.uk/donate and select Hauxley Wildlife Discovery Centre in the drop down.
Speaking about the vandalism, Duncan Hutt, Director of Conservation at Northumberland Wildlife Trust said: “After all we have put into the reserve, from dealing with the devastation from the fire where priceless recordings of wildlife species were lost, to fundraising, rebuilding, reopening and then closing for a year during lockdown, for mindless thugs to strike is absolutely infuriating.”
Moreover, the vandalism doesn’t stop there. Throughout lockdown, gangs of youths have been lighting fires, smashing bottles in the public wildlife-viewing hide at the charity’s Holywell Pond reserve, and hurling bottles into the field at grazing sheep.
In Newcastle, at the Trust’s St Nicholas Park reserve in Gosforth, gangs of youths have been congregating on the veranda of the Activity Centre drinking, taking drugs, smashing bottles in the grass where dog walkers walk their dogs and breaking the wooden handrails along the front of the building. This building is no stranger to vandalism and at least once a year it needs to be re-painted due to graffiti and damaged benches replaced.
The mindless damage comes at a time when the Trust’s estates officers are working flat out without the support of many of their volunteers, making it difficult to repair the damage or patrol the sites.
Duncan Hutt continued: “Whilst wildlife has actually been doing quite well it's the behaviour of people that has caused us the most problems and challenges in the past year on our reserves.
“Vandalism such as these incidences, not to mention fly tipping on our reserves, is annoying at the best of times, but when we are still trying to contend with the financial and practical challenges of operating a wildlife charity during periods of lockdown it's even harder to deal with.”