Our history

In the beginning

The Wildlife Trust movement started in 1912 with the formation of the Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves (now the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts) to preserve places of significant wildlife interest for the nation.

Environmental concerns spawn countryside movement

Gradually, in response to widespread devastation of natural habitats through expansion in agriculture, forestry and housing development, naturalists’ trusts formed in most counties across the UK. Now there are 46 Wildlife Trusts working to secure an environment rich in wildlife for everyone, with 850,000 members and 2300 reserves.

Northumberland Wildlife Trust milestones

The formation of the Northumberland and Durham Naturalists’ Trust, based at the Hancock Museum, with Tony Tynan as its Founder.

We began campaigning against seal culling on the Farnes and against sand extraction at Druridge Bay, both of which subsequently ceased.

The first reserve acquired in Northumberland was Big Waters, a coal mining subsidence pond and now a haven for water birds, otters and butterflies, and one of our most popular reserves.

Rare bog habitats were leased from the Forestry Commission in Kielder, the first of 55 sites known as the Border Mires and now recognised to be of international importance and a Living Landscape project.

The amicable separation from Durham to form Northumberland Wildlife Trust, the first Trust in England to use the title ‘Wildlife Trust’.

The Trust surveyed and recorded around 250 Local Sites (until recently Sites of Nature Conservation Interest, or SNCIs) used by local planning authorities.

The acquisition of ex-opencast site at Low Hauxley, now internationally recognised as an important place for breeding and migrating birds.

The Trust produced a gold medal-winning natural garden, inspired by Monet, at the Gateshead Garden Festival, which created huge public interest.

NWT was the first voluntary nature conservation organisation in the country to earn the Investors in People award for attainments in managing and developing staff and volunteers.

We compiled, with the Natural History Society of Northumbria, the Red Data Book of Northumberland, a list of rare and threatened species which informed the Northumberland Biodiversity Action Plan.

The acquisition of Whitelee Moor, a rare blanket bog and heather moorland, one of the largest nature reserves managed by any English Wildlife Trust.

Northumberland Wildlife Trust turnover topped £1m, a reflection of continuing delivery capacity.

The hugely successful launch of the Living Landscape concept at The Sage Gateshead with Chris Packham.

After years of lobbying by the Wildlife Trusts, the Marine Act was passed to protect the marine environment.

The reception centre at Hauxley was burned down in June.

Outline approval was granted for the £4.2m Heritage Lottery funded Coal & Coast project, led by the Trust and the Druridge Bay Partnership.

Northumberland Wildlife Trust celebrated 40 years of protecting wildlife, and has over 12,500 members, 300 active volunteers and 40 staff caring for over 60 nature reserves.

Events included the installation of Tynan's Bank (a new sand martin bank) at our Hauxley nature reserve, a members’ cruise on the River Tyne with wildlife commentary and afternoon tea, and a spectacular wild evening with Chris Packham at the Journal Tyne Theatre.

We also launched our successful appeal to lobby for Marine Protected Areas to safeguard the wildlife in the North Sea.

The Wildlife Trusts movement celebrated its 100th anniversary, with events happening throughout the UK, including the NWT Farne Islands boat trip.

NWT took over the site management for Northumberlandia, a human landform sculpture of a reclining lady set in a 46-acre community park.

A ten-week period of excavation was carried out at Low Hauxley for ‘Rescued from the Sea’, an archaeological project funded by Heritage Lottery Fund to uncover Mesolithic remains, an early Bronze Age cemetery and ancient peat beds at Low Hauxley.

NWT’s Hauxley Land Appeal was a huge success with over £57,000 supporter donations and Gift Aid raised (in addition to other key funds) to purchase additional land adjoining the existing Hauxley reserve.

In addition, a first for the Wildlife Trusts, NWT patron Conrad Dickinson led a British team of Walking with the Wounded veterans, accompanied by HRH Prince Harry, across Antarctica culminating in the raising of the NWT flag at the South Pole.

After the hide at Hauxley was burnt down in June 2010, we were awarded significant funding from Heritage Lottery Fund as part of the Dynamic Druridge project to build a bigger and better centre, and improve the site for visitors.

NWT took over the running of the visitor centre and café at Nothumberlandia in collaboration with the Land Trust with a broader remit to improve the site for wildlife, art and the community.

Nationwide, the Wildlife Trusts launched the My Wild Life campaign underlining how nature is important to everyone.

Building of the Hauxley Wildlife Discovery Centre commenced.

The first countywide otter survey in 15 years was undertaken thanks to a member legacy.

The development phase of the new five year Restoring Ratty project to reintroduce water voles to Kielder commenced.

NWT joined thousand of wildlife supporters worldwide in wishing The Wildlife Trust President Emeritus Sir David Attenborough a happy 90th birthday.

Work was finally completed on Hauxley Wildlife Discovery Centre and the site was officially opened by wildlife presenter and author, Simon King, in June. The centre welcomed over 28,000 visitors in just the first 3 months of operation.

Funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery exceeded an incredible £1 million.

The first release of 325 water voles was undertaken in June.

Hauxley Wildlife Discovery Centre won 9 awards for community benefit, sustainability, architecture and tourism, including the North East Bronze Award for Small Attraction of the Year. In addition, we welcomed over 90,000 visitors to the centre and reserve.

A further 600 water voles were released in Kielder bringing the overall number to over 900 and over 14,000 trees were planted on our Kielderhead Wildwood project. 

£90,000 funding from National Heritage Lottery Fund was secured to develop the project Catch My Drift, improving natural heritage and access at East Chevington reserve at Druridge Bay.

NWT purchased 600 hectare Benshaw Moor, thanks to a successful appeal which raised over £75,000 and which was added to a considerable amount of money from charitable trusts, businesses, private donations and a bequest by the late George Swan, emeritus professor of organic chemistry at Newcastle University.

Download a full history of the Trust