Thanks to a four-figure grant from the Newcastle Building Society Community Fund at the Community Foundation, families in Gateshead are receiving the opportunity to become more connected with nature and contribute to the enhancement of their local environment.

Durham Wildlife Trust is holding a series of free family days at the Shibdon Pond Nature Reserve in Blaydon which are designed to get different generations across the local community involved with looking after and learning more about the pond, reed beds and woodland meadows that make up the Reserve.

The two-hour Green Connections sessions will run through the year and will cover a variety of different activities, including woodland coppicing, footpath work and scything the meadows.

Nature events including birdwatching and butterfly spotting will also take place through the year, with the Trust providing all the equipment needed for families to take part.

A £3,000 grant from the Newcastle Building Society Community Fund at the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland, which offers grants to charities and community groups located in or around the communities served by the Society’s branch network, is being used to fund the project.

Durham Wildlife Trust owns and manages 50 nature reserves across County Durham, Darlington, Gateshead, South Tyneside and Sunderland, and works to provide special places for people, wildlife and future generations.

It runs a range of regular events and activities across all its locations, including Wildlife Watch sessions for 5–11 year-olds, a Beach Rangers group for teenagers and even outdoor Wild Yoga classes.

Mandy Bell, Conservation Project Officer at Durham Wildlife Trust, says: “Shibdon Pond Nature Reserve is a real green haven in a predominantly urban area which we know is well used and highly valued by the local community.

“We ran a test event which was very successful and we’re now looking to get as many local families coming down to the Reserve as we can to enjoy what it offers and to help us keep it in the best possible condition.

“By taking part, families will get the chance to spend more time being active together, can make new friends and will see how the work they’re doing is helping to improve the natural space in their community.

“We’ll provide all the equipment and tools that people need to take part, as well as the expertise to guide them in the different tasks that they’ll be completing.

“We saw the need and opportunity to bring this project idea to life, but without Newcastle Building Society’s help, we simply wouldn’t have been able to make it happen, so we’re extremely grateful for their support.”

Paul Edwards, Head of Enterprise Risk at Newcastle Building Society, who recently visited the charity, adds: “The importance of getting out into nature and the value of our green spaces has never been clearer than it has been over the last couple of years.

“The work of the Durham Wildlife Trust team and the many volunteers that support them makes a massive difference to the green spaces across our region, and we’re very pleased to be able to support a grassroots environmental project that will benefit local people in lots of different ways.”

Since its launch in 2016, Newcastle Building Society’s Community Fund at the Community Foundation has also contributed over £2.3m in grants and partnerships to a wide variety of charities and projects across the region, including the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and the Prince’s Trust.

The grants are so far estimated to have had a positive impact on more than 151,000 people.

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