Facelift for lake at nature reserve

A HUGE digger has helped boost wildlife at a nature reserve's lake that was said to have looked more like a "council reservoir".

The powerful machine scraped away the neat, straight edge of the big lake at Saltholme, off Tees Road on the outskirts of Hartlepool, and gave it a more natural look.

Workers at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) wetland reserve say it will not only look better for the site's thousands of visitors, but will attract more wildlife.

Ben Calvert, from the reserve, said: "The lake was dug at the same time as the visitor centre and has sometimes been described as looking like a council reservoir.

"As well as not looking good to our eyes, it's also not as good as it could be for wildlife. So, we've started work to transform the lake.

"The new wavy edges will be great for wildlife. There'll be more space for birds like snipe, redshanks and black-tailed godwits to probe the mud. With time, you'll be able to hear sedge warblers singing just a few metres away."

The extensive work took place over the Christmas and new year celebrations as staff battled the weather to bring in the dramatic changes.

But it is not just the rarer breeds that reserve workers are hoping to attract with the new shape of the water and added planting.

Mr Calvert said: "We also hope that ducks will spend more time on the lake.

"Instead of flying away, some ducks like to make a quick dash for the cover of reeds if an ugly face approaches.

"At the moment, some of the visiting ducks don't even give Saltholme's empty lake a look in - they fly straight over and head for a pond with more vegetation."

Saltholme, which is managed by Teesside Environmental Trust alongside the RSPB, was officially opened by television presenter Kate Humble in March 2009 to provide a haven for wildlife and a chance for people to view animals in their natural habitat.

It is constantly being improved to attract more animals and the next phase will see more plants added to the lake.

Mr Calvert added: "When the weather's a bit better, some of Saltholme's volunteers will don their wellies and waders to plant some reeds, sedges and yellow flag irises to give the muddy edges a kick start."

People who do not mind getting mucky are asked to email saltholme@rspb.org.uk to declare their interest in helping with the planting.