New bird reserve is named

A NEW bird reserve being created on the outskirts of Hartlepool will be known as the Saltern Wetlands.

The name was chosen from a short list of three by local people who attended a public drop-in event at Greatham Community Centre last week.

The reserve has been created by the Environment Agency at Greatham Creek on the Tees Estuary.

Saltern Wetlands got the most votes, ahead of Brigantes Pool and Cote Hill Wetlands.

The drop-in was arranged by the Environment Agency to show local people what archaeologists had discovered during excavations on the site, which has a long history of salt production. Iron Age, Bronze Age and Roman artefacts were discovered, and local people were able to see some of these at the event.

A Saltern is the name for an earthwork mound associated with salt-making, four of which are present within the site. These mounds were thought to be medieval, but the recent discoveries indicate they could be earlier.

Almost 60 old brine wells – the earliest believed to be more than 100 years old – were also discovered by Environment Agency contractors working on the site. These have now been capped to prevent contamination of the new habitat.

Environment Agency project manager Chris Milburn said: “There was a huge amount of interest in the archaeological finds and it seems fitting that local people have chosen a name for the new habitat that reflects its past history.”

The Greatham scheme is part of an overall strategy for the Tees Estuary being developed by the Environment Agency to protect homes and properties from flooding, while at the same time ensuring that valuable wildlife habitat is maintained.

Much of the inter-tidal habitat around the Tees Estuary is legally protected because it is internationally important for birds. However, some of this vital area is being lost due to a rise in sea level.

To compensate for this loss, the Environment Agency is building a new bank further inland from the existing embankment at Greatham Creek. Part of this can then be breached so the tide can wash in and out of the area, creating a bigger area of mudflat and saltmarsh.