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Durham Wildlife Trust, founded in 1971, is a registered charity[1] which aims to protect wildlife and promote nature conservation in parts of County Durham and Tyne and Wear, England. It is one of 47 such organisations that together constitute The Wildlife Trusts Partnership.[2]

Durham Wildlife Trust
DWT Visitor Centre, Rainton Meadows.jpg
Rainton Meadows Visitor Centre, HQ of Durham Wildlife Trust
TypeRegistered charity
HeadquartersRainton Meadows, Houghton-le-Spring
Professor David Bellamy

The Trust owns or manages 37 nature reserves, covering more than 782 ha, operates two visitor centres, and is actively involved in raising conservation awareness through educational activities.


Status and scopeEdit

Durham Wildlife Trust is a registered charity, which depends to a large extent on the support of its members, many of whom participate as volunteers in various conservation activities. The Trust's Patron is the Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne and its President is Professor David Bellamy.

The Trust's activities cover the present unitary authorities of Durham and Darlington in County Durham and the metropolitan boroughs of Gateshead, South Tyneside and Sunderland in Tyne and Wear.


Durham Biodiversity PartnershipEdit

The Durham Biodiversity Partnership, which covers the same geographic area as Durham Wildlife Trust, was established in 1996 to oversee the development, implementation and monitoring of the Durham Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP), which is the medium through which the United Kingdom Biodiversity Action Plan is translated into action within the county of Durham. Members of the Partnership include a wide range of organisations and individuals who have an interest in the BAP.[3]

Durham Wildlife Trust plays an important role in the Partnership. It provides a home for the Partnership at Rainton Meadows, and is represented on the Partnership's steering group, alongside representatives from Natural England, the Environment Agency, the Forestry Commission, Northumbrian Water, the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group, the North East Biodiversity Forum, and the County, City and Borough Councils within the area.[4] The Trust also operates, on behalf of the Partnership, the Durham Biodiversity Data Service, which provides high-quality species and habitat data.[5]

Durham Wildlife Services LtdEdit

Durham Wildlife Services is the Trust's commercial arm, providing an ecological consultancy service to businesses and local authorities. Although its customer base is primarily within Durham, it operates across the whole of the United Kingdom. A particular speciality is the preparation of "environmental stewardship" plans, under which farmers are able to obtain funding for properly managed conservation schemes on their land.[6]

Profits generated by DWS are covenanted to Durham Wildlife Trust.[7]


Education is an important aspect of the Trust's work. The main education centre is at Rainton Meadows, near Houghton-le-Spring; as well as being conveniently close to the most populous parts of the county, in Sunderland, Gateshead and South Tyneside, this centre has an indoor classroom and conference centre. At Low Barns, near Bishop Auckland, there is a second education centre, which caters primarily to outdoor activities. The Trust also arranges educational activities at Hylton Dene and Hylton Castle, mainly for the benefit of local schools in the Sunderland area.[8]

In addition to educational facilities at its own sites, the Trust also has an educational outreach programme, under which Trust staff make visits schools or community groups.[9]


Durham Wildlife Trust is an active partner in a number of conservation projects in County Durham:

  • Living Landscapes are schemes to restore biodiversity across the landscape by providing 'corridors' for wildlife to move between reserves and other protected areas. Durham Wildlife Trust is involved in two such schemes:
    • "Heart of Durham", funded by Northumbria Water, aims to preserve and extend areas of heathland and lowland valleys in a broad area extending from Derwent Reservoir in the north to Hamsterley Forest in the south.[10]
    • "Limestone Landscapes", coordinated by Durham County Council, aims to restore and enhance the unique landscape of the magnesian limestone plateau of lowland Durham.[11]
  • Living Waterways is a project, in partnership with the Environment Agency, to develop sustainable methods of reducing flood risk in urban areas, while improving wildlife habitats and increasing recreational use of urban waterways.[12]
  • Veteran Trees is a Durham Biodiversity Partnership project which aims to increase public awareness of the conservation and amenity value of old trees.[13]

The Trust is currently involved in projects to protect species such as the great crested newt, the water vole and the barn owl, and played an important part in helping to re-establish otters across the county's river catchments.

Nature reservesEdit

Rainton Meadows Nature Reserve, looking towards the village of East Rainton.

Nature Reserves managed by the Trust include Bishop Middleham Quarry, Hawthorn Dene and Low Barns, and include a range of important habitats, such as Magnesian Limestone grasslands, upland hay meadows and coastal denes. The magnesian limestone grasslands managed by the Trust represent some of the finest examples of this particular habitat type, of which only 200 ha remain in the UK.

The Trust's largest reserve is Hedleyhope Fell, near Tow Law, which is one of the finest examples of recovering mid-altitude heathland in the county – a rare habitat in County Durham. The site is very important because it supports a range of rare and uncommon flora and fauna, including lesser skullcap, stag's-horn clubmoss and the velvet ant, which has not been recorded anywhere else in the County. It is also home to a large number of breeding birds and is an important site for the green hairstreak butterfly.

The Trust currently manages the following reserves:

Reserve [A] Area (ha) Grid reference [B] Owner
Baal Hill Wood 15.5 NZ069392 DWT
Bishop Middleham Quarry 10.0 NZ332326 Leased from Church Commissioners
Blackhall Rocks 32.4 NZ470392 Leased from Durham County Council
Burnhope Pond 14.1 NZ183480 Leased from Durham County Council
Edmondsley Wood 12.5 NZ229493 DWT
Hannah's Meadows 8.8 NY934187 DWT
Hawthorn Dene 67.0 NZ433458 DWT / National Trust
Hedleyhope Fell c200.0 NZ139409 DWT
Hesleden Dene 8.5 NZ444377 DWT
High Wood NR 2.5 NZ128562 DWT
Joe's Pond 4.5 NZ328487 DWT
Longburn Ford Quarry NZ072448
Low Barns 50 NZ163313 DWT
Malton NR 4.5 NZ182458 Leased from Durham County Council
Rabbit Bank Wood 7.0 NZ112483 DWT
Ragpath Heath 3,5 NZ144448 DWT
Rainton Meadows 60.0 NZ326485 UK Coal Ltd / City of Sunderland
Raisby Hill Grassland 11.5 NZ335355 DWT /Tarmac
Redcar Field 0.4 NZ292198 DWT / Natural England
Shibdon Pond 13.7 NZ194628 Metropolitan Borough of Gateshead Council
Stanley Moss NR 7.5 NZ150388 DWT
Town Kelloe Bank 5.0 NZ357371 DWT
Trimdon Grange Quarry 5.0 NZ361353 Leased from Durham County Council
Tudhoe Mill Wood 37.5 NZ254357 DWT / Whitwirth Estates


A Durham Wildlife Trust has prepared short information sheets for most of its reserves. The information in this table is mostly extracted from these information sheets.[14]
B Grid references use the British national grid reference system (OSGB36), the system used on Ordnance Survey maps.[15] The grid reference for each reserve relates to the approximate centre of the reserve.


  1. ^ Charity Commission. Durham Wildlife Trust, registered charity no. 501038.
  2. ^ "Durham Wildlife Trust". Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts. 2010. Retrieved 6 August 2010.
  3. ^ "Durham Biodiversity Partnership". Durham Wildlife Trust. 2010. Archived from the original on 11 July 2010. Retrieved 6 August 2010.
  4. ^ "Partnership". Durham Biodiversity Partnership. 2010. Archived from the original on 4 September 2010. Retrieved 6 August 2010.
  5. ^ "Durham Biodiversity Data Service". Durham Wildlife Trust. 2010. Archived from the original on 11 July 2010. Retrieved 6 August 2010.
  6. ^ "Durham Wildlife Services Ltd". 2010. Retrieved 6 August 2010.
  7. ^ "Ecological Consultancy". Durham Wildlife Trust. 2010. Archived from the original on 11 July 2010. Retrieved 6 August 2010.
  8. ^ "Education". Durham Wildlife Trust. 2010. Archived from the original on 11 July 2010. Retrieved 6 August 2010.
  9. ^ "Educational Outreach". Durham Wildlife Trust. 2010. Archived from the original on 8 July 2012. Retrieved 6 August 2010.
  10. ^ "Heart of Durham". Durham Wildlife Trust. 2010. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 6 August 2010.
  11. ^ "Limestone Landscapes". Durham County Council. 2010. Archived from the original on 21 January 2011. Retrieved 6 August 2010.
  12. ^ "Living Waterways". Durham Wildlife Trust. 2010. Archived from the original on 15 August 2011. Retrieved 6 August 2010.
  13. ^ "Welcome to the Durham Veteran Trees Project". Durham Biodiversity Partnership. 18 May 2010. Retrieved 6 August 2010.
  14. ^ Durham Wildlife Trust information sheets for each reserve. Retrieved on 2010-08-07. (PDF files).
  15. ^ "Guide to National Grid". Ordnance Survey. Archived from the original on 27 October 2007. Retrieved 21 February 2008.

External linksEdit