Saltholme is the RSPB’s newest nature reserve. This £8m development is also the organisation’s ‘flagship’ nature reserve and discovery park. The reserve opened in February 2009 after several years of work creating and improving ponds and other habitats, the construction of a state of the art ‘green’ visitor centre, and a network of access routes and viewing hides.
In the winter, the wetland areas are home to large numbers of wildfowl and wading birds. In the spring and summer many birds breed here including Great Crested Grebes (the species that the RSPB was formed to save), several species of ducks and Common Terns – which nest on specially-created islands made out of cockle shells. The islands provide the ideal nesting site for these birds, as they are away from predatory mammals and accidental trampling.
The reed beds benefit birds such as water rails, reed buntings and reed warblers; the wet grassland areas of the reserve (part of the larger Tees and Hartlepool Foreshore and Wetlands Site of Special Scientific Interest) attracts increasing numbers of wintering wildfowl and waders including golden plovers, lapwings, wigeons, redshanks and snipe.
The water levels in the shallow open water pools and 'scrapes' are controlled to create muddy edges and bare areas for the large numbers of wading birds which stop off at the site during migration.
Comfortable viewing hides and RSPB staff and volunteers make it easy for beginners to understand the birdlife and a variety of additional facilities and events make for an enjoyable experience. Water Voles are also common on the reserve.
Leave the A19 on the A689 towards Hartlepool, following brown signs to Saltholme. At the second roundabout take the A1185 (signposted to Seal Sands and Saltholme). Continue along this road for about 3 miles then turn right at the roundabout (sign-posted to Saltholme). The reserve is a few hundred yards along this road on the right, just past the fire station.
Car park (there is a parking charge), visitor centre, cafe, shop, children’s playground, viewing hides, access routes.