Local nature reserves

Annitsford Pond

Annitsford Pond is a small but valuable area of greenspace and was declared as a Local Nature Reserve in the summer of 2005.

The site is a small, boulder clay subsidence pond with associated marginal vegetation and wet willow woodland.

Located to the west of Annitsford on Sandy's Letch, a tributary of the Seaton Burn, the pond was formed between 1958 and 1963 via an inlet from Sandy's Letch on the eastern boundary of the LNR, draining back into the stream at the southern edge of the reserve.

The reserve is of significant value as a semi-natural habitat in an urban environment, and as an educational resource for local schools and the community.

Wildfowl found on the site include mallard, mute swan, coot, moorhen and pochard.

The population of breeding pochard is important within a local context. The site also has a rich amphibian and invertebrate population, including common toad, common frog and the azure damselfly.

Holywell Dene

Set within a spectacular incised valley, Holywell Dene is the only area of ancient semi-natural woodland remaining within North Tyneside.

Stretching over North Tyneside Council's boundary into Blyth, the Dene is jointly managed with Blyth Valley Borough Council.

Declared as a Local Nature Reserve in 2003, the Dene has a number of interesting habitats that can be explored along its entire stretch.

These include oak-ash woodland, beech woodland, ponds and wildflower meadows. In the woods pipistrelle and noctule bats have been detected, whilst the Seaton Burn watercourse running through the site supports species such as otter and kingfisher.

The site holds significant ornithological interest, supporting bird species such as great spotted woodpecker and tawny owl.

Other birds recorded in the Dene include song thrush, tree sparrow, yellow hammer, dunnock and blue tit.

The ground flora is typical of this type of woodland, although in the past cattle grazing severely reduced the variety of plants found.

However, cattle are now excluded from some sections of the Dene and this has helped to regenerate those areas and improve the overall richness of the ground flora.

Wood anemone, dog violet, primrose, bluebell, garlic mustard and buttercup are just some of the wildflowers that can be seen.

Access to the Dene is via the B1325 (Hartley Lane), where a small car park offers limited free parking.

Silverlink Park

Silverlink Park LNR incorporates Silverlink Biodiversity Park and West Allotment Pond, and occupies approximately 18 hectares in the centre of Cobalt Business Park, just off the A19.

As part of a new development scheme in 1996, a new country park was created on the site of a former rubbish tip.

This 'Biodiversity Park' together with the pond at West Allotment was declared a Local Nature Reserve in 2005.

The reserve holds significant biodiversity value, with woodland, scrub and hedgerow, grassland and tall herb, wetland and exposed rock habitats.

In particular, the site is of note for its amphibian and invertebrate population. The ponds and ditches are teeming with invertebrates such as pond skaters, blue-tailed damselfly and whirligig beetles.

Roe deer, fox, brown hare and rabbit can all be discovered in the park's grassland, whilst kestrels are regularly seen hovering overhead.

The grassland is also home to many species of butterfly such as meadow brown, common blue and small white.

A giant sundial sits on top of the central hill, and for this reason the site is sometimes referred to as the 'Sundial Park'.

Free parking is available on site, directly opposite the Village Hotel on The Silverlink North.

St Mary's Island

Originally declared as St Mary's Island and Curry's Point Local Nature Reserve in 1992, but more commonly known as St Mary's Island (LNR), the site is situated on the coast at Whitley Bay and forms part of the much larger Northumberland Coast SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest).

Connected to the mainland by a causeway that can be crossed at low tide, the island is home to St Mary's Lighthouse.

The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1984 and is now a visitor centre, popular with tourists and schools.

The seabed around the island and cliff tops at Curry's Point were designated as a Voluntary Marine Nature Reserve (VMNR) in 1996.

The LNR comprises of cliff top grassland, wetland, tidal and sub-tidal habitats, the small semi-tidal island and a fresh-water pond. The area holds major geological, ornithological and marine interest.

The rock pools are home to a wonderful array of marine life, while seabirds can be observed from the island itself.

The shoreline and newly created cliff top wetland are favourite feeding and resting sites for many waders, terns and gulls.

Swallow Pond

Located within the Rising Sun Country Park in the heart of North Tyneside, Swallow Pond is one of the biggest and most significant subsidence ponds for wildfowl and wading birds in Northumberland.

The LNR incorporates Swallow Pond, mixed plantation woodland, grassland, a seasonal wetland and a collection of smaller ponds.

Declared in 1992, it is one of the oldest LNRs in North Tyneside. In the past the reserve has been the site of a coal mine and a landfill for domestic waste, but is now home to a fantastic array of wildlife.

In winter, teal and lapwing arrive in their hundreds, whilst tufted duck and pochard arrive following 'wetter' years. Snipe, wigeon, mallard, shoveler and whooper swans are regular winter visitors, too.

In summer months breeding birds include common tern, shoveler, little ringed plover, little grebe, mute swan, mallard and moorhen, whilst reed bunting and yellow wagtail can be seen around the pond margins.

The pond is also an important bathing site for gulls, whilst short-eared owls regularly hunt over the marshy grassland.

Rabbit, hare, fox and deer are all found in the woodland and grassland surrounding the pond.

The smaller ponds and network of ditches around the site are also teeming with life: frogs, newts, dragonflies and other invertebrates all make their home there.

Access to the nature reserve can be made from the Rising Sun Countryside Centre, located off Whitley Road (A191).

Wallsend Dene

A mosaic of ancient grassland and scrub lies here, with grazed pastures and areas of more formal parkland and amenity use.

The Dene is an important wildlife corridor and contains two areas that are of high nature conservation value:

Burn Close Pasture is one of the few areas of ancient semi-natural grassland left in North Tyneside and contains key plant species such as dyer's greenweed, common fleabane, smooth tare and pepper saxifrage.

Willington Gut Saltmarsh is recognised as a separate Site of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCI), as it is the only characteristic middle saltmarsh community left on the River Tyne.

It extends for approximately 0.5km inland along the Dene to the road at Church Bank. Typical species found here include sea milkwort, sea arrow grass and sea aster.

In addition, bee orchids grow on the open grassland below the war memorial at Rosehill. Here the orchid is at its extreme northern limit in the UK.

Good populations of invertebrates are associated with these grassland areas, including butterflies such as small tortoiseshell, meadow brown and common blue.

Other areas of the Dene, in particular the area around Holy Cross, contain dense scrub made up of hawthorn, blackthorn, elder and dog rose.

These areas provide food, cover and breeding sites for birds including song thrush, dunnock, linnet and blackbird. Several grazed pastures are located to the west of Holy Cross, divided up by hedgerows of the same species of scrub.

Access to the Dene on foot can be made at several points along its length, but the main entrance is found at the foot of Crow Bank, where there is space for a few cars to park.