'Untold damage' to wildlife after section of Druridge Bay nature reserve destroyed in fire

Destroyed boardwalk and dipping platform, by Anthony Johnston and (right) East Chevington fire seen from Cresswell. Image by Steve Lowe.
The destroyed dipping platform and boardwalk (left), and smoke at the site seen from Cresswell. Credit: Anthony Johnston/Steve Lowe

A section of a Northumberland coastal nature reserve has been destroyed in an attack by vandals, a charity has said.

Northumberland Wildlife Trust said a pond dipping platform, most of the boardwalk and a large area of grassland was damaged by fire at its East Chevington reserve, at Druridge Bay.

Large plumes of smoke could be seen from nearby Cresswell as the boardwalk and platform, made from recycled plastic, burned.

A spokesperson for the charity thanked the public for raising the alarm and helping prevent a bigger blaze.

"It took 50 minutes for the fire to be extinguished and the area declared safe," they added.

"Two days before the fire, staff and volunteers had been inspecting the pond which was teaming with newts, frogs, dragon flies and damselflies, however, as the fire raged, the plastic melted into the pond, causing untold damage to the resident wildlife."

The attack last Wednesday (20 July) will have an impact on the charity's Catch My Drift project which is working to protect and revive threatened habitats and species on the Druridge Bay site.

The fire means a number of the project’s free community events over the summer, many of which were aimed at encouraging children to appreciate nature, will now have to be cancelled.

Staff and volunteers will begin the clean-up operation next week.

The wildlife charity is no stranger to destruction on its sites. In June 2010, the visitor centre on its Hauxley reserve at Druridge Bay was destroyed in a fire and had to be rebuilt.

In March 2021, four of its wildlife-watching hides on the Hauxley reserve had windows and benches broken.

The biggest hide, the Tern Hide, had its walls kicked in, benches ripped out and every window smashed, leading to the repair bill running into thousands of pounds.

And in November 2021, the trust’s headquarters in Gosforth were broken into and ransacked.