A CHARITY has launched a fundraising appeal to transform one of the region's best-loved nature reserves.

Durham Wildlife Trust (DWT) would like to raise £31,000 to improve the visitors centre at Low Barns Nature Reserve, near Witton-le-Wear.

The work is part of its efforts to connect youngsters with nature and make the area more suitable for families.

Jim Cokill, director of Durham Wildlife Trust, said: "For more than 50 years our Low Barns reserve has provided a place where people can connect with nature and we want to make sure that continues. The Wildlife Trust believes that nature should be a part of all of our lives, but we’re competing against all the other pressures and attractions of the modern world for people’s attention.

"Low Barns is a magical and well-loved place but the centre was beginning to look a little tired and needed to be improved to provide an attractive destination for visitors.

"We’re particularly concerned that children and young people are losing their connection with nature, with wildlife not only lost from the school curriculum but from everyday language – kingfishers are no longer thought to deserve a place in the Oxford Junior Dictionary. A lot of the work we are doing is to make the centre better for families."

The plans include a renovated car park, making the site safer for pedestrians and allowing the creation of a larger outdoor seating area for families with views across Marston Lake.

Large glass doors will also be fitted to open up the indoor space and connect it to the outdoors.

The trust has already secured a total of £88,000 from North Pennine Dales LEADER

and the Weardale Area Action Partnership (AAP), as well as from the charity’s own reserves, to begin refurbishment work at the visitor centre.

Zoe Hull, the trust’s head of operations and development, said: "Improvement works will make Low Barns a real asset for the local community and a place that can host a wider range of events and activities for local schools and community groups. Low Barns will be able to play a much bigger part in contributing to local tourism."

To donate to the appeal, visit durhamwt.com/low-barns-appeal/