A WILDLIFE trust has seen an more people enjoy the nature County Durham has to offer.

Durham Wildlife Trust, that owns several site across the county, saw an increase in people visiting their sites last year.

With the national lockdown and a decrease in the amount of people travelling abroad for a holiday, areas closer to home felt the benefit.

Many families headed to the great out doors of County Durham to places like Low Barns, to get a glimpse of the local countryside.

Head of Conservation, Mark Dinning, said: “Durham Wildlife Trust saw more people than ever take the opportunity to enjoy the wildlife close to home last year.

"Our nature reserves were accessible throughout lockdown, and once restrictions were eased we saw high numbers of visitors, particularly at Rainton Meadows and Low Barns.

“While the wild spaces were quiet with human traffic, the resident wildlife took the opportunity to make the most of it with members of our conservation team noting early nesters taking up home closer to paths, arrays of butterflies benefitting from the fine weather and record counts of orchids.

“Sadly, we also encountered some negative aspects to having increased visitors to our wildlife nature reserves, with worse than ever issues with litter and anti-social behaviour.

“A huge effort from our team to support home learning during school closures saw weekly Wild@Home activity packs available on our website and a programme of online events on a range of topics.”

Membership Development Officer, Emily Routledge, said: “We were delighted that our work was recognised late last year as winners of the ‘Uniquely North East’ category in the North East Charity Awards.

“Without our supporters we would not be able to continue our vital work for wildlife across the North East region and we were pleased to see more than 900 new members join in 2020.”

Most of their nature reserves are open on foot all the time, however, some are not accessible without prior arrangement and in that case the website contains that detail.

Both Rainton Meadows and Low Barns Nature Reserves have coffee shops and visitor centres, which will be closed to vehicles Monday to Friday for the time being but open on weekends 10am-4pm, for takeaways.