People across the North East can see the wonder of wetland nature through the eyes of the UK’s best-loved illustrator, thanks to a new event at a Wearside wetland reserve.

The ‘Drawn to Water: Quentin Blake at WWT’ partnership – a collaboration between renowned illustrator Sir Quentin Blake and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) – launches at WWT Washington Wetland Centre on May 18 with the first of three seasonal trails.

Featuring a selection of little before seen wetland-themed images from Sir Quentin’s personal archive, the beautifully illustrated guides accompanying the trails will take visitors on a journey around WWT Washington’s wetlands, woodlands and meadows, experiencing nature in new and unexpected ways with the help of his distinctive drawings.

The Northern Echo: One of Quentin Blake's wetland-themed illustationsOne of Quentin Blake's wetland-themed illustations (Image: WWT)

Quentin Blake, best-konwn for illustrating books written by Roald Dahl, said: “I am delighted to be sharing my pictures with WWT sites and their visitors through the Drawn to Water experience.

“This project appealed to me because I have a lifelong fascination of drawing wetland wildlife, especially birds. I can't quite explain why but it may be because like us, they are on two legs and have expressive gestures.

“The drawings you will see are from my own personal archive, and many have rarely been seen in public before.

“Through Drawn to Water, I hope that seeing my artwork in places where these creatures are thriving will allow new audiences to enjoy wetland wildlife as much as I do, perhaps prompting a few people to pick up a pen, pencil or even a quill and do their own drawing.”

Running until February 2024, each of the three trails – spring/summer, autumn, and winter – will come with its own unique illustrated guide to collect and keep, including a detachable bookmark.

As well as connecting visitors to wetlands through engaging illustrations, the trails will be supported by a range of art-based public activities designed for all ages and abilities.

Involving numerous artists from the North East, these begin during May half-term and will be followed by a host of themed events during the summer holidays and beyond.

WWT Washington centre manager Gill Pipes said: “We’re so thrilled to be launching the first of the Drawn to Water trails at WWT Washington this May.

“Wetlands are inspirational places to be all year round, with each season bringing its own memorable nature moments and incredible species just waiting to be discovered.

“The spring/summer trail will gently guide visitors around our site, taking in magical reedbeds, atmospheric woodlands and wonderful waterscapes filled with bird song and new life.

“We’re also excited to be working with some talented local artists, who will be helping us with a number of events designed to support each of the seasonal trails.

“Highlights will include natural printing in the woods, storytime crafts, watercolour workshops, charcoal drawing, nature journalling, mural painting and much more and we can’t wait to see how people will engage with both these and the Drawn to Water Trail.”