THE region's newest nature reserve has received £10,000 to ensure guests get the most out of their visits.

Hedley Hope Fell, near Tow Law, County Durham, was opened as a reserve by Durham Wildlife Trust on September 10.

Durham County Council is contributing £10,000 towards the costs of managing the area, and the authority presented the trust with a cheque at County Hall, Durham, yesterday.

Richard Wood, chief executive of Durham Wildlife Trust, said: "Hedley Hope Fell is an important conservation asset for the communities that surround it.

"Durham County Council's kind donation will enable us to work with the local community to enhance and protect the outstanding wildlife, educational and recreational value of the site."

The trust will use the money to install information panels that raise awareness of the site's value and actively encourage public use of the fell and participation in its conservation management.

The fell is one of the largest remaining examples of recovering mid-altitude heathland in the country.

It was once used for opencast mining and part became a controversial burial pit for diseased carcasses during the foot and mouth crisis in 2001.

It is the only known area in County Durham that supports the Velvet Ant and is home to other rare species such as the Small Pearl-Bordered Fritillary butterfly.

It also provides habitat for short-eared owls, badgers and brown hares.